In the long struggle to mimic the success of Monster Hunter and despite capable rookies like Tôkiden, the God Eater series has always been a solid 2nd so far. Although well behind Capcom’s champion, it still is one of the most popular action games in Japan. All that BandaiNamco had to do was to erase the image of a mere hunting game and offer a richer experience.
In the distant future of God Eater, mankind is nearly extinct. Humans are being preyed by aggressive and monstrous creatures called Aragamis, which also possess evolving capabilities far beyond those of humans. The longer the war against the Aragamis lasts, more hopeless it becomes. To make it worse, a crimson rain starting pouring, infecting those under it with an incurable disease. God Eaters are mankind’s only hope to avoid destruction : those men and women are chosen for their ability to equip jinki, weapons borrowing Aragami cells and therefore the only way to fight them. God Eater 2 Rage Burst impresses immediately by its post-apocalyptic setting and its vision of the future, symbolized by its protean weapons as large as their bearer, and capable of morphing into a railgun or any high-caliber rifle.
Inspired by this rich base storyline, BandaiNamco’s title features a complex scenario, far beyond your average hunting game. Let’s stress that the European branch of the publisher is rather generous at this occasion, because not only does God Eater 2 Rage Burst fully includes God Eater 2 (released in Japan in 2013), but they also give you God Eater Resurrection (the remake of the very first one) for free! You have the entire saga for the price of one game, no better deal. This sequel has quite a couple of twists to startle and fascinate the player : treason and drama are on the agenda, coupled with mature themes like human experiments, loyalty or sacrifice. Told with care, this tale is full of emotions, with political conflicts and frightening revelations. God Eater 2 Rage Burst follows with a dark atmosphere, but also touching thanks to Livie : the hooded girl has the power to adapt any jinki and see the past of the previous bearer.
Having a good story is nice, but having a correctly-paced story is better. Let’s say it straight, God Eater 2 Rage Burst is loaded with uneventful missions that extend the playtime to 50 hours or more. Not especially a drawback provided you have fun with the gameplay, but it certainly does water down the narrative. To fill the void, nothing better than tackling character events. God Eater’s universe is full of buddies who have all a role, comic or dramatic. In particular, everything linked to Canon, a pink-haired girl whose aiming is terrible, has been tremendously funny. Eventually, the only sad news is that none of those characters are playable, the player being stuck to the avatar created at the very beginning. The character creation menu is fairly good and allows you to design a character you’d like, but what a shame given the numerous lovable mates…
As for the game system, God Eater 2 Rage Burst is not an Action-RPG, but a pure action game since there isn’t experience to gain, and that the dexterousness of the player is way more important than improving his character. The only way to make your hero stronger is to improve his weapon. Your jinki will get new forms as you go further in R&D, kafkaesque system with poor ergonomy given the length of the item lists. Other problem, the necessary materials are scarce, the drop rate being at best 10 or 15%. The result is even more tiring sub-missions that we surely could have done without, spending hours to strengthen one blade not being very motivating. You can also allocate skills to your weapon and shield, skills that you get from relics obtained after the battles. Rise your HP, improve close range combat, stamina… the possibilities have been greatly enhanced since the original God Eater 2.
Missions will always send you face one or several Aragamis in closed and relatively small areas. Therefore, all the fun in God Eater 2 Rage Burst will come from its fast-paced combat. The game features super high-speed action and you do have to dodge every few seconds or so if you don’t want to take critical damage. Half a dozen close-range weapons are available, from the very classic but reliable two-handed blade to the scythe introduced in this 2015 version. There are as many fireweapons, from light machine guns to railguns. No doubt that everyone can find its own battle style, and even vary to enjoy a different experience at times.
In terms of active capacities, God Eater 2 Rage Burst allows you to modify the base combo of your weapon by adding Blood Arts. Those have different effects like throwing shockwaves, extend the reach of a weapon, healing or adding a devastating blow to a downed Aragami. The hoshoku will use the Aragami cells of your weapon : it will morph into a giant jaw that can bite the enemy. Very base of God Eater’s gameplay, it makes your character enter Burst mode, improving agility and stamina. This must be used as often as you can, even though finding an opening is not always easy. At such occasion you also gain special bullets taken from Aragamis, that are more efficient than average.
But the big novelty in God Eater 2 Rage Burst is the Blood Rage state. Activating it is tricky and risky : you have to be at 100% symbiosis level or more with your weapon (which gradually go up by attacking normally) and achieve one or several covenants. The more convenants, the more powerful the Blood Rage gets.
Still, you have only 30 seconds to accomplish those actions (deal a certain amount of damage, bite your enemy, etc) so it won’t work every time since any interruption can ruin your attempt. It’s still highly rewarding because it can turn the tables in difficult missions : your character takes an angel form, becomes fully invincible, and twice as fast and strong.
Even if you come to master all this perfectly, Argamis will make you bite the dust. Not only are BandaiNamco’s creatures strong enough to KO your avatar in a few blows, but they’re also astonishingly nimble. Even the most massive Aragamis move faster than you! Battles are violent and fast, every struggle is desperate and you need to adapt quickly if you want to win. Each Aragami has one or several elemental weaknesses : you therefore need to prepare your equipement so as you get the advantage, for example by manufacturing elemental blades or bullets.
God Eater 2 Rage Burst also introduces two elements that make the game harder. The first is a resistance gauge that goes down everytime your avatar is KO. When it reaches zero, the mission is a failure even if your comrades are still standing. It was a necessary evolution of the gameplay since game over could virtually never occur in the God Eater 2 of 2013. The second point is that you now face survival missions, which actually are 3 to 5 battles in a row with no more recovery items than usual. The game lets you have only a limited set of potions, not enough to survive on the long term.
God Eater’s bestiary is of uneven design. The art direction leans more towards a devilish and grotesque look for most of the creatures so we’re pretty far off Monster Hunter’s majestic dragons. Besides, it’s not that varied either, the same monsters being thrown at you regularly. That said, some fiends like the infamous Kyûbi are charimastic. The well-known mythological fox is so fierce that even getting close to it is risky. Worse still, some bosses can KO you in one blow, and those are the longest fights. In God Eater 2 Rage Burst, you’re not hunting, you’re the hunted.
When it goes real hard, the best thing to do is to call reinforcements. God Eater is first and foremost a multiplayer series, so it’s quite easy to create a lobby and get some buddies to join you (or invite a friend). The online environment is rock-solid, with no framerate drop observed. Bear in mind that you can only progress in the story with players that have reach the same point as you. It’s possible to filter players so that you meet only people of similar level.
Despite living in the shadows of PS4, the Vita version of God Eater 2 Rage Burst is comparatively the best one. The overall contents are the same, online is as good as on PS4 and of course, you can play wherever you are! Graphically speaking, the game looks better relatively to the system it runs on : the 3D of God Eater 2 is ageing a bit, but stays a lot above the average of portable games. The only drawback concerns the healing items : it’s not possible to use potion via the touchscreen, whereas Phantasy Star on Vita allowed it. On PS4, it’s quick and effective thanks to the touchpad of the controller.
Clearly on PS4 the game looks average at best. While for financial reasons it’s difficult to expect that the PS4 version could have a 3D engine of its own, the devs could have at least corrected the character models a bit, since they look unrefined. As it is, God Eater 2 Rage Burst hasn’t progressed much technically compared to God Eater 2 in 2013 on Vita, the PS4 display being an HD slightly upscaled version of the former. The game is not even in 1080p but actually 1000p, which adds ugly black outlines on your screenshots. The dynamic sound environment will make up for it : the orchestrations of this action game are varied (rock, electro, symphonic…) and give an epic dimension to the fights. Kaketa mono for example concludes the hardest survival mission in a wonderful way. The frequent communications with the operator also make a great atmosphere. Pure art.
BandaiNamco did the right thing in making God Eater 2 Rage Burst more than a mere hunting game. It’s a solid action game boasting fast and thrilling gameplay as well as a good (but badly paced) storyline. The bestiary is not the best in the field and the PS4 version could have looked better, but that doesn’t alter the intense and compelling gaming experience.
Special thanks to Akuma for his help during those long campaigns