The Cold War is over - let the lukewarm war begin!

User Rating: 4.5 | Chromehounds X360
Chromehounds has a strong heritage, running back to From Software's iconic Armored Core series. It's an almost identical setup, you build a robot, known as a 'HOUND' and then battle other robots on really big maps. It's deep, unflinching and austere right down to the core of its cold metal heart.

Don't expect to see entire cities being blown up, aliens, rocket boosters or screeching anime characters, Chromehounds is about realism and simulation. It's a very humble game that doesn't show off and, by the same token, rarely impresses or surprises. But what it does, it does well.

The offline campaign is competent enough. With 42 missions there's plenty to get through and a fair amount of variety in the HOUNDS you can control. It's divided up into six sets of missions based on the mech classes: soldier, sniper, defender, scout heavy gunner and commander. There is actually a significant difference between them. They move and handle very differently, have varied special capabilities and most importantly, a variety of customised weapons.

Sadly, most of the offline campaign follows the disappointment of having really cool mechs and not much to actually do with them. You can blow up houses, but they just disappear into a pile of dust really unconvincingly. Likewise, you can stomp on little soldiers, but they just vanish into nothing. There's no spectacle, no va-va-voom. Playing sniper missions where you just wait on a hill and shoot slow-moving targets from miles away isn't going to get your pulse racing.

In Chromehound's weighty customisation mode you unlock parts in Campaign mode and then stick them together in thousands of configurations. You can add on multiple brackets to increase the number of weapons and equipment slots. There are also four different propulsion modes (legs, hovercraft, wheels or tracks) and tons of different bits of armour. Obviously, the more you put on, the heavier and less agile it will be. There's a kind of diamond chart (similar to Rumble Roses XX) to show what type of mech class you qualify for, and a helpful guide to walk you through the finer points. It's very realistic. You can't put armour or weapons in places where they'll block other bits - like legs - from working properly. Greasemonkeys and robot fanatics will love this part of the game. It's surprising what you can come up with.

You're not forced to build a unique HOUND, there are plenty you can borrow. However, it really pays dividends when you take the game online. The Xbox Live mode, known as 'Neromius War' is focused on working as a team and getting heavily into strategy. It's a bit like the classic board game Risk, where the map is divided up into rival nations who take it in turns to knock seven shades out of each other. Each of the three nations accommodates a clan of up to twenty players, who then split up to play in squads of six. This works well, but requires a great deal of organisation. It's not the kind of thing you'll be able to get into unless you're in a clan and know other clans that like big rumbly robots.

Overall, Chromehounds does well with textbook elements of the mech genre, but lacks the appeal of being exciting, dramatic, flashy or innovative. It's nothing I haven't seen done before with more energy and enthusiasm in countless other mech games.