Overall Score 73%
The story of PreVa takes place in the not so distant future. The Earth's natural resources have been all but depleted, and the most powerful nations on the planet form the United Earth Government to ensure their share of the remains. Rather than sit by idly, the remaining nations form their own ragtag force; the Independent Allies Alliance [sic] and war is declared. Although the war is still fought relatively conventionally, giant hulking mechs - weapons known as “Versatile Armors” - are used by both sides in an attempt to tip the balance of power. The player assumes a role as the leader of one of these mech squadrons for the United Earth Government. In a way, it's kind of refreshing to be playing on what feels like the “evil empire” side of the conflict. But philosophising is not the job of a soldier, there are orders to be followed and missions to accomplish. Mount up, boys!
The 12 story missions are played in chronological order over the period of what seems like a few days. A critical series of events unfold where the player's squadron is required to repossess some “liberated” prototypes of the most advanced VA's that the UEG has developed. It's a great story that starts off on a moon base, progresses with a fight in zero gravity in orbit, then back to Earth fighting for survival in the rainforest of Brazil, a series of missions in varied terrain and culminating in a few battles in and around a secret IAA base in South Africa. Between missions there are some atmospheric cinematic sequences and well presented mission briefs with dialogues that feature manga-style characters complete with animations and good quality voice-overs.
Once a mission has been unlocked in story mode, it's available to be replayed at any time through the main menu in a skirmish mode. Points earned while playing PreVa can be cashed in to unlock new (more advanced) mechs for both the UEG and IAA factions, and these can be used in not only the original mission levels but also 6 other unlockable scenarios for the IAA side. I took my time playing through the campaign missions, but even so most players will have cleared them in 3 hours at the most. I did find myself feeling that I wanted more of the story, which in my opinion was the strongest part of the game. There's no real conclusion to the plot aside from the fact that the entire series of events has made the IAA even more of a threat to the UEG and that the outcome of the war now hangs in the balance more than ever. It's a perfect setup for a sequel, if that is indeed in the works.
WASD controls forward, reverse and lateral strafing movement for the mechs with the space bar and right mouse button used for movement between levels on the z-axis in zero gravity. On the moon (low gravity) or Earth (normal gravity), right mouse button makes the mech “jump”. Left click fires the primary weapon, and there are keys for melee attack and block. Block interestingly prevents any damage to your mech regardless of whether it's taking small arms fire or a full blast from a missile launcher. The trick therefore, is to hold block on at all times unless firing at enemies, since blocking will preclude that action only. This mechanic feels a bit cheesy to be honest, and really takes a lot of the strategy out of the whole game. There's no point in ducking behind cover to reload or reassess. Simply block, load up, analyse the enemy's firing pattern and then blast away where safe until they are all dead.
The AI is fairly ordinary in every sense. It will not actively seek cover when under attack, nor will it generally alter it's fire/block/reload pattern very much. The only real threat to the player comes from crossfire and blind side hits when multiple enemies converge. Thankfully, since there are usually a few allied mechs in the vicinity, your wingmen can assist you by drawing fire away most of the time. Actually the team element is quite fun, with your wingmen offering up a good selection of comments whenever they need help or have seen you take out an enemy. Enemies are spawned as they are destroyed so that there are never too many to be totally unmanageable, yet the feeling of being often outnumbered in battle is apparent. The atmosphere in combat is reasonable. I like playing from the first person view from inside the cockpit, but there is an option to play from a 3rd person “over the shoulder” perspective as well. Weapons fire overall is a little underwhelming and explosive effects are a bit tame as well.
The best levels are the ones where you need to assault an IAA base. They send out air support in the form of gunship helicopters, but they appear as tiny insect-like pests when they get up close. Although it's midway through the campaign, it's the first time in the game that the player gets a real idea of the huge scale of the VAs. This becomes even more apparent as you near the base and see little fuel trucks and perimeter fences which are just dwarfed by the metal behemoths. The weakest level in the campaign is the mission in zero gravity. While it is the most visually impressive, the range of movement that the mechs have is frustrating and they way that they slide up and down z-axis levels like an elevator is awkward.
If you own a widescreen monitor, you're best playing in a window since the display just stretches out and looks a bit silly. There are a good number of 4:3 ratio resolutions to play in though, as well as a good variety of options to scale the visual quality of the game. I have a reasonably modern PC, and experienced no trouble running the game with graphics settings maximised. The frame rate was high and consistent and no bugs were apparent. The level environments are a bit barren. A little more variety of eye candy and props would go a long way to making the game world look a little more alive. I think that there are already enough good environments chosen. From the tundra to the rainforest, from the desert to the moon, they just need a little more dressing up.
The price being asked for the full version of PreVa is very reasonable. It's probably going to be a good buy for fans of anime and/or mech themed games. If you enjoyed the old “Mech Warrior” series of games on PC then definitely check PreVa out. If the AI could be tightened up, and the levels could provide a bit more variety and challenge, this could be a really great game. I'm not at all of the school of thought that every game needs to have multiplayer capability to be worthwhile. Random and anonymous mulitiplayer games over the internet especially bemuse me as to their popularity but I think that some form of multiplayer mode in PreVa (even LAN or direct connect) would add a lot of playability to the game for many. Still, as a dedicated single player experience it's a good bit of fun.
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