Hardcore Mecha Review: Smash, Shoot, Destroy

by David Sanchez January 21, 2020 @ 8:34 am

Reviewed on PlayStation 4

High-octane mech games have traditionally been third-person experiences. They’re pretty much shooters, but instead of a limber space marine, you play as a massive, hulking robot. Hardcore Mecha is the rare exception to the rule, providing that same kind of action-packed adventure but set on a 2D plane — and it works.

The game was developed by Chinese indie team RocketPunch Games. Following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, the game has snagged a bunch of awards and been on the receiving end of much praise along the way. It’s got a few flaws, especially with regard to its story, but Hardcore Mecha is definitely worthy of all the buzz for the most part.

Destroy All Mechs

The story of Hardcore Mecha is your usual good versus evil plot. You’re tasked with saving a character known as “A.” In your way is a rival group that’s well-versed in the art of mech combat. The story scenes, presented in stills, are heavy with dialogue that’s mostly uninteresting. It never really goes anywhere worthwhile, and these scenes get in the way of the action, which is why most folks play mech games in the first place.

When you’re not stuck in the story parts, Hardcore Mecha is a lot of fun. The combat is slower paced than your average 2D beat ’em ups, but it’s fast enough that it doesn’t feel sluggish. While in the cockpit of your mech, you can dish out melee combos, dash around the screen to avoid fire, and shoot powerful projectiles. Energy meters prevent you from spamming any sort of offense or defense, so it’s best to play strategically and slow down when you notice that your dash evade is draining your energy too rapidly. Same goes with your melee attacks.

You can pick up different guns along the way, though these have limited ammo. On the plus side, they’re usually more powerful than your stock weapon. Burst rifles and shotguns deal big damage and keep the shooting gameplay from getting tired.

Sometimes you’ll go one-on-one with big mechs. Other times you’ll be surrounded by smaller bots, tanks, and soldiers. The best strategy in any scenario is too move around as much as possible to avoid enemy attacks while raining down your robot fists and heavy fire when you find an opening. The action is fast and challenging, with later levels getting especially tough and providing a rewarding increase in difficulty.

More Than Just Mechs

Some stages require you to step out of your mech. These provide a nice change of pace that treats you to something different that’s just as fun. A lot of the time, these on-foot sequences allow you to play more stealthily. Of course, if you want to run into an enemy bunker and just start shooting dudes, you can totally do that. You’ll alert nearby enemies, but the game allows you to play your way in these instances. I personally enjoyed a mix of both stealth play where I would sneak up on unsuspecting dudes and more intense shootouts.

Leveling up allows you to add new abilities, weapons, and items to your mech. You’ll be able to improve your shields, equip anti-armor mines, and suit up with better guns. The skill tree isn’t too deep, but it rewards you with just enough perks to make jumping into subsequent levels remain fresh and wholly entertaining all the way through.

The single player campaign will take you five or six hours to complete, though you can revisit stages if you’re on the hunt for that elusive S-rank or wish to complete optional objectives in each level. There’s a melee-based local and online multiplayer mode for up to four players, as well as a wave-based survival mode. These additional components are okay, but the campaign is where it’s at.

Hardcore Mecha has a nice chibi-esque art tyle that really works. Human characters look like they came out of an anime series, while mechs are huge and intimidating. There’s plenty variety in the level designs — you’ll visit underground bunkers, high-tech laboratories, and dark caves. Backgrounds and foregrounds are richly detailed and look pretty great.

The music is fast-paced and filled with guitar riffs. It sounds like something you’d hear in the background while two characters do battle in an epic animated film. There’s no English language track, but the voice actors sound good and deliver their lines with all the dramatic fervor of a mech-themed anime.

If you’re looking for a solid 2D mech game — or just a fun action game, period — Hardcore Mecha is worth your time. The gameplay is fast and fun, with cool mech-based and on-foot action to keep you busy for a few hours. The little touches, like the customization and upgrades, make the game remain entertaining from beginning to end. The story is kind of dull, but the mechanics are polished and solid and absolutely make Hardcore Mecha worth playing.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

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