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March 27, 2017 | by  | in Games |
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Nier: Automata

Developer: PlatinumGames

Publisher: Square Enix

Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), PC

 

Taro Yoko is a name you may not recognise, but should know. He’s basically Hideo Kojima if he was even crazier. Throughout his career, Yoko’s games have confounded expectations, blended genres and forced players to really think about why they enjoy video games.

Nier: Automata is no exception. An indirect sequel to the cult classic action role-playing game Nier taking place thousands of years after the original, you play as 2B — a female YoRHa android — tasked with clearing machine lifeforms from the earth’s surface to pave the way for humanity’s return from exile. Along with 9S — a rather too cheerful male android — 2B ends up discovering some troubling secrets about the machines, who seem to have started expressing emotions.

And that’s just the beginning, because this game gets really weird.

For the sake of spoilers, I won’t delve too deeply into the story, but trust me when I say there is more to it than meets the eye. Multiple playthroughs are not just recommended, but necessary, to get every aspect of the story, there being enough twists to make M. Night Shyamalan jealous. One of the key ideas Yoko has explored in the past is what drives us to kill; every revelation in Nier: Automata in this regard is a gut punch to the player, asking them if they really enjoy committing these somewhat terrible acts. I’m a sucker for post-modern elements such as these, which have made my time in the game world that much more enjoyable.

Having said that, the combat is fantastic, and I would expect no less from the masters of the spectacle fighter at PlatinumGames. It is incredibly satisfying to hack away at a horde of enemies, and it looks just as good if you can get a combo or two going. However, this being a Taro Yoko game there’s more to it; the Pod system introduces shooting mechanics to the formula, making for much more varied combat experiences. The weapons are quite varied and have unique stories behind them, a nice little extra like that seen in the original Nier and the Drakengard series to enrich the game world.

At times the perspective will shift to an overhead view, turning the game into an arcade-style shoot ‘em up, or to a side scrolling view for platforming segments. The transitions are seamless, and while it can make the controls feel a little weird, these segments are a much welcome addition to some already excellent gameplay. With the game being an RPG there are character customisation options galore, although it can often feel a little cumbersome to get the character build you want.

Graphically, the game’s environments complement the often melancholy nature of the story, being desolate and bleak but still somehow beautiful. While the aim appears to be for the game to run at 60 frames per second, on my standard PS4 it often dips below that; you would benefit from running the game on a PS4 Pro or a decent PC rig to get better consistency. There’s some great music in there too, and I certainly would not mind buying this game’s soundtrack.

All the necessary elements have aligned to make Nier: Automata a rather special game. There’s enough variety in the gameplay that you’ll find something to like, and the story may well make you misty-eyed. We recently seem to have been blessed with some excellent open world action games, and this game more than deserves to be among them and to be remembered, even if some other titles seem to have stolen a bit of its thunder.

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