Nier: Automata (2017, PS4)

By William Shakesman / March 28, 2017

A sequel to Platinum's Transformers: Devastation, Nier Buttomata is set after the bad ending where Megatron succeeded in roboticizing Earth.

Looks like some butthole shading to me

   Yoko Taro is an accurate assessor of how good his games are. Apart from animations and 2B's ass, he has done everything possible to sabotage Platinum's usual level of quality. The result is a mess, a game with combat shallower than Korra, but with all the joys added of really boring STG segments, and all the parts of Monster Hunter that aren't actually fighting monsters (so running through empty fields to collect shiny grindbits in hopes they will upgrade your weapon or a weapon you collect down the line).
   But what about the plot? Well, it's typical Taro: "Machines don't have feelings", your blindfold-wearing protagonists (HRRRM I WONDER WHAT DEEP TARO SYMBOLISM IS MEANT BY THAT) intone as the robots proceed to display feelings in such a childish and goofy manner that it feels like this is some clown-world cartoon... before you cut them all down ruthlessly (Because of course the machines can't just be humans. They're autistic dopey adorable little kid humans that cry about their brothers because Taro can't make a plot work without crass emotional manipulation). 2B drops some loaded dialogue early on that practically spoils the whole game, too, but you don't get confirmation of this until much later because this game wastes your time immensely. You "clear" the game and get "Ending A" without a SINGLE thing of note happening in the plot. Then you're asked to do it all again, only with most action bits replaced with even more boring STG segments if that's even possible. It's only by the THIRD playthrough where the plot finally comes together. Even Nier 1 gave you a "complete" game with a real ending on the first play. (Oh and this means you play as the bootily-endowed heroine for less than half your game time.) And in traditional Taro fashion, the actual finale wraps up so that everything is so utterly terrible that it blows right past depressing and into laughable clown-world territory again. There is no good, no evil, no heroism, nothing in Taro's world but sobbing, childlike victims of cataclysms so far in the past and so arbitrary as to be meaningless.
   The combat balancing is completely screwed up and nobody will ever notice it because on Normal it is nearly impossible to die. On Hard, you die in two hits, Ultra Hard one hit, and checkpoints are almost non-existent, usually in the 20-40 minute range, and most of that being awful unskippable chatter. And of course the hitboxes make From games look positively artistic in that regard. And if it's not the hitboxes, it is the terrible camera work, often purposefully obscuring the action for absolutely no reason. Or the combat effects, which are so overdone as to obscure your capacity to read the battle. Or that one major boss who is fought in a literal dust storm, preventing you from seeing what he's doing half the time.
   Look, there's fun to be had here. Even a bad Platinum game is better by miles than most. Sprinting through fields, collecting goodies, slicing robots is just going to be fun no matter what, but on every other level this is flatly a mediocre and disappointing game. If you try to have fun with Automata, you will have fun with it. It's not broken. It's just... bad in some aspects. My problem is so much of it is intimately tied with the plot and not satisfying in a context separate from that plot. And the plot also stinks.
   FWIW, the visuals in the game are usually pretty good. A little washed out at times, but quite pretty in motion. The animations are OUTSTANDING. That said, Taro likes "artsy" black-and-white nonsense among other things and looks for all sorts of excuses to remove all that color.