Price: £45 Developer: PlatinumGames Publisher: Square Enix Platform(s): PS4, PC Version tested: PS4
Nier: Automata is the sequel that nearly never was. Japanese auteur Yoko Taro originally conceived a Nier sequel taking the form of a Farmville-esque clicker, before a meeting with PlatinumGames to discuss a port of the original game for the PlayStation Vita eventually led to a collaboration between Square Enix and Platinum to create Nier: Automata, the game I've spent the last week hitting my head against.
Nier: Automata is the most bonkers game I've ever played. When the game starts it's a top-down bullet-hell shooter, before your ship turns into an agile mech and then is deposited, with a pair of swords, into a room full of robots to unleash a whirlwind of hurt. As soon as you touch ground you take the role of a young girl in a dress. A girl that's both impossibly good at punching but also an android. From here, the story comes at you thick and fast, with none of the mystery of many recent open-world games.
It's satisfying to have a game lay its cards out on the table, although the more the game told me, the more confused I found myself. It's not that it's poorly presented — the game is well-written and smartly plotted, with intricate threads laying around the place tying minute details into a bigger world — but that the logic of the game feels alien. It's refreshing, but if you're just here for some no-hassle punching, you'll frequently be surprised with deep philosophical questions, long meandering conversations and an early boss that takes the form of a nude android. A nude android, freshly born from a womb formed of androids you were fighting moments earlier, while they utter the words "this cannot continue" as a mantra.
No kidding. This is the weirdest game I've played in years, but it's compelling, and it's hard not to keep playing, just to experience more of the world.
Most of the story, in fact, is hidden until the credits have rolled for the first time, with additional playthroughs using New Game + revealing more content and more weirdness. Usually, I'd call this out for being grindy and repetitive, and I've still half a mind to, but because Platinum is at the wheel of this particularly bizarre ride, the melee combat is spectacular.
You play as an android, 2B, and the game commits to this entirely. Upgrades come in the form of chips. You install different chips for a variety of upgrades. When you die, your body lays where it's fallen and you come back as the next model, looking to recover your body and the previously installed chips with it. This is quite a cool feature because you can uninstall HUD elements, which are also chips. This lead to a moment where I traded being able to see how much health I had for extra melee damage during a tough boss. Excellently, you can also uninstall your OS chip, which immediately kills you