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what if we made counter-strike but it had the lightning pace & matchup knowledge required of fighting games. you have to put up with ubisofts abysmal pc client, occasional server issues, an extremely steep learning curve, and years of iterative liveservice grievances, but the reward for your patience, composure, and penchant for masochism is one of the most dynamic & fierce multiplayer shooters you could sink your teeth into. skirmishes are claustrophobic, intensely layered, and verge into eerie; when communications are in disarray and the information economy siege is founded on fails to tick properly every environment tends to feel like it's haunted, almost voyeuristic. you never know what hole operators are peeking at you through, or if they're inverse rappelling from above a window with laser sights trained on you. just as the cruelty of hunt: showdown ate up a lot of my time in 2022, i expect 2023 to be the year of siege standing in for my personal go-to multiplayer vehicle
i can't say i anticipated enjoying this as much as i do but sometimes my tastes skew far more plain than i posture them. DRG is really charming. in my eyes it's the first cooperative game since L4D2 to really match that game's quickfire energy with accessible yet layered strategizing; the four available classes are idiosyncratic to such an extent that you might feel naked in any given operation without even one of their toolkits. it smartly pairs lite-monster hunter mission variability & team synergization with 2010's procgen & terrain destructibility to create these delicious scenarios where blue-collar panic is the norm as you shuffle and squirm in pitch-black subterranean sprawl. it's you and your dwarven brothers against hordes of starship troopers bugs, a wealth of toxic environs, and really all manners of cave fauna...as well as plenty of other surprises (both the extent of enemy and mission variability were genuine delights to me). i have a fondness for these kinds of titles - one where environment is integral to engagement, not just as a means of circumnavigation but as something that can be excavated, twisted, molded, and manipulated to create opportunity. the missions where you have to construct labyrinthine pipelines (and then RAIL GRIND ON THEM) or clumsily build connections to power machinery throughout convoluted geometry that has been torn apart by explosive combat, awkward digs, or meteor intervention set my brain alight. no more words only rock and stone.
being an axl main is awesome. everyone hates you and routinely skips past playing you for the simple crime of forcing them to play a bit of neutral. you prevent them from running their twenty second lockdown pressure drills for a bit and it’s the end of the world; they’d much rather go up against the litany of other rushdown characters who can all do that or the guy that can eat your healthbar in three decisions.
the game is fine. as far as its pace is concerned, strive is essentially rocket tag, and that’s a fine thing to enjoy. it just comes at the obviously infamous cost of representing a departure from xrd (or prior entries but i won’t pretend to be knowledgeable in this arena). this has invited natural comparisons to street fighter (super turbo in particular) and samurai shodown, but i think the core system mechanics manage to carve their own niche within the high damage subgenre. for all the debate around simplification, it seems clear to me that arcsys’s goal was to create a fighting game that the majority of people familiar with the genre can learn simply through relevant match experience, avoiding the confines of the training room and bringing the title in line with an older arcade experience. again, totally fine thing to be. i do think i prefer xrd’s brand of bullshit but not because it’s inherently more cerebral or anything - matches just tend to feel more dynamic. it’s an instance where strives emphasis on creatively using meter’s hundreds of applicable permutations to open holes in opponents defense is somewhat negated by the lack of opportunities to tap in per round and by how viciously quick some of these rounds can close out.
i strongly dislike the menus, user interface, and lobby system, but this aside it’s curious to me that strive represents an artistic departure from the rest of the series as well and this aspect has mostly been swept under the rug by the community. i assume this is fine for most because it’s pretty and because we will never escape the fondness gamers have for the metal gear rising/anarchy reigns soundtrack. still, its very much an intentional continuation of xrds aesthetic sensibilities - understandable given that titles landmark reception - but it feels worth mentioning that we are at this point quite far removed from the grungy, muted, and punk tone of earlier entries. but giovannas hot so who can say whether this is bad or not