Released in Japan back in February of this year, Gravity Rush received plenty of critical acclaim, including an impressive 38/40 from Famitsu. Set to be released in North America and Europe in June, is it worthy of such high praise? Read on to find out.
Game: Gravity Rush
Developer: Japan Studio
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Set in the floating town of Hekseville, Gravity Rush sees you take control of Kat, an innocent young girl that has lost her memory. Terror and chaos is ripping through the heart of the town and she has no idea why. However, with the help of a mysterious black cat that bestows upon her the ability to control gravity and a bit of detective work, she goes all out to protect the people of Hekseville from attack of the Nevi monsters and find out exactly what is happening to the floating town.
Whilst the story may come across as slightly odd to some due to its eastern feel and premise, most will adore the way it’s narrated and presented. It may be different from the norm and (at times) a bit shallow, but it’s creative approach and sheer beauty are totally undeniable. The way the story is told is incredibly engrossing, keeping you hooked until the very last second of the game.
Gravity Rush is a stunner, it’s as simple as that. It shows off the Vita’s power incredibly well, proving that with the right development team at the helm, games on the handheld can deliver home console quality visuals. Whether it’s the fantastic cel shaded visuals, the anime/manga feel or the amazing comic book style cutscenes, every single graphical aspect is just so damn beautiful and looks gorgeous on the Vita’s sexy screen. To say Gravity Rush is the best looking game on the Vita is actually a massive understatement, as just blows every other title currently available on the system out of the water.
The quality of the animations play a very important role too, greatly enhancing the overall visual experience. For the most part, it’s all about fast paced combat, and the transition between each individual animation in these sequences is quite simply flawless. From start to finish, not once will you encounter a drop in the quality. Texture issues, pop-up or any other graphical bugs that hamper so many other fast paced handheld titles are just not present here. Quite a few titles (handheld or otherwise) boast a similar look, but none manage to execute with the same style and panache as Gravity Rush.
Most Japanese titles are renowned for having beautiful soundtracks that compliment the gameplay, and Gravity Rush is no exception. From its subtle, soothing melodies to the brutal battle sound effects, almost every piece of audio suits the on-screen action down to a tee. Each part of Hekseville has features a different sound, ranging from a funky jazz symphony to a gritty, tense string quartet. Every aspect of the game’s audio is beautifully put together, improving the gameplay experience as whole. Delivering an edgy tone during fight sequences and more relaxed feel when you’re exploring the gravity challenged town, it’s just superb.
Set in an open-world, the main focus of Gravity Rush is story based missions. Thanks to its open world setting, various other incentives are included are present too, in the form of challenge missions. These don’t effect your progress through the main story, but give you something else to do once you’ve completed the main story sections within Hekseville. Main story missions vary in style, from stealth missions to finding and defusing a bomb to save police officers that have been attacked by Nevi monsters. Although the story is odd and underwhelming at times, there is a great deal of variety in the main story missions, helping to eliminate any sign of repetition or boredom. A few of the main missions also see you taking on a number of Nevi bosses throughout the story mode, introducing a tactical element to the gameplay which helps to keep things fresh. Without ruining anything, this is in no small part thanks to the use of gravity. Each boss battles is superbly designed, with no “what am I supposed to do here?” moments rearing their ugly head.
The customisation freaks amongst you will be happy to know Kat can be leveled up, allowing you to upgrade her unique abilities. It’s a brilliant addition, helping to keep you engaged as you attempt to upgrade Kat’s health, unlock new moves or get her gravity ability to refresh at a faster rate. However, as great as that is, Gravity Rush’s controls are even better, superb in fact. Whilst the Vita’s back touch pad isn’t used, both the touch screen and the gyroscope are used to great effect. With the flowing at an incredible pace at times, touch screen and gyroscope controls could have been a huge mistake, but that is far from the case here. The front touch screen is used to perform a number of tasks and abilities. For instance, you can roll by flicking the screen in any direction, allowing you to dodge incoming enemy attacks. Going slightly further, if you then press the action button (square), Kat will perform a very effective counter attack roll kick. The front touch screen is also used to interact with people via conversations or comic book style cutscenes.
Kat’s ability to defy gravity is also easily accessible thanks to the fantastic control scheme. It may feel a bit daunting to begin with, but before you know it you’ll be floating around Hekseville like a pro. The control scheme and the physics are so open that you can pretty much to aim wherever you want. There are a few rare occasions when the camera gets a bit problematic, but not enough to ruin the overall experience. The direction in which you want Kat to go can be controlled using either the Vita’s left analog stick or the gyroscope by tilting the device in any direction. Simple, but so very effective.
Once in gravity mode, you can also climb buildings by running up the side of them. This allows you to position yourself on top of towers, advance to your destination more efficiently or (most importantly) attack enemies from advantageous points. To keeps the gameplay balanced, you only have access to a limited amount of the gravity ability, meaning you need to use it sparingly. When using the gravity ability, you can attack enemies by aiming with the right stick or the gyroscope. Simply aim towards the Nevi monsters weak spot, press square an you’ll launch you into a ‘Gravity Kick’ towards your target. If you’ve got enough kills or collected quite a few gems, pressing triangle will launch Kat into a special whirlwind style attack called ‘Spiraling Claw’, tearing through all the enemies in its vicinity. The further you progress though the main story missions, you’ll unlock even more powerful special abilities, such as ‘Gravity Typhoon’ and ‘Micro Black Hole’.
Sadly, not all of the abilities are fun to use, with the main culprit being the ‘Gravity Slide’. Giving you the ability of sliding along walls, it’s simple enough to perform when you’re told exactly what to do, but pulling it off during gameplay without instructions is anything but easy. It’s a bit hit and miss due to the sensitive nature of its implementation. To use the ability, you place both your thumbs on the bottom corners of the touch screen and then use the gyroscope by tilting the Vita left or right. You can also drift, done by releasing one thumb from the touch screen to go in that direction. You don’t really have to use this ability a great deal, so it doesn’t pose a massive problem, but it still could’ve have been implemented so it was a bit more precise and responsive.
The main story and challenge missions will keep you occupied for quite a while, with the average playthrough coming in at around the 12 to 14 hour mark. However, with the added bonus of an ‘open-world’ element, you’ll venture back in to explore Hekseville and check out parts of it you might have missed. There’s no online modes, but that’s far from a bad thing , as even with all the missions completed, you might decide to go back and experience the brilliance of Gravity Rush again.
Despite some very minor negatives, Gravity Rush delivers a experience that is engaging, engrossing and, most importantly, an incredible breath of fresh air. Showcasing the Vita’s true power, it not only looks amazing, but makes fantastic use of the handheld’s capabilities. If you own a Vita, you need Gravity Rush. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t own one, well, the words “system seller” come to mind.
Gravity Rush is set to be released for the PlayStation Vita on June 12th in North America and June 13th in Europe.