Hands-on with the final version of Capcom’s collectible mech game.
I know that Gotcha Force met with some mocking criticism at its initial E3 showing, but I personally saw very little of the game back then, and I played none of it. Now I’ve got my hands on the final version, and it’s actually quite a fun little game. Capcom has definitely geared it towards the school-age Pokemon crowd, but it nevertheless plays like your typical mech action game.
The idea is that you’re assembling an army of mini-mechs to battle another army of evil mini-mechs who want to destroy the world. Your fighting buddies are fueled by your courage, or something silly like that. Anyway, there are over 200 different “borgs” you can collect, and the variety of how they look and play is quite satisfactory. Some specialize in long-range shooting, others in close-quarters combat, and others in support roles such as healing.
Battles take place in normal outdoor environments that look massive, because your borgs are only a few inches tall. So you can take cover behind a giant soccer ball and jump/boost up to the top of a cardboard box. Mostly though, the arenas are pretty flat with plenty of room to dash around in three dimensions. You only control one borg at a time from your team, and when that one is defeated, the next one in the lineup will appear until the reserves run out. (Then you lose.) The opposing side works the same way, so while you may have to destroy eight or ten other borgs to win the battle, only a few will be out on the field at any given time. In most battles, you’ll also have a computer-controlled teammate with his or her own set of borgs. The allies seem to be fairly smart and just as powerful as you are, and it’s not uncommon to see then destroying enemies that you’ve been having trouble with.
The action is extremely fast and hectic; it took me a few battles just to orient myself and get used to keeping up with everything. Bullets and missiles and swords whiz around with abandon, but there is some strategy to the gameplay. For instance, you want to destroy nurse borgs first so they can’t heal their friends, and you would want to stick with long-range attacks on some of the heftier, tank-like enemies. Most of the borgs have one long-range attack with limited (but recharging) ammo, some kind of melee attack, and a special move that may also have limited ammo. It’s a pretty good idea to stock your team with different types of borgs to handle different situations, although it doesn’t seem like you can manually switch between them in battle. So if you’ve got the knight borg (short-range) and are fighting against a fast gunner, you may just have to let the knight die to bring up a more suitable borg in the lineup. Also, borgs level-up with battle experience, and your character levels-up over the course of fighting battles, so that you can eventually bring a deeper roster of better borgs to combat.
Being that the two main gameplay features are combat and organizing your team, and both are quite addictive and fun, Gotcha Force is surprisingly entertaining so far. However, it’s going to turn off the usual mech-combat audience with its presentation, which includes a story whose characters are all in elementary school. The voice samples are random and completely nonsensical, much like those in the N64’s Pokemon Puzzle League, if you can remember that far back. And the voice acting is…well, excruciating. The character designs are very similar to Pokemon and its ilk, but the battles have their own style that doesn’t look bad at all. There are some camera problems, but the special effects are great, and the framerate has no trouble keeping up.
Look for my full review of Gotcha Force when it ships in North America in early December. Until then, check out the Gotcha Force thread in our forums to download a movie of gameplay and to ask any questions you may have about the game.