|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Team Beam||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: NCSoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Dec.21, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 16 (online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by CJ Irelan
NCSoft seems to print nothing but gold lately. Lineage II, Guild Wars and its two expansion packs, as well as both City of Heroes games all stand proudly under its banner. The Korea-based company now expands its horizons from MMOs into the FPS genre, and goes where few games dare tread. Video game developers rarely touched upon the world of giant robots, and most often left it to franchises such as the Mobile Suit Gundam games, the Armored Core series, and the Mechwarrior franchise.
While these games are nice, they often plod along more slowly than the engines of destruction they are based on. A few games have attempted to muscle their way into the ring on consoles, such as Chromehounds for the 360, Murakumo, the two Gungriffon games, Steel Battalion, and a handful of easily forgettable knockoffs. With competition like these games, mecha-loving gamers will want to sink their teeth into something with more speed and customization, something like if Armored Core and Virtual On tried to combine.
For anyone out there who has ever watched a typical robot anime, the drill should be familiar. For those who have yet to see such a show, the concept is simple. Human-shaped vehicles ranging from 18 to 180 meters blast away at each other with guns that make modern artillery look like slingshots and turn whatever the backdrop is into little more than dust. Most previous mecha games have done that without much trouble, however, they fail to capture the speed and intensity most robot anime shows portray. Instead, the armored automaton thunders across the battlefield slowly and surely and blasts away at range with massive cannons. Close combat is a foolhardy and unimplemented or sloppy and limited to a precious few slashes, smashes, or stabs.
Exteel plans to upgrade every aspect of the experience. The shell casings only stop flying once the ground is littered with wrecked mechs, here known as Mechanaughts, and the objective is secure. Until then, the players have three different classes of Mechanaught to choose from: the Knight Saver, the Thunder Assault, and the Defend Guard, all corresponding to Power, Speed, and Defense. From there, the weapon choices include everything from scaled up automatic handguns to katana to missiles and rockets to massive beam weapons. Put the monster war machine together and prepare to open fire. Between the first shot and the last explosion, unload ammo and hammer the competition with devastating combination attacks from simple repeated blows to visually astounding assaults. One gameplay video showed a Mechanaught being grappled, bent over backwards, then repeatedly shot in the face before being tossed away like a rag doll. If the game plays as impressively as it looks, then that may only be the tip of a very brutal and impressive iceberg.
For a game without a single player experience, the story is detailed enough. The year is 2197, and the inhabitants of the planet Natha are warring over resources. The players are those warring inhabitants, and the game begins. The Mechanaughts follow the current trend in robot designs: a jutting forehead and a plate over the mouth. The joints and armor are all very round and tapered into soft points if any, resembling a more varied crop of Arm Slaves from the show Full Metal Panic. While this matches what most of the giant robot show community is seeing right now, it may rub some enthusiasts the wrong way.
The game modes are tried and true. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are staples of any shooting game, and Territory Control and Last Stand aren't likely to break any new ground. The bottom line is to shoot until something dies, preferably one of the other 15 players in the room. As opposed to the mindless grinding of most MMORPGs, Exteel is the Instant Action option expanded. Open a room, bring up to 15 other players in, and prepare for action. After the match, reassemble the Mechanaught and head back in to crack more mechanical skulls.
With Exteel just out of closed beta, NCSoft once more gears up to roll in money. Or they would, had they not put Exteel on their list of "Free to download, free to play" list of games. This bold move means that some gear will only be available through very nice friends or purchasing them through the item shop. For a game promised to be otherwise free, however, the game shows a high production value. For example, the city arena features multiple levels, impressive textures, and high detail, and the mechs themselves are highly detailed. The world feels a bit sterile, but the weapons, particle effects and explosions, a large part of the game, all look shockingly superb when the lack of cost is factored in.
The game is already online in Korea and with open beta and release creeping slowly towards the States, Team Beam's run-and-gun robot shooter will be eating up spare time and spare change all over America come next Christmas.
CCC Freelance Writer