Developer: SCE Connected Content Group
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Release Date: January 5th, 2016
Available On: PlayStation 4
Genre: Vehicular Combat
In 2002 Sony released a PlayStation 2 vehicular combat game called Hardware: Online Arena. There wasn’t really much to the game and, outside of showing what the PlayStation 2’s online capabilities could be, it was mostly forgotten. Fourteen years later and Sony brings back the IP as a multiplayer-only PlayStation 4 game. Yet was this car combat game worth bringing back?
The first thing I can’t help but notice right away is just the lack of anything in this game. The game only features four different vehicles: two jeeps (that play the same) and two tanks (that play the same). There’s only four game modes and they’re basically the exact ones everyone has seen in every other multiplayer game. There’s only four maps and they’re all completely forgettable. Even the menus just scream “we’re still adding content,” feeling empty and unused. Hardware: Rivals feels like it needed another solid six or so months of just adding new content before it was ready to be released, especially for a $20 asking price. To the game’s credit the developers have at least said that all new content for the game would be added for free. We’ll just have to see if the playerbase finds it worth staying around to get it.
Once you actually get in-game things at least improve slightly. Supporting up to 10 players, Hardware: Rivals can get rather entertaining during a match. Jeeps and tanks play completely differently and are well balanced. Jeeps are fast and handle well, but their main weapon does very little damage and they’re easy to kill. Tanks are slow and awkward, but they do tons of damage and can take it too. The controls for both vehicles do take some getting used to though. You have to hold down R2 to move forward, and your primary weapon is set to R1. It makes moving, aiming, and shooting at the same time a little difficult, though I was able to get used to it after a few matches.
As you drive around you can collect various secondary weapons. Ranging from missiles, to bouncing bombs, to railguns, there’s nothing particularly unique in Hardware: Rival’s arsenal, but what’s there works and feels good. The feeling of scoring a direct hit with a railgun is hard to replicate. Each stage also has a unique “level weapon” that spawns occasionally. Each one is basically some form of “kill everyone who doesn’t get to a certain location in a certain time period”, so don’t expect anything huge or creative here. Some of the visual effects for the weapons can be interesting though. The way the plasma weapon launches into the air to track the opponents was fun to watch, and the deep freeze slowly turning everything to ice while the map goes silent is particularly impressive. Yet interesting visuals are few and far in between, as everything else is basically just as average as it can get. It works, but it’s not noteworthy in anyway. Most of the soundtrack is the same way: lazy techno that’s there and little else.
Every kill I made and every match I won earned me some XP, which would level me up. Sadly, the rewards for leveling up never actually felt worth it. I would only really get one of two things: perks or paint jobs for my cars. The paint jobs were just that: just ways to make my vehicle look slightly different. The perks weren’t really anything of note. I could lock on a little faster or make better turns, but it never really felt noticeable enough to me. At least it kept the game from feeling unbalanced against newer players.
Hardware: Rivals is there. That’s really the most I can say about it. It’s lacking content and what it does have falls squarely into the “just enough” category. It’s not nearly worth the $20 asking price, at least not unless they keep good on the promise of adding more to the game. If you need your competitive car fix then stick to Rocket League.