Farewell, Chromehounds, we hardly knew ye
17/08/2009 at 08:29
The first time I played the Chromehounds demo, I was resolute that it would never enter my collection
Sega / FROM Software's Mech shooter seemed to be a bit sparse on the action, tore like buggery and felt like an insult to games like Mechwarrior 2, games that did mech warfare properly.
Like a lot of reviewers who did the game a serious disservice by not even bothering to take the game online, let alone sink enough hours into it to come up with a measured and proper response to its deep persistent-war driven gameplay, I was incredibly wrong about Chromehounds and once word started to get round amongst those Xbox 360 Gamers who took the plunge and bought it, Chromehounds became an essential purchase.
Three factions fought over territory in the game and the overall war would be decided on how successful each of those factions were in conquering enemy sectors. The armies of Hounds (the giant mechs in the game) fighting for Tarakia, Morskoj and Sal Kar each had various different strengths and attributes when it came to various Hound components, and the number one "draw" of the game was the sheer amount of customisation options you could achieve with your Hound designs in the game's garage.
Taking a Hound design online and into battle for the first time could be a daunting task. Too much weaponry and your hound would sluggardly crawl along, more or less offering up a sitting target for the enemy. Too little armour and weaponry and a fair burst of speed, and you'd be little more use - perhaps excelling as an advanced scout or mobile comms unit.
Chromehounds got mech customisation right, and knit it tightly into the game in such a way that certain mech types (the infamous Double Double) soon became unpopular opponents, as did anyone arming their Hound with pneumatic rams, destroying an enemy's base in double-quick time and ending the game before anyone had even drawn breath.
Chromehounds' squad system was unforgiving. 20 squad members could enter a game and at first the netcode for Chromehounds was flaky in the extreme. But once things had settled down, and you could hook up regularly with your squad, adopt a garish colourscheme and pattern to fight under, and unite in the war against the enemy, the game felt gloriously fulfilling and important. In fact, to date, no other Xbox 360 title (in my opinion) has come close to capturing the essence of a massive persistent online war which you're doing your small part in to win.
Sadly, after three and a half years the game will go offline for the last time on January 6th, 2010. A red letter day for gaming, and with AATGers still playing the game, a bit of a blow. With FROM software seemingly engaged in producing naff Armoured Core titles rather than working on a sequel to Chromehounds, it's a bit of a shame that there's little point in playing the game offline.
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