previews\ Jan 30, 2012 at 11:10 am

Army Corps of Hell Preview


The PlayStation Vita is getting its fair share of unique games, many of which take advantage of the system’s front and back touch sensitivity, but players are probably more concerned about playing something fun, rather than seeking out innovation.  Fortunately, Square Enix appears to be delivering in that regard, as it’s prepping Army Corps of Hell -- a new action/strategy game that’s set to release during the system’s launch window.

Army Corps of Hell PS Vita

Upon checking out this game at Square’s special CES suite in Las Vegas, I was a bit curious at first as to how it would come across.  When hearing the heavy metal soundtrack for the first time and peering at the surroundings in the game, I could’ve sworn I was right back in the middle of Brutal Legend’s head-banging universe.  However, the lead character is far from a heroic roadie.  In fact, he’s got an army of goblins doing his dirty work.

The lead character in question is a tyrant who, while on Earth, ruled with an iron fist, refusing to let petty folk get him down and holding nothing back in getting what he wanted.  Eventually, he had to pay the price for his behavior and has since been banished to hell, where he sits as a lowly king.  Being the driven bastard that he is, he vows to fight back, and he begins to gather a goblin army that will help him fight through the depths of hell and get back to the land he had once conquered.

This “king of hell” doesn’t really have many attacks of his own.  Rather, he calls upon his army to do the dirty work.  Consisting of three goblin types, he’ll command them to attack enemies, devour food and gather weapons outside his reach, and then, like obedient dogs, they’ll return to his side, ready to dish out more punishment.

If this sounds familiar to the formula that worked for Nintendo’s Pikmin games, there’s a reason for that.  The development team, Entersphere, is composed of former members of the Pikmin team, so they know what’s up when it comes to team management.  However, Army Corps of Hell isn’t just a demonic rip-off, by any means.  There’s extra stuff to balance here.

For instance, over the course of each battle, with each enemy defeated and devoured (yep, goblins will clean up on leftovers, including eyeballs – yum!), you can upgrade the goblins, giving them better abilities and crafting new weapons.  You also have the option of dividing up their numbers into three groups – magic goblins (who shoot multi-hit attacks from a distance), long-range spear attackers, and medium range melee specialists.  They’re pretty powerful when you start, but as you progress, they can become even more monstrous depending how you level them up.  You’ll need this power, too, especially when it comes to taking on large bosses.

Army Corps of Hell’s gameplay style is quite good, as you can command goblins with ease and pick them back up when they’re down for the count, simply by walking over them (before they perish, mind you).  You’ll also be able to take part in cool, little mini-games to replenish your army, drumming along the back panel of the Vita in time to the music to revive them.  (They’ll return the musical favor if you give them guitars and flutes, which can be crafted.)  Though it’s not a full-fledged use of the Vita’s capabilities, it’s still quite fun.

The single-player mode offers various missions, but you can also hook up with others through PlayStation Network in four player multiplayer battles.  We weren’t able to see this in action yet, but it sounds quite promising.

Army Corps of Hell PS Vita

Like we said, the visuals have a lot in common with Brutal Legend, with plenty of on-screen carnage and hellish imagery, but nothing that goes too far overboard like Dante’s Inferno did.  And the metal soundtrack, supplied by heavy metal bands that live in Entersphere’s area, hits the right tone, though you can easily provide your own soundtrack if you prefer.  (We dare you to play “Loving You” while your goblins destroy everything – it really redefines hell.)

Army Corps of Hell is a far cry from the commanding tactics of Pikmin, and a hell of a lot more fun to boot.  You’ll be dishing out carnage in no time flat and creating the kind of unbeatable team that will have you dominating again in no time.  Be sure to check back for the review upon the game’s release next month.  That gives you enough time to practice your head-banging, we think.

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