It’s Heavy metal Pikmin Overlords of death… with spikes on.
Army Corps of Hell is a fairly simple action strategy game bought in all of its hellish glory to the Vita by Square Enix. Those of you who have played either Pikmin or Overlord will instantly recognise the crowd control gameplay mechanic that makes up the core mechanic of this game, but can it really measure up on the smaller screen?
The story, for what its worth, involves a big, evil-looking dude who wants to conquer Hell, like you do. His chosen method of conquest will have the player controlling a mass of Goblins, starting with only 30, but becoming as many as 100 later in the game. All of this is played out to a screaming heavy metal soundtrack. In fact, if you are not a fan of heavy metal, you had better turn the volume down before you even start the game, as your ears will be assailed right from the very start. Combining this soundtrack with the comical cut scenes and somewhat gritty, yet colourful, visual style certainly sets the scene for the game.
The player, controlling the previously mentioned evil-looking dude, moves from one “arena area” to the next, by defeating all the nasties that can be found there. To begin with, this is simply a matter of pointing the arrow at the enemy and then launching all of your soldier Goblins at them. They all grab hold and once the required amount is reached, the player can launch a “Salvo Attack” which invariably results in the enemy being reduced to a bloody pulp, complete with body parts, in a suitably heavy metal way.
The player then moves on to the next “arena area” and so on until facing an end of level boss. These bosses are generally big and very impressive, and the battles offer substantially more challenge than the standard encounters, often to the point of being almost unfair. The difficulty does have a tendency to spike every time a boss is encountered, but then I guess that is kind of the point.
As the player progresses through Hell, they will be able to use two other types of Goblin along with the standard soldiers. The spearmen and magi each have a different type of attack, can be controlled using different face buttons, and are particularly suitable for different types of enemies. Working out which Goblins are best suited to each enemy is essential to success.
The body parts dropped by fallen, or more often exploded, enemies are not just there to increase the appal of the game, they actually have a purpose. These parts can be collected and then used to upgrade the hellish overlord as well as the troops. It is not the deepest system in the world, but it works and it does become essential as the game progresses.
Given the fact that Army Corps of Hell is a Vita launch title, it was surprising to see how little use it made of the Vita’s functions. The game is pretty much played only with the buttons. There is a small appearance made by the touchscreen, but overall the game does not showcase the Vita’s talents. The same can be said for the way the game looks. The detail is just not what I expected, looking more like an early PSP title than something deserving of the Vita’s power.
But perhaps the biggest problem with Army Corps of Hell is the repetition. There is very little variation in the gameplay, the enemies or even the set pieces. Personally, I didn’t find this too much of a problem as I enjoyed the overall experience on the handheld, as I am sure others will. But the lack of variety and the constant grind will turn off many players.
As a new console launch title, Army Corps of Hell does very little to show off the Vita’s assets. It is an entertaining experience, especially if you like heavy metal music, but the lack of variety means that you can essentially see everything that the game has to offer in only a couple of hours. Army Corps of Hell is like Pikmin with attitude. Sadly, with attitude so often comes a lack of depth.