When I first saw the announcement trailer for Mars War Logs, my sci-fi junkie side immediately kicked in and got me excited. Unfortunately, Mars War Logs has proven to be yet another cautionary tale for me as far as game trailers go.
The game’s visuals, even running on a top-tier PC, look like a second-year Xbox 360 or PS3 game. Graphics are not the most important aspect of a game to me, however, and at least this game has a solid visual style. The Mars War Logs’ art style instantly surfaced memories of much better games (Red Faction) based on the red planet, and that is probably the reason I was interested in it in the first place.
The environments are extremely bland in design. Basically, every structure looks like it’s built out of scrap metal, and caves and mines are overly plain as well. Since these are the only types of environments you will encounter in the game, you’ll see all MWL has to offer after the first hour.
Characters in the game are equally as generic as the level design. Cardboard-cutout “space cops” are the main enemy players face, but in contrast, some of the creature designs are definitely original. MWL’s dogs look like pigs with shrimp or craw-fish heads. The moles are pretty standout as well and harken back to early 1980s sci-fi movies, namely John Carpenter’s The Thing.
The games sound design is just as lackluster as the graphics. Music in Mars War Logs is basically ambient synth that you will barely notice, with inter-cut action music in combat. Players could give this a pass, but it really got on my nerves that there is no fade when the action music starts and stops.
Dialogue in Mars War Logs is unforgivable. I’m not sure where Spiders, the studio behind behind the title, is located geographically, but they must have been extremely short on English-speaking voice actors there. Mars War Logs features the worst VO of any game I have played in recent memory. I am almost sure some of the characters are voiced by train-car hobos.
I can’t really articulate what the final gameplay in MWL actually is, but I can say what it wants to be. Mars War Logs wants to be Mass Effect with Batman Arkham combat, and sadly, the game fails heartily on both fronts.
The combat is based around hit, block-breaker, block/counter, and roll mechanics. All of these mechanics do function, albeit not well. Blocking only works if it is held down, and the counter, even when leveled up all the way, only functions about 20 percent of the time. Since blocking/countering is basically not an option, the game quickly devolves into mindless button mashing. There are ranged attacks, but unfortunately there isn’t an aiming system to go along with them. Players just hit the button they have assigned to a ranged attack, and the character fires at whatever enemy is currently auto-targeted. Thrilling Stuff.
The other part of the gameplay is the dialogue system. As far as mechanics go, it does work pretty well, except when the character you are talking to starts to vocalize and the worst collection of imaginable recitations spew forth.
The level-up system is archaic to say the least, but players will be forced to spend an hour of the game’s thankfully short six hours in the menus. Mars War Logs suffers a very common symptom of downright lazy game development, as it is designed around a final form or fully leveled character. This leads to the first 80 percent of the game to feel broken or empty. When players do finally get to the point where you have access to most of your character’s abilities, it’s almost inconsequential because Mars War Logs has forced you to learn how to get through combat situations in the most dodgy or half-baked ways, eradicating any chance of learned progression.
None. MWL is around six hours of the worst game time you can possibly find in the recent releases category. If by some shadow of chance you get suckered into playing this game, trust me, you will be thankful for its brevity.
Mars War Logs has an interesting premise but continually murders any chance it has at being a decent game. The story is the worst kind of trite sci-fi, with almost no character development or insight. The simple fact that every — and I mean every — single room in the game has a loading door is one of the most atrocious aspects of any game I’ve come across this generation. If you are in the market for a sci-fi game of this nature, do yourself a favor and play something else. After all, it’s not like there is a shortage of good ones on the market.
•Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
•Platforms: PC, XBox 360, PS3
•Release: PC 4-26-2013, Xbox 360 7-26-2013, PSN TBA
•Time Stamp: 8-4-2013