Do you remember R.I.G.S? A PSVR launch title that mixed Mecha combat with sport? That game was promising but also very nauseating to people new to VR, myself included, as you could run around, jump 40ft into the air, get shot out of your Mecha just before it explodes, and take down other Mecha opponents with your weaponry. That game was awesome if you could stomach the VR within it. They did offer ‘comfort’ settings, but it still made a lot of people uneasy. Well, that game is pretty much dead these days as the developers were closed down and moved onto other things. What we need now is another Mecha combat arena!
Code51: Mecha Arena has answered our requests and is here to fill our ‘VR Mecha Arena’ hole within our dreams. The initial launch was a bit bumpy, but I believe we are at a good enough point to fully review the game and take a look at what it has to offer and how it stacks up against the aforementioned R.I.G.S. One thing to be aware of though, as of writing this review, Code51: Mecha Arena is only available in North American regions on PSN but a European release is due soon(ish). That being said, the game does automatically generate bots to play against if you can’t find people, so you shouldn’t ever have a lack of opponents even though it’s currently limited to one region.
Code51: Mecha Arena has no story, it has no single-player, it’s all about battles to the death within small enclosed arenas. This isn’t a bad thing though, as what else would you expect from a game with the secondary title “Mecha Arena”? That being said, you can opt to jump into the ‘practice mode’ if you wish, which will pit you against three CPU-controlled bots as you try out the various Mecha suits you have unlocked in order to see what the weaponry and secondary attacks are like. I like the fact that the game has supplied this with the game as sometimes I just want to jump in and kill some bots – I know I won’t get trophies for it, but it makes me feel bad-ass when I’m a lot better than my opponents!
The main portion of the game will revolve around you playing the ‘multiplayer’ mode. In here, you are matched up with whoever is also waiting or who is less than halfway into their match. If you start a match at the same time as another player then that’s fine, but if you join halfway through then don’t worry – you get more points if you take down opponents who have a high kill count – so you can still come out on top. One thing I loved is the way the game handles a low online player count (not saying there is one, just saying ‘when’ there is one). As above, the game will automatically start a game with bots if it can’t find human opponents, so you could begin a multiplayer match with three bots. Then, once another person comes online and chooses to join, the bot will seamlessly be replaced with the human-controlled one mid-game.
This process reminded me a lot of Unreal Tournament on the Xbox 360 many years ago. Me and my mate would be playing local multiplayer against a load of bots, all set to the hardest difficulty (for the lols) and every now and again we would notice the bots no longer have generic names but instead they had GamerTag style names. This is because that would also allow people to randomly drop in and replace the in-game bots without any warning. I miss Unreal Tournament… Hopefully we get the new one that’s on PC, on PS4… But I digress.
This brings me to the most important part of the game – the Mechas and their weapons. You begin the game with access to two Mechas that have their own arsenal of weapons and skills. They both house double guns, the ability to jump (albeit the smaller one can jump higher), and use their own unique skills. The skills vary from Mecha to Mecha, from generating a sheld to shooting a guiding missile – with later unlocked Mechas giving you different abilities as well. Each Mecha has a slight difference in its mechanics as well – as I mentioned above, one is smaller which allows it to move faster and jump/hover higher, yet the other is heavier with a slower moving speed yet more resistant to the enemies attacks.
You can’t win based on brute force alone though, as the combat arena has various abilities for you to pick up and utilise such as a weapon enhancer (which can be used three times on your weapon) and a full repair spanner. In regards to the spanner, the game operates on a ‘your shield regenerates but your health doesn’t’ process. So, once your shield is gone, you will lose health. If you get out of danger or pick up a spanner then your shield will regenerate but your health won’t. So that’s cool. Each Mecha has its own strengths and weaknesses as well, so picking the heavy mech will be great against frontal attacks but if someone comes in from the rear – be prepared to die!
I know what you’re thinking (people who have read my reviews before), why haven’t I talked about the controls and the VR aspects as you usually talk about them at the beginning. Well, these have been part of a big controversy that caused a bit of outrage and some aggressive posts over on Reddit. Although, I’m happy to say that the developers have come through and they updated the game within a few days of launch in order to address the concerns people had.
Basically, if you have played any PSVR game from launch which involved a lot of movement then you will know what ‘blinders’ are. They are a black border to the side of your peripheral vision which limits your FOV (Field of View) in order to make it less nauseating as you move around. The problem with these, in Code51: Mecha Arena specifically, was that they were quite aggressive blinders. When you watch back the social screen of someone playing, you see that at some points about 1/2 the screen is blacked out, rather than just the sides. The developer listened to the complaints and gave us an option to remove them in-game by holding down the Left Thumb-Stick.
This was basically a game-changer from the moment I removed them! I didn’t have an issue with them on as I didn’t really notice them when in VR, but with them off, you can really tell the difference as you can now see the inside of the Mecha completely and you can spot enemies out of the corner of your eye – which is exactly what you need. Another massive positive was that even with the blinders off, I never felt motion sick or dizzy. This is all because your Mecha doesn’t move that fast and when you jump in the air, there doesn’t appear to be too much wobble or bobble so you feel fine in all situations.
So, that’s the vision sorted, what about the controls? Well, the game only uses one control method, the standard DS4 controller. You move with the Left stick and attack with the various face buttons – to aim, you use your head (by default). So, you look around and you have a reticule in the centre of the screen, that’s where your guns are aiming. To turn you simply look further to one side and you will begin to rotate – it’s quite a simple process that a lot of other games have adopted.
A new secondary control option was added in the blinder-removal update, the ability to look with the Right-stick. In this mode, activated by pushing the Right stick in, you look around as normal in order to aim, but if you wish to turn then you must use the right stick as looking to the edge won’t do it anymore. Personally, I left the looking controls in the default setting as I’m used to looking to aim in VR and it felt a lot more fluid than moving my head and moving the Right stick.
Either way, I like how the devs quickly got this update out there to make the game more accessible for everyone in terms of the blinders and the looking mechanics.
The overall VR quality is really good in my opinion. Everything is well detailed, the inside of each Mecha is different and displays certain stats and bits of information, and the environments are well designed for being able to hide yet also big enough to have a decent battle in. the quality of the environments isn’t as high as the Mechas but whose going to spend all their time looking at a wall whilst being shot by another machine? The Menus are basic but fully functional and easy to operate. The options menu is currently just info on how to activate/deactivate the blinders and look mode, but maybe we will get more options as time goes on?
Soundwise, this is where I had to question the publishers. There is no music in-game, the only sounds are the gunfire, the noises from the destruction of the Mechas, and the screams of your fallen enemies (if playing multiplayer online). I was advised this was a design choice in order to add realism to the game – and I can see their point, as it does build on the immersion when there are no distractions and it’s as if you’re really there. The thing is, in my imaginary Mecha, I have a boombox or an MP3 player built into it with speakers so I can listen to music as I kill. I resolved this by just putting some .mp3s onto a USB drive and playing them through the PS4 system menu whilst I was playing. Problem solved!
Oh, the “killing spree” voiceover is quite hilarious as well.
One thing I would like the developers to implement is an auto-kick for people who aren’t active. If you look at my video below, there is a Mecha who keeps spawning in but it just stands there and doesn’t move or attack. I found out that one of the trophies is to take a certain amount of damage in-game, so I imagine they have just loaded it up and put their headset down. These people ruin games like this as all they want are trophies and aren’t willing to play the game properly. I would also like some customisation options for the Mechas, such as the ability to paint them in various colours or maybe add decorative attachments or logos?
Also, it does appear this game was once supposed to have a Single-player mode, back when it was known as just “Code51”: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=887487157 –
I imagine that the PC version, if it’s still coming, will be this version with the Single Player and PSVR got the “Mecha Arena” version instead. The PC version has been released and it’s the same Arena-based game as the PSVR version – the single-player campaign must have been pulled at some point. The only thing I would have loved is the use of dual Move Controllers, working in the same way the Vive controllers do in the trailers – that would be cool.
I really hope this game does well and I hope people around the world pick it up and play it online once it reaches the other regions as well. A healthy community will really help this game thrive and the development continues. I’m hoping for new Mechas and Arenas at some point, if possible! Thankfully, the inclusion of bots that auto-replace as needed means that, even if nobody else is currently playing online then you can still play and work towards getting your trophies.
My video showing Practice, a match and with/without blinders:
Code51: Mecha Arena is a fun multiplayer-focused Free-for-all combat simulator with big guns! The game will auto-generate bots to play against whilst online until they are replaced by other PSVR owners which means you get into matches super quick and experience hardly any wait times. The gameplay is slow and steady, just like you would expect, yet it’s also exciting and very entertaining once you really get into it. I would love some customisation options, but as it is, you have access to a decent selection of Mechas – all with strengths and weaknesses – which keeps the gameplay fresh and entertaining.
It’s a shame it’s launching in America a while before the RoW, but I had no lag or ping issues playing it from here in the UK so there is always the option to pick it up on a NA PSN account if you want to play it now.
Code51: Mecha Arena$19.99
- The VR is decent quality with a good depth effect
- Menus are nice and simple and stright to the point
- The game is MP only but it does substitute in bots so you always have someone to play
- Each Mecha feels different to operate
- A great way to work with the score - you get a percentage of the persons score, who you take down. So late-comers can still win
- No safeguard against trophy hunters who are AFK
- No customisation of the Mechas
- Multiplayer only, other than the bots in practice mode
- Stacked launch - it's a shame it wasn't Worldwide from day one