I finished Gravity Rush on Vita tonight. I was rather disappointed to note it’s a game that gets significantly worse the further you go rather than better. That’s not to say it’s not worth playing, however — more that it’s clear roughly 75% of the way through that the team simply ran out of ideas.
Gravity Rush is a joy to play initially. Once you get your head around the strange gravity-flipping mechanic and realise it’s different from a conventional “flight” system (you can’t really steer while “falling”, for example — you have to stop and then start “falling” in a different direction) it’s a lot of fun to swoop around, run up walls and leap down onto things.
The thing is, the whole gravity-shifting thing seems somewhat underused. There aren’t any particularly clever puzzles through the game that require you to run up walls or on the ceiling or anything, so after some time you begin wishing that protagonist Kat could just fly like a proper superhero.
This problem is compounded when we get to the dreadful aerial combat, which coincidentally is the reason the game’s “fun factor” takes a significant nosedive when on the home straight. I mentioned this a few days ago, but it became the cause of significant teeth-gnashing frustration as the game progressed. Allow me to explain.
When floating in the air, Kat is able to launch a “gravity kick” move by aiming the on-screen reticle at something and then holding the Square button. She then swoops towards the thing you pointed at, hopefully causing damage. Fair enough.
The trouble with this is that a lot of enemies, particularly later in the game, are only vulnerable in specific weak points. If said weak point is on the far side of an enemy, Kat will simply plough into said enemy and do no damage whatsoever, usually putting herself in harm’s way. (This isn’t helped by the fact that a lot of late-game enemies also have the ability to fire bullets at Kat, which the player has to dodge by swiping on the touchscreen.) A lot of late-game combat simply becomes a case of launching Kat at enemies from a distance and hoping she hits them — because more often than not, they’ll simply dodge out of the way before impact, and it’s honestly difficult to tell whether or not the game actually “locks on” to these enemies or not. (I believe it is supposed to, though you could have fooled me.)
By far the worst thing, though, was the “Special Forces” DLC that came free with the “special edition” of the game I got — it was the same price as the normal game for a limited period, so I figured there’d be no loss in getting it.
Oh man. If ever there was an argument for DLC being tacked on, pointless, moneygrabbing shite, this is it.
It contains just two missions, both of which are immensely tedious “fetch and kill” quests, and the latter of which incorporates a totally unreasonable time limit in which to accomplish your objectives — which, by the way, aren’t marked with navigation pointers unlike in the rest of the whole game. The latter mission also makes heavy use of the game’s idiosyncratic “throwing” system, whereby Kat can pick up objects in her gravity field and then fling them at things. The trouble is, this mission requires Kat to fling things precisely, but the game regularly decides that you actually wanted to aim at that enemy a little to the left of where you were actually pointing when you pressed the “throw” button. In a non-time sensitive situation, it would have been helpful to have this quasi-”lock on” facility when throwing things; when attempting to fling water towers at fires, however, it’s a pain in the arse.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t finish the DLC because it irritated me so much — thankfully, it’s possible to cancel out of the missions once they’ve started and simply proceed back on with the main story. As a matter of fact, the second mission in the pack soured me so much on the game by making its flaws so abundantly apparent that it significantly impacted my enjoyment of the finale which, on reflection, wasn’t terrible.
Gravity Rush isn’t a bad game. In fact, it’s a very good game, and a fine showcase of the Vita’s capabilities and unique features. But with a bit of work it could have been an amazing game. It looks fantastic, it has an endearing main character and a wonderfully entertaining core game mechanic, but it simply falls to pieces at the end with a string of unimaginative fetch and kill quests. These just make you want to get to the end so you don’t have to play any more, not because you want to see the end of the story (which, incidentally, leaves a whole lot of frustratingly unanswered questions).
It may sound like I’m being unduly harsh on this game and perhaps I am. I did like it overall, and I’m glad I played it. If you own a Vita, you should play it too.
It’s not perfect. It has potential, though, and that’s quite exciting. The possibilities that a Gravity Rush sequel might offer are very intriguing indeed. For my money, I’d like to see more creative use of the gravity mechanic for puzzle-solving, less aimless open world flying around, less combat (or at least combat that isn’t so incredibly irritating) and a story that wraps up properly.
That’s that for now, though. Next up is Persona 2.