You know what’s kind of weird? Virtual On hasn’t gotten any kind of re-release on Steam or anything of the sort. There have been re-releases of the games on newer platforms in Japan, but apparently the franchise has slipped into the “no export for you” territory, which is kind of a shame. You’d think I would be all over it, given that it’s a series about giant robots beating one another up and that’s sort of my jam.
I start with that because, well… Override 2 isn’t a spiritual successor to those games, really, but it is definitely a close cousin. It’s a game all about piloting one of several gigantic mechs and beating the ever-loving stuffing out of other gigantic mechs along the way. And it’s the sequel to an existing game, so… yeah, this is a whole thing.
Override 2: Super Mech League launches on December 22nd for PC, PlayStation 4 & 5, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One. The Steam version was played for this preview.
First and foremost, the preview that I got to play did not feature the game’s career mode. It was entirely focused on the game’s multiplayer modes and the AI-punching quick play mode, which means that I cannot tell you with any authority how great-or-not the story is. What I can do is talk about the actual game mechanics, and as the prior game features a number of people noting that the game is focused more on the multiplayer experience, this may be more germane to experience.
In short, Override 2 is a brawling fighting game. You can move around, block, pick things up, or strike with any of your machine’s four limbs. You’ve got two buttons for light and heavy arm attacks or light and heavy kicks, you chain them together to beat your opponent.
You also have special moves, and they’re executed easily enough – both punch buttons, both kick buttons, or the two corresponding punch and kick buttons (both light attacks or both heavy attacks). There’s also an ultimate move you can unleash at the right moment, so that’s good.
All in all, that sounds like a solid enough approach, yes? As a skeleton of stuff to be fleshed out later, it’s all good. Unfortunately, I found it all a bit harder to get intofor a couple of reasons.
The first is that at least at the outset, it felt like most of the mechs had… well, pretty similar arsenals. Your “both punch” special seems to always be ranged. Light is always a dash attack of some sort. Both heavy attacks is a slow wind-up attack. You get the idea. That’s not to say these are all the same, and in fact it’s kind of a good idea that you have a rough idea of how the game is meant to work just from knowing the inputs.
However, it also means that you’re going to need to play a lot to really appreciate the differences between the various mechs. There’s definitely some difference, but it’s not the sort that jumps out at you immediately. It’s not like, say, a lot of 2D fighters wherein it’s immediately obvious how characters play differently and have wildly different movesets.
The other problem that I found, though, is a bit more subtle. At least from my limited experience, it felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of point in doing anything aside from rushing and hammering the other robot in a one-on-one match. Attacks all land with equal hit stun, so it felt like my general approach was just to rush in and keep punching, using ranged attacks, or using my dash-type move to keep up the pressure. Slower attacks just meant getting attacked during the windup and losing my chance.
Don’t get me wrong, it is entirely possible this comes down to me just not being very good at the game or fighting games in general. (Guilty as charged, yes.) There’s also the fact that bigger multiplayer matches have very different dynamics and you can easily see how different attacks could be launched into more flexibly. It’s just that my first impression here was… well, less than overwhelmingly positive. It’s not that the core mechanics aren’t fun, but it felt like it’d take a lot of play to figure out how each machine is different.
One of the nice things about the game is how good it looks right from the start. Not only is each machine lovingly rendered and given a real sense of weight and momentum, your shiny finish gets progressively more scuffed and battered as you take damage. That’s to the game’s credit. More to the point, all of your animations feel organic and flexible.
It’d be easy to stop there, but the game goes a bit further with the inclusion of arenas that really offer a great deal of character as well. Objects move on several stages, there are different heights to contend with, and you get the sense that where you’re fighting has a real impact. While I can debate a little bit about how well the game delivers on its roster, it’s very obvious that this game has not been phoned in by any means.
The game’s music is… well, acceptable. None of it is terribly memorable, but it sets the right tone. Sound design is a bit more of a crapshoot, but the clunky noises as you move around are nice.
The UI is also clear and provides you with all the information you need, which is another good element for a fighting game. Furthermore, I like how much work has gone into giving each mech a very distinct silhouette; even among the 10 in the preview (there are 20 planned for launch) there was a real sense of each machine being distinct even while they were all part of the same overall design setup.
In some ways, giving me Override 2 is an exercise in asking the wrong person to evaluate it. I can’t tell you how well it holds up to its predecessor, and as someone who is not very good at fighting games to begin with I might be the wrong person to judge it on those merits.
What I will say is that while the fighters felt a bit identical when I started playing, it’s entirely possible that the full game’s roster will feel less so. And it is definitely true that there’s a fair amount of variety in the smaller spaces; people who take the time to get to know each fighter will no doubt be able to pick out the fine differences.
Ultimately, if you like the idea of playing a mech fighter in the spirit of Virtual On, I’d say this is a pretty good project to watch for launch. Just keep in mind that it relies a lot on multiplayer to deliver its full impact, and there’s no way of being sure that multiplayer will stay around forever.
Screenshots courtesy of Modus Games.