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Gundam Evolution (PlayStation 5) artwork

Gundam Evolution (PlayStation 5) review

"Suit 'Em Up"

There are so many Gundam video games. Dating back to the early 1980s, about as old as the franchise itself, every gaming generation has seen their share of mobile suit action on an assortment of systems. Publishers, whether it's Bandai, Banpresto, or the currently-fused Bandai Namco, diversified the type of games developers made and, because of that, Gundam has penetrated every well known genre in the medium: side-scrollers, role-playing games, fighting games, first-person shooters, you name it. If players were really into something, they likely published a Gundam version to capitalize on its popularity. This tactic hasn't changed much throughout the decades, as can be seen with 2022's Gundam Evolution, a free-to-play FPS online multiplayer title based around team battles.

Two teams of six are pitted against each other in differing match types selected at random, though each type is just a varying aspect of the point capture objective. Essentially most matches, each having best-of-three rounds, feature two waves of capturing or defending an area. That's about it; the game is pretty straightforward in that regard. Having said all that, the game intentionally takes after similar team-based titles like Team Fortress 2 and the more recent Overwatch. The latter becomes blatantly obvious when you look at a single screenshot of Evolution's gameplay HUD and see it's nearly a shot-for-shot positioning of the health bar and other features.

Comparisons become more apparent when it's time to select a mobile suit character, each one plucked from the franchise's numerous series, having their own unique set of attacks, abilities-on-cooldown, and a special move that builds up throughout a match when performing actions. For instance, the bulky DOM Trooper suit mains a bazooka weapon, with abilities allowing for limited mine placement and a temporary health boost to a selected team member. Then there's the Methuss suit wielding two beam guns, but is notable for having two very useful abilities; one can place a turret, which is helpful when planted in key spots, and another is temporary flight, allowing the suit to fly over huge structures and get to a destination faster. Also, the Zaku II Ranged might seem underwhelming to newcomers, but its power to dash three times in a row, in any direction, makes it extremely versatile in the right hands.

As Evolution allows for such combat diversity, it's not surprising that matches are incredibly hectic when everyone knows what they're doing. It usually comes right down to the final round in the last moment, with each side aggressively vying for victory during "overtime" portions, or Extra Time as the game calls it. Extra Time occurs when the clock hits zero and both sides still have standing players within the capture area; if one side is no longer in, the match will conclude within seconds. You'd think something like Extra Time would last only for a few seconds, and sometimes it does, but there are moments where this can drag for minutes, with one side stuck at 99.99% and the other side climbing towards that percentage through sheer determination.

With a mix of skill and timing, each side will throw all their powers into the fray to claim that Extra Time win; the all-rounder Pale Rider gets destroyed by a flying Asshimar dropping down with a surprise attack; Asshimar is then annihilated by the combined strength of the DOM Trooper's bazooka blasts and the Guntank's rapid-fire dual-cannons; just when the Extra Time ticker nearly depletes, a GM steps in and destroys the DOM Trooper with a remote-triggered explosion and projectile blasts, then blocks all of the Guntank's remaining firepower with a shield; the GM gets taken out from a distance by a GM Sniper II, but by this point, enough time has passed that most of the units, from both sides, have returned to the capture location; calamity ensues.

It's what you would expect from a team battle game where each unit has their own set of powers and traits, and Evolution does the template competently enough that you will get entertainment from such a free product. Of course with this being free-to-play, it comes with a lot of "persuasion" to buy stuff with actual money. For example, the game uses the season template with a leveling up system. Here, you'll gradually level up the more you play, with each level "unlocking" a goodie. But... a lot of this stuff will remain locked even when you reach their levels, in which the game will encourage you to purchase a "premium" season pass in order to get said materials. A lot of these items are cosmetic in nature, so it comes down to each individual player's materialistic pursuit.

Speaking of, there are several mobile suit characters locked away that you can purchase with money, some of which can be considered more powerful than the standard selection. This is the only thing that can be perceived as pay to win. Though you can also unlock them with in-game currency called Capital, which you can build through beginner challenges; these range anywhere from using specific characters or performing a certain action a number of times. Another method is unlocking Capital in the few and very far between unlocks within each season, which is reasonable considering each one is worth 1000 points. There's a catch: unlocking a unit costs 1980 points each, which is the equivalent of $10. To put things into perspective, completing one beginner challenge will net you between... 50 to 100 points. Also, once all beginner challenges are completed, they disappear forever, meaning you have to grab those rare seasonal unlocks or rely on the occasional special challenge event.

If you enjoy the game but don't want to use cash to obtain characters, then these aren't such terrible methods for getting them. The problem with this, with trying to put in some consistent play time in, is that you're hoping that Evolution's connectivity flaws don't get in your way. Here's the process when starting a match: the match type and map are announced, then you select a character, then you're locked in a waiting area with your team until the match finally starts. So what happens if a player drops out anytime during this procedure? Does the player get replaced? Not at all. Instead, the match is considered a stalemate and ends, but you have to wait until the match officially starts for it to conclude; leaving anytime beforehand gets you penalized and will force a wait time until you can participate in another match, plus a secondary wait time based on the length of the match.

Annoying, but doable. The frustrating part comes when the game's server "hiccups" and kicks you out of any match due to "connectivity issues;" even though it wasn't your fault, the game will usually count this as purposely quitting. So say the match you got knocked from lasts 20 minutes, meaning you have to wait 20 minutes for it to end, and then an additional 20 minutes as punishment for "leaving." Needless to say, having a problem like this for your online video game is a major detriment and will kill players' desire to continue playing. Fortunately it doesn't come up frequently, yet still something the devs need to look into since it can be quite the mood killer.

At its absolute core, Gundam Evolution provides a simple, straightforward experience for those not expecting something complex for their next multiplayer endeavor. Fans of the franchise will certainly get the most mileage out of this title, especially with all the references, big and small, littered throughout. Still, non-Gundam fans will enjoy this without understanding all the lore and whatnot; the game is really just a series of giant mecha battles. Perhaps in the future the devs will add different modes and objectives, but for the time being, what's presented isn't so bad for a free-to-play product. For now, the only real thing the developers need to do is fix those aforementioned online issues; iron out those kinks and this easily turns into an accessible kill-some-time game to have in your library.

*Note: this review is based on experience playing the game from Dec. 10th to the 28th of 2022.

*January 14, 2023 update: sudden disconnects from the server have become incredibly rare since the review was first submitted, so consider that a plus.

dementedhut's avatar
Community review by dementedhut (December 28, 2022)

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