Gravity Rush review
The Vita's killer app is like a good comic book, but better
- Moving around in the world is a blast
- The story is interesting even if it's been done before
- Intuitive controls make use of all the Vita has to offer
- Beautiful stylized world to Rush around in
- Soundtrack compliments the game perfectly
- Ridiculous loading times
- Somewhat repetitive combat
- The story leaves many questions completely unmentioned
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy describes the art of flying as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Kat doesn't have that problem; she can turn gravity upside down and fall into the sky at the drop of a hat. Her journey from Nobody to Hero is an enjoyable tale, even if it isn't extremely long or original with the main story clocking in at around 10 hours.
The game begins when our hero finds herself awakened in a city park. With no memories and not even a name, she steps out to learn about the world she's a part of. After awakening to her powers and narrowly avoiding a close brush with a mysterious anomaly, she gets to work building a life and name for herself on this city plagued by gravity storms. This is one of Gravity Rush's biggest positives - its interesting world. The visuals themselves may not be as crisp and high-res as the Vita is capable of with its sexy sexy screen, but they are stylized and nice to look at nonetheless, and the graphics are good enough that is'a non-issue with just about anyone. It's almost impossible for the city to be a better setting for this story. Why are the gravity storms happening? Why is the city on gigantic platforms around an equally gigantic pillar? You will search for the answers to these questions and more as the game progresses, but will you find the answers?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is more often than not no. Many of the deeper questions raised by the game aren't even acknowledged. Working them in to the narrative without sacrificing anything else could have easily been done and, in my opinion, making players take note of and think about the many problems and questions that are ignored would have made for a much deeper and more engaging story. The ending seems to be a setup for a sequel, but the developers may have kept us in the dark to add to the sense of mystery surrounding nearly everything about the world, which seems to be a theme of the game.
The cutscenes of the story before and after missions play out in comic book-style slideshows a la inFAMOUS which adds to the game feeling like a pretty good cartoon or comic. There is no voiced dialogue in the game; there are voices every now and again, but they just speak French-inspired simlish (expect to hear Il y a plein all the time), which also carries over to the names of the city sections, such as Auldnoir and Pleajeune. Any dialog delivered during gameplay is done with subtitles on the bottom of the screen, which could have been handled better (perhaps by giving the characters voices), but also adds to the comic book feeling. This is furthered by the catchy and stellar soundtrack. The visuals may not be as crisp and high-res as the Vita is capable of with its sexy, sexy screen, but they are stylized and nice to look at nonetheless, and the graphics are good enough that it'll be a non-issue for just about anyone.
Having a spacious, open sandbox world for your game is dandy - I love my San Andreases and Skyrims as much as the next guy - but it has the potential to make moving from place to place into a tedious chore if there isn't a fun way to move around. Kat's gravity powers are the fun way to get around. You control her direction either by using the right analog stick or tilting the entire handheld to point in the direction you want to go, which is much more fun than it has any right to be. Her powers can be upgraded - fly farther, faster, and longer, hit harder, and so forth - by spending gems you receive for completing missions and challenges and can find hidden around the world. By the end of the game, Kat will be a powerhouse, but the optional challenges are still fun and your highest score is tracked for those ultra-competitive types. The enemies also increase in power proportionally to how you will, ensuring that the game is never too hard even if it is pretty easy at times. Despite this, the combat slowly becomes a chore due to how shallow it is. Your methods of attack are kicking the enemy, doing a flying kick at the enemy, throwing things at the enemy, and a small handful of special attacks. The combat gets the job done and is great at making the player feel like the terrifyingly strong badass they're becoming, but is still a little stale by the end of the game.
There's plenty of creative design sprinkled throughout the gameplay, even if we accept the amazing gravity-controlling mechanics as normal. Many of the bosses are thoughtfully made and more complex than the bullet sponges they are in far too many lesser games, and when the game wants you to, you will feel like you've met your match. The final boss should be praised here, because it has a great buildup and feels properly climactic and epic. This creative design also continues on to the story and challenges as well. There's a surprisingly well-done stealth section near the beginning of the game that is over before it has the chance to become frustrating and is never brought up again. There's even a section where you're severely weakened and can't use your power to anywhere near their full extent for a level, and that defies conventional wisdom by not being terrible. There's plenty of neat things that are done, but more could have been done more often and it feels like a bit of wasted potential.
The most annoying thing about this game is, by far, the immense loading times. Perhaps it's because loading times are longer from game carts than downloaded, but I never spent less than 40 seconds in a loading screen, and that's just disgraceful. The payoff - being able to fly around basically the entire city without stopping to load the area once - is worth it in the end, but damn if it isn't frustrating to be doing a challenge and have to wait for a full minute to restart it and try again. Even then, the game still sometimes pauses to load an area anyway. Loads and loads of loading is an understatement.
There are downloadable (or disk-locked, I'm not sure) bite-sized packs of content available for the game on PSN for a really low price. Each one includes a costume for Kat and a tiny handful of story missions. I've only gotten one and it told of a fun adventure of Kat's that's unmentioned in the vanilla game, but you aren't missing any of the main plot by saving money and passing these up. The real positive here is that the precedent has been set for this game getting post-release support, and that's something nobody can dispute is a good thing.
In the end, Gravity Rush is still the best exclusive the Vita has at the moment. It's actually a perfect metaphor for the handheld itself: Fantastic and even better than you thought, but with wasted potential and not much to look forward to. If you aren't out for the best game in the history of the world, Gravity Rush is a great game and it's an absolute must-have for Vita owners. If you have a Vita and this game isn't in your collection, you should be ashamed of yourself.
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