Many things in life are inherently Awesome. Becoming a father is Awesome. Passing your Driving Test is also Awesome. Writing for Xboxer360 is particularly Awesome, but none of these things actually scream just how Awesome they are – we just know that they are Awesome. I’m suspicious of things that try to convince you how Awesome they are, just so you utilise them in your everyday routine – I’d avoid Tremendous Teabags like the plague, and I certainly wouldn’t employ a bunch of intergalactic mercenaries called the Awesomenauts.
The robot armies of the year 3587 are clearly not so bothered by such trivialities though, enlisting the six-strong team of mercs to assist in the “enduring stalemate” both sides have reached after years of battle – which translates into a good old red vs blue, 3-on-3, plaftform-cum-shoot-em-up-cum-tower-defense-online-deathmatch title. At this point you may be questioning why – with a choice of 6 Awesomenauts to play with on both sides – Ronimo only allows teams of three, but after a couple of matches you’ll realise that a 12-man battle would simply be too much, and too hectic to control. Having three players on a team feels perfectly balanced and mixing things up with the different characters means that there’s lots of playability on offer too.
The rag-tag group of mercs are based on the classic multiplayer classes you’ve come to expect in the online space – tank, support and stealth characters all sit together nicely, and the fact that only one version of a character is allowed per side eliminates the threat of everyone selecting the same Awesomenaut. As per the norm for multiplayer titles these days, you’re also able to customise each character’s loadout – which essentially equates to pre-determining which items are available to you in your base’s shop. The Awesomenauts come with a standard attack (rapid-fire pistol for the soldier, or slow-and-powerful missiles for the tank) and two special skills that have to be unlocked in the shop before you can use them. The support class can utilise a “hightech healbot” that heals any team member in its vicinity for a limited time, whilst the stealth class can also throw a hologram of himself onto the playing field – it all sounds very familiar, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve played it all before, but it’s used in such a way that everything just feels fresh.
Even the one and only game mode on offer is probably one you’ve played a thousand times before – each team has a number of gun turrets on each side of the map that have to be destroyed before the drillcore at the centre of the base can be tackled. Once that’s destroyed it’s game over, but the turrets can take (and deal out) a fair bit of damage before they give way and depending on the skill of your opponents – even taking one down can often be a monotonous (and often hard-fought) task. Luckily, your base spawns robots onto the map which are left unattended – chip away at your enemies and their turrets, but their lifespan is incredibly limited and they shouldn’t be solely relied on in order to win a match. Should you be lucky enough to stumble across an unguarded enemy turret the robots can use a shield to take damage whilst you concentrate fire on the turret and if you have the support class on your team it’s entirely possible to keep the bots alive long enough to make a significant dent in your enemy’s defenses.
Each time a robot, turret or enemy character is destroyed they drop Solar (the game’s currency), and once you’ve earned enough you can teleport back to your base’s shop by holding down RB – it’s worth noting that you’re vulnerable during this process however, and if you’re seriously low on health it can sometimes be safer to attempt to make it back on foot. Once at the shop you can spend the Solar you’ve earned on items you preselected in your loadout and sharp tactical decisions must be made in order to balance upgrading your weapons with increasing the amount of health your character has or whether they amass more Solar over time. It’s good fun tinkering with the different variables in play, and sometimes the choice between staying on the battlefield or retreating to upgrade yourself is also a careful balancing act.
Upgrades and extra characters are unlocked as you level up, and this is done on a player basis as opposed to a particular class. It’s also recommended that you spend a fair bit of time getting used to things in the Practice arenas before getting stuck in to the online portion of the game. Practice is an offline version of the game, where you and two other Awesomenauts face off against a CPU-controlled team. It’s easily the best way to level up, unlock new items and get used to each character. The AI in this mode isn’t too shabby, although the difficulty level is pitched way too low for my liking – it would have been nice to be able to ramp things up a notch, but as a means to improve your skills and abilities it’s functional. You also gain at least one level per practice match you win as well, so it never feels like a grind as you’re always guaranteed some new toy or character to play with the next time you take part in a practice match.
The AI also takes the place of any human opponents or team mates you may be lacking in an online game, and at times it actually fares better – there were a good few games where the CPU was in the lead on kills, and I actually fared better against a team of human opponents with two AI team mates than I did with a completely human team on more than one occasion. Team work is definitely the name of the game here, as you really require three players sticking together and supplementing each other’s skills in order to make the most out of a match; there are the usual lone rangers out there though, so expect to lose more than one match due to these idiots wading in on their own.
As a party game, Awesomenauts is Awesome – it does nab a bunch of tried and tested ideas from other titles, but it uses them in an interesting enough way for it not to feel hackneyed or overly-familiar and the gameplay is nicely balanced between platforming and shooting to remain constantly exciting. With only three – albeit beautifully designed arenas there is the possibility that things could get boring after elongated play, but Ronimo have already scheduled in two new characters for DLC, so fingers crossed they drop some additional maps as well.
Review: Awesomenauts Results
What we liked:
Melds ideas from a range of other titles to great effect
Unlockables add longevity
Excellent fun in a party of like-minded players
What we disliked:
AI can be a tad lacking at times
The usual lone rangers lurking online
Not enough variation in the maps right now