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July 2022

Gundam Evolution

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Bandai Namco Games
Developer: Bandai Namco Online
Release Date: 2022


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PS5/PS4/XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Gundam Evolution'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on April 12, 2022 @ 12:26 a.m. PDT

Gundam Evolution is a free-to-play hero shooter that offers a 6v6 competitive team-play dynamic with playable mobile suits from across the Gundam multiverse.

The easiest way to describe Gundam Evolution is Overwatch with Gundam robots. Most of the core mechanics are the same. You have two teams of hero units with distinctive abilities who fight one another to capture points and arm/disarm bombs. Each mobile suit has its distinctive set of abilities built around various cooldowns, including a special "G-Evolution" ultimate ability that can turn the tide of a battle. If you played Blizzard's hero shooter, then you have a pretty good idea of what you're getting into.

There are some notable differences from Overwatch, though. For one thing, there is a higher consistent level of mobility through all the units. Every unit can sprint, dodge, and hover in the air for a while. This adds a more significant element of speed to the game, even before you take into account the various mobility options of individual units. It means units can return to a fight more quickly, and rapid movement is a more critical part of the basic gameplay.

Likewise, death is revamped so you can return to the fight more quickly. When you are killed in battle, your unit is downed rather than destroyed. If an ally can reach and revive you, you'll instantly recover. Some units even have special abilities that allow them to revive from a distance or speed up recovery time. However, if you take more damage, you will be destroyed and must wait for the respawn timer. Certain units have attacks that can instantly destroy a unit instead of downing them, which can be a major win.

The other most significant change I can think of is that shields are not a thing. Certain units have shields, but they are more of a personal defense option rather than something that your entire team crowds behind. Mobility has a much heavier emphasis, and you're not going to rely exclusively on tanks. This also means healing is riskier, as you're more vulnerable when playing as a healer.

Character design is varied. Each mobile suit has its own abilities, most of which are based on things they can do in the anime or game in which they originally debuted. In some cases, they will seem familiar. Gundam Exia is a close-range fighter with a sword, a dash, and the ability to throw daggers, so it feels almost but not quite like Genji. Methuss is a support-based unit with weak pistols and the ability to briefly fly but is most defined by the healing cables they attach to another unit to keep them healthy, very reminiscent of Mercy. There are more than a few parallels to other hero shooters, but the game does a reasonable job of keeping things feeling fresh.

Gundam Barbatos feels very Reinhart with a heavy mace that it swings to smash foes. Unlike Reinhart, it doesn't have a shield and instead focuses heavily on smashing into the middle of enemy formations and knocking everyone around. GM Sniper II has a fair bit in common with Widowmaker but also has some support abilities, including the power to revive from a distance, so it has more ways to contribute than sniping. There are plenty of units that feel distinct on their own, like the Asshmar, which focuses on dropping bombs with its transformation mode.

Overall, the unit variety feels pretty nice, and it seems like most units could contribute something. Thus far, there are two minor areas for improvement. Methuss feels mandatory, sort of like Mercy in early Overwatch. No other unit contributes remotely as much healing, and in my test plays, it felt like if one team had Methuss and the other didn't, then the Mercy-less team was going to lose. Another more dedicated healing unit would probably be a nice addition, but of course, this is just a network test, and there's plenty of room for balance.

The other is more of a personal problem as a Gundam fan, but some of the units feel weird. I really like the variety of unit choice. While obvious picks like Barbatos or RX-78-2 are in, there are some unexpected choices, like the DOM Trooper from SEED Destiny or the aforementioned Asshmar. For the most part, they do a good job at capturing the feel of these units. RX-78-2 for example foregoes some of the most obvious opinions in place of having Super Napalm and a Hyper Hammer, which is a nice way to keep it feeling distinctive despite being the literal base for all Gundam robots to follow.

However, some of the units don't feel like themselves. Sazabi from "Char's Counterattack" has a weird play style that involves throwing and teleporting to its Beam Tomahawk, which doesn't capture the feel of the unit. Likewise, Turn-A Gundam functions as a grappler, which isn't necessarily incorrect but doesn't feel like the most distinctive element of the unit. It's a minor issue, but it feels like some units had a move set designed before a machine was picked for them.

Overall, Gundam Evolution has me feeling cautiously optimistic. There are some areas that needed polish, but I found the core mechanics to be really enjoyable, and the faster pace and less reliance of shields kept things from feeling like a slog. Even when matches go into overtime, they are intense and fast-paced. Hopefully, when the final version of Gundam Evolution is released later in 2022, it will live up to the potential that was on display during the network test.

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