[PS Plus Reviews] January 2016- Hardware: Rivals

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Disclaimer: This post is made as an entry for PS Asia’s PS Plus Junior Reporter competition. The points and views raised in the review however are not affected in any way.

This January there’s supposed to be a release of a PC game called Hardware: Shipbreakers. Thankfully, the developers, who used to work on the Homeworld IP, managed to get in touch with new owners Gearbox and officially brand their game as a proper Homeworld game instead of a spiritual successor. The game then changed names to Homeworld: Shipbreakers before finalised as Homeworld: Deserts of Kharak.

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Thank goodness the developers opted to not use Hardware as their series name, else people might get confused that Hardware: Rivals is also of the same IP. Instead, Hardware: Rivals is an online-only multiplayer car combat game, a successor to Hardware: Online Arena, one of the first online games on the PS2. Yes, this is no indie game, a sequel of sorts, and it’s a first party game developed in-house by a new team at Sony.

Car combat used to be a genre in the PS1 era, with titles like Twisted Metal and Vigilante 8 leading the charge.

So, a modern day online-only multiplayer car combat game? Is it as fun to play nowadays? Read on to find out.

Note: This game is available for free for January 2016 PS Plus subscribers.

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Graphics & Sound

Powered by the Unreal 4 engine, Hardware: Rivals has a unique aesthetic. A bit cartoony, from big square blobs of tree leaves, to the bonkers customisation options offered. The game mostly runs at a smooth 60fps, but suffer some dips when huge explosions fill up the screen. Sound is serviceable for the most part, but it has clever uses of ambient audio, switching to low drab, echo-y sound as you enter indoors. The usual stuff.

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Environments are varied and distinct enough, and just feels right in terms of size. The vehicle’s drivers have some quips too, a nice touch, but nothing noteworthy. The announcer lacks a certain charm to make it something memorable, but again, a nice touch.

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Gameplay

This is first and foremost, a car combat game. Interestingly, it offers classic controls- X to accelerate and square to brake- along with the traditional trigger control scheme of modern games. You have a main weapon- machine guns for the smaller cars (F.A.V.s as they are called in-game, which I assume stands for fast armoured vehicles) and rockets for tanks.

Then you have the secondary weapons. A misleading name in my opinion, as the secondary weapons are your main damage dealers. These are scattered around the map as pick-ups, along with health and armour.

Oddly enough, you can’t hoard weapon pick-ups, like what you usually do in games like Twisted Metal. Picking a new weapon will replace what you have currently, so if you’ve been hoarding and stocking up ammo and suddenly picked a new weapon, all of that is lost. It is something that can be getting used to, but a jarring change no less.

There’s an okay amount of weapon variety. There’s missiles that work great for attacking opponents whose in a different vertical plane, plasma that dolls bursts of energy, a (very powerful) laser, two kinds of EMP missiles that disables driving and weapons respectively, and even a railgun. Not much offbeat weapons though. The bomb is personal highlight, as it can be laid down defensively as mines and does good damage when point blank.

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One unique gimmick of Hardware: Rivals is environmental hazards. You can pick up a weapon that triggers this, and it will start a countdown to the hazard initiating. Some requires you to get indoors, or a higher ground to avoid it.

For what I have played, controls feels okay, with different handling model for both F.A.V.s and tanks. So expect car-like and tank-like controls for both. However the physics are wonky, presumably on purpose. It’s normal to see cars flying after a head-on collision, and just plain silly to see a car ramming full speed a tank, and sends it flying. Nothing gamebreaking though, so that’s just a nitpick.

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Multiplayer experience feels smooth as well. Quick matchmaking (props for including a rookies-only matchmaking ), no visible signs of lag. Online experience, which it relies on heavily, seems to be working fine although I did got booted out a few times due to lost connection.

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Content & Longevity

Progression is the standard fare, earning XP and levels to unlock perks and colours. There’s also salvage, an in-game currency used to buy cosmetic changes to your vehicle. As mentioned earlier, some of it are just bonkers. You can put a love bed at the back of one of the jeeps.

On launch, there’s only four maps, and four main game modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination (capture command point) and elimination (one repawn per round). As of the time of review, there’s a game mode with only F.A.Vs and railguns as weapons, but this is an event-based affair.

There’s also challenges that can be done on each map, complete with leader boards and complete instructions on how to do each one.

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Customisation options are scarcely limited too. There’s three options for each slot of four for all four vehicles. Colours are limited to about 6 and 8 patterns per vehicle and per driver respectively.

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From the looks of it, the developers may intend to add more stuff to the game in the future, with potentially new modes and customisation options.

Summary

Hardware: Rivals is a solid car combat game, something we haven’t see yet in the current generation of consoles. At the price of free for PS Plus subscribers, this is easily recommendable, as you can ask your fellow friends (hopefully with a PS Plus subscription too) to tag along and download at no cost whatsoever. Give it a shot!

I give it a solid 7/10.

As a standalone game, there’s not enough meat on the bones, although what’s on it already taste great. Looks like it’s not available for purchase  to non-PS Plus subscribers yet, so here’s hoping for a whole lot more stuff to be available when it’s purchasable.

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