TGS 2011: Army Corps of Hell (PS Vita) first hands-on preview

On the show floor of Tokyo Game Show, space is at a premium, with crowds all over the place, and based on the gigantic lines for most titles, it seems the PS Vita is most popular with attendees. That’s no surprise as this is its public debut in Japan, but it makes getting your hands on a Vita title incredibly difficult. Fortunately, one of the first titles we finally got a shot at was Square-Enix’s just revealed Army Corps of Hell. With over-the-top violence and a heavy metal aesthetic, you might not think it would remind you of Nintendo classic Pikmin, but the similarly light RTS gameplay style quickly made this one of our early favorites planned for the Vita launch.

We began the game as the skeletal lord of demons entered the Underworld with his tribe of 99 smaller minions surrounding him. As our first enemy appeared, a monster that mostly consisted of a giant, purple-lidded eye, we approached him on the circular platform with our brigade of testy demons and began tossing our angry army at the giant. As our team equipped with swords got on top of the beast and stabbed it to death, it eventually exploded into a shower of blood, leaving only its eyeball, which the titular Army Corps of Hell quickly consumed.

Soon enough we learned that our squad was made of three factions: the previously mentioned swordsmen, a group that used spears, and a team of magic users. Each made up a third of your forces and you switched on the fly between them depending on what the situation called for. A couple baddies were more susceptible to spears than swords, and there were a few times we needed to strategically pull back and use the magical ranged attacks of our squad. It struck a nice balance as we took out hellspawn after hellspawn with our team.

Still, we have to admit that the small amount we played was a tad linear, as each encounter followed thusly: find a few enemies on a circular platform, kill them all, wait for a bridge of bones to appear, then cross to the next platform. There was a health-restoring minigame that used the back touchpad to liven things up, but unfortunately it wasn’t really working in our demo build. But even if it started to grind a little, our spirits were kept up by the hilariously silly heavy metal soundtrack in the background and just how excitedly violent the title was. Though the game hasn’t been announced for an English language release, the style and design just screams Western announcement, so hopefully it’ll be ready in time for the early 2012 US/UK launch.

As we reached the boss of stage, the strategy got a little deeper as we ran around the platform avoiding his powerful stomp attacks then circling back around to fling our swordsmen at his knees to bring him down. By the way, Army Corps gameplay demands makes the direct camera control a necessity, giving us renewed appreciation for the Vita’s right thumb stick. Once we brought the boss to the ground, our spearmen were all over his face and eventually ripped off his head, which sailed across the stage in a bloody arc. As our satisfied team fed on the spoils of battle (aka the severed head), we were also satisfied with the pretty fun time we had with Army Corps of Hell. As long as Pikmin 3 is stuck in development hell, we may as well have fun in the meantime with this hellish tribute on the Vita.

Sep 17, 2011

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