Weirdly enough, Hardware rivals has seen many comparisons with Pysonix’s stellar effort Rocket League. Yes, both games are wheel-based, but beyond that there’s very little similarities between the two, Hardware: Rivals sets out to be its own game and, unfortunately, it comes up short in many aspects.
It seems like a fun concept, driving around blowing up other vehicles with a range of different weapons at your disposal. Fans of Vigilant 8 or Twisted Metal Black would be drawn to the game for the love of vehicular combat, hell even Destruction Derby lovers might give it a swing. It’s easy to look at the game at face value and think you’ve found an instant hit.
Rivals fails to live up to its own positive curiosity. Its large colorful arenas are vibrant and certainly not sore on the eyes and the placement of weapon power-ups is near enough to each spawn point to always give you a chance. However, when you get into the game’s more detailed options and controls you begin to see your love for the game dismantle before your eyes.
The controls are hard to come to grips with at first and even after some time playing around with them you still feel like you just picked up the game when trying the more advanced movements. The traditional left analog to move and right analog to turn controls are nowhere to be seen, instead, you use the X button or R2 to accelerate and the right analog to use the mounted turret, a throwback to the older days. The turret itself does very little damage and using it can make the camera angles go a bit wonky when driving the opposite direction you’re shooting towards, also a nightmare when against a wall in tighter areas of a map.
Away from these tight spots, the arenas are vast and give you plenty of room to move around. To a point, it becomes a burden as most game modes – most of them similar to those you’d find in Call of Duty – only cater to 10 players, five for each team. You may find yourself exploring some of the bigger maps for a long period of time just trying to find an enemy to kill. One thing I did find impressive was how the map changed due to a timed event in-game. These range from frost covered ground, to volcano eruptions, meaning you need to get to safety before you become another victim.
Moving onto actual weapons, there’s plenty on offer. Some will put a dent in your enemies health bar while others are harder to find but do plenty of damage. The Railgun and Laser power-ups are the most sought after and will give you an instant kill depending on how much shield the enemy has. You can also find EMPs that stops your opponent from moving or using any of his weapons. The selection of weapons is abundant and is probably the best thing Hardware: Rivals has going for it.
Playing the game with friends is where the real fun is had and partying up is made easy by a simple invite automatically sent to party members once you enter a game. Personally, I found it hard to find games inside a certain game mode when in a party, at one point having to leave my group and picking the quick match option just to get into a more populated game. This could be down to the lack of base players or issues in matchmaking.
Rivals is fast-paced and vibrant on paper but has too many barriers slowing it down from being a good game. The inability to level up constantly, lack of customization and Battlefield-esque respawn times mean after a few games you question should you keep playing. A valiant effort, but not one I’ll be playing months down the line.
Note: This version of Hardware Rivals was downloaded free as part of the PlayStation Plus January lineup.
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