Review: Gravity Rush
Gravity Rush is the latest title from SCE Japan Studio and was tipped by many to be the Vita’s first “system seller” title. Unfortunately it falls short of realising that potential, however the end result is a very enjoyable experience and a “must buy” for any fan of the action adventure genre.
Gravity Rush is a third person action game that puts you in control of Kat, a perky, upbeat young girl you can’t help but like. As the game begins, you awake in the floating city of Hekseville with no memory of who you are or why you’re there. This mystery is further compounded when you realise you’re accompanied by a pet cat who lets you manipulate gravity. Whilst your normal video game heroine might spend the majority of her time trying to unravel these mysteries, Kat is more concerned with what to make of her new life rather than figuring out who she was or what she did beforehand. Whilst this lighthearted approach to the story sets a nice change of pace, it’s let down by the fact that few of the game’s mysteries are actually resolved by the end of the game. The developers create a fantastic world with layers of intrigue but leave you feeling you just played an introduction to a story, not a complete tale.
Whilst the story is interesting, Gravity Rush’s true strength lies in its gameplay. At its core the game is built around a tried and tested structure which should be familiar to most. Once you’ve completed the obligatory “training” missions, you’re thrown into an open map and given free rein to explore. You can do primary missions to advance the story, complete mini challenges for extra gems (the game’s currency) or just explore the city finding people to chat with and hidden gems. See the problem? Gravity Rush falls into the same trap as games like LA Noire where, outside the main missions, there’s not a great deal for you to do.
Another problem with Gravity Rush is the lack of variety in mission objectives. Whilst they try to disguise the repetition behind story sequences and changing goals your actions really boil down to completing a single task; make your way to a checkpoint then speak to someone, collect an item or defeat waves of Nevi (the baddies in the game). Challenge missions suffer a similar problem and are mostly checkpoint races with rewards based on your final time. Luckily Gravity Rush makes it both easy and fun to complete these missions and, whilst you may find the structure a little predictable near the end, they disguise it well for the most part.
So why should you be interested in Gravity Rush? One thing that sets it apart from a myriad of similar titles is that it’s amazingly fun to play. At its core Gravity Rush is built around Kat’s ability to shift gravity. Tap the R button and you start to float then simply aim a targeting reticule and tap R again and that becomes “down” for Kat. It’s surprisingly satisfying and you’ll quickly find yourself navigating the city at great speed whilst enjoying an altered perception of your surroundings. In addition to Kat’s basic skills she has the ability to purchase or upgrade a number of secondaries. These vary from completely new moves like a gravity slide or mini black hole to simple augmentations like extra health or a faster fall speed.
Combat is similarly fun and has you throwing Kat in all directions as you try to land hits on a myriad of different foe types. Whilst there’s quite a bit of variety in the way you can attack you’ll no doubt find yourself spamming one or two over powered moves as the game progresses and the enemies become harder to hit. The only problem I found with combat was that, when faced with a fast moving foe, it was often hard to successfully hit your target. Unfortunately gravity based moves mean that, if you miss your target, you’ll often go sailing clear past the enemy and have a moment of disorientation while you regain your bearings. For the most part this wasn’t a problem but there were times when aiming the camera and executing moves whilst avoiding enemy fire felt overwhelming and frustrating.
Aside from a few minor camera issues Gravity Rush mixes traditional controls with touch and motion very well. Motion controls can be used as an enhancement alongside traditional controls or turned off completely for those who prefer the older style. Some moves, like the Gravity Slide, had you tilting the Vita like a steering wheel and felt a little “gimmicky” but, for the most part, the controls feel natural and easy to use.
Another thing that sets Gravity Rush apart from its competitors is the artistic style. It looks both unique and amazing whilst managing to use sound perfectly to create an atmosphere you can’t help but fall in love with. Whether you’re traversing the steampunk city of Hekseville or navigating one of the many surreal side areas you can’t help but feel captivated by the detail provided. This is further enhanced by the developer’s design choice to deliver the story to us via comic strip sequences or in game dialogue. The artistic styling isn’t perfect however and I felt that some areas suffered from overly washed out/”sepia” heavy colouring and poor draw distance.
Gravity Rush is a combination of many tried and tested video game “norms”. I’m not sure why it’s so good but it manages to bring everything together into a package that is enjoyable to play and will have you thirsty for more. Whilst it might not be the game to make you buy a Vita it’s certainly a worthy title to add to your collection if you already own one.