There can be little doubt that Arc System Works, the developer behind Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2, is an almost unfairly talented outfit that has effectively cornered the market on one-on-one brawlers. Not only do they have the stupendous and critically adored BlazBlue franchise under their wings, but they’re also the chief architects of the Guilty Gear property, a 2D brawler that has toiled away in the shadows of more visible genre peers, only to emerge better and more feature complete than just about all of them.
The latest offering from that franchise, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 represents the absolute best the series has ever been, and perhaps more so than ever before, robustly stands as a legitimate entry point for fighting game rookies long since disillusioned by the hardcore learning curve of the Guilty Gear games released previously.
Small but meaningful additions flesh out an already fantastic brawler
Able to be purchased as an expansion to the brilliant Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR, or as a separate standalone effort (and thus technically the third entry in the Guilty Gear Xrd series), Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 first and foremost compliments that game with two new characters and a variety of balance changes for all the other characters. Other than that a small handful of complementary modes, much of what we said about Guilty Gear Xrd –REVELATOR last year, pretty much still applies to this release also.
In terms of the two newcomer fighters, Answer and Baiken, seasoned Guilty Gear players will discover that both of new the warriors have a lot to offer to Guilty Gear Xrd’s already eclectic and well balanced roster of digital bruisers. A darling of the fans for a good while now, the Samurai Baiken is a counter-focused fighter that stands in stark contrast to the rest of the roster, requiring a patient and skilled player to really get the most out of her reactive repertoire of attacks. Even now, she looks like she’ll be a permanent and challenging fixture of the competitive online multiplayer scene going forward.
Conversely, the second of the new brawlers, the enigmatic Answer, brings a style of fighting that the Guilty Gear Xrd really hasn’t seen until now. Between his extremely odd gait, penchant for using a mobile phone during fights and his hybridised ninja company man look, it’s fair to say that Answer could well be the most unique fighter on the roster. Such uniqueness and by proxy, insanity, bleeds through into his fighting style too; a high octane and aggressive rushdown style of play that rewards players who pile the pressure onto their foe and never let up, Answer’s game is all about providing little or no breathing room for the latter to enact any kind of counterattack.
Still one of the very best fighting games money can buy
For those who have yet to sample Guilty Gear Xrd’s considerable offering on the other hand, there really is no better time than right now. Indeed to this end, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 does a cracking job of getting unfamiliar players brought up to speed, with its dizzying array of comprehensive tutorials and combo training modes representing a long needed a welcome overture to the non-hardcore who have yet to discover the series finer points.
Relatedly, the incredibly deep tutorials and training apparatus are merely the tip of what is an almost overwhelming iceberg of content. Boasting more single-player content than some RPGs, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 packs in a fully fleshed out story mode, separately developed, fully voiced character episodes, a dizzying number of unlockables, and a plethora of other objective based game types that allow players to develop and customise their favourite characters.
Tying into its wonderfully eccentric nature, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 also crams in a bunch of other activities too, including fishing and soccer minigames that can be played in the wonderfully polished online lobbies while you wait for a match to start. Speaking of online play, the net code is resoundingly solid, producing negligible latency during play and always being able to pair me with another human player in swift fashion.
Really though, it’s the in-depth, almost bottomless fighting system that both separates and elevates Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 away from its peers and it’s here that you can expect to while away hundreds upon hundreds of hours. Finely tuned to now be as accessible to newcomers as it is fascinating for stalwart players who know the difference between a roman candle and a Roman Cancel, Guilty Gear Xrd’s mixture of tactical play and insanely varied roster of fighters means that this is one 2D brawler that just keeps on giving months, even years, after its release. Simply put, if you’re hankering for a fighter that has near-infinite depth and accessibility to match, you really can’t go wrong with this latest incarnation of Guilty Gear Xrd.
And then there are the visuals which confirm that, in fact, this is without a doubt the single most visually arresting 2D fighter to date. With its beautifully varied roster of fighters only being paralleled by the sumptuous, colourful and design rich stages that they fight upon, it’s clear that, regardless of genre, we’re looking at one of the most stylish games ever made.
Certainly in regards to the screen-filling fighters in particular, every frame of animation for each and every character is a masterwork which expertly highlights the idiosyncratic designs that make Guilty Gear’s scrappers such a charismatic and attractive bunch to start with. The stages on the other hand, reap the full benefits of a modified version of the aging Unreal Engine 3 which powers the on-screen action, seamlessly meshing fully three dimensional stage elements with traditional art to fashion ornate amphitheatres in front of which Guilty Gear’s unique brand of pugilism unfolds.
Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 feels so all-encompassing, so feature complete that the likes of Street Fighter V, with its frequent day long maintenance sessions, beleaguered online performance and hilariously limp initial content offering, no longer casts the long shadow that the Guilty Gear franchise needs to escape from. Ostensibly, the torch has now been passed, and if Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 is any indication, Arc System Works is running with it as hard and fast as they can.
Whether it’s the strides taken by Arc System Works to make Guilty Gear’s traditionally sophisticated combat system more tenable to newcomers, the gargantuan amount of social life swallowing content that has been stuffed into the game, or, just the eye-searing visual presentation, there can be no doubt that the latest Guilty Gear has a lot to offer.
Arguably sat at the zenith of a series already lauded for its impressive calibre, Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 might not innovate much over the base game with which it shares its name, but away from such minor complaints, it absolutely soars in a way that few fighting games have managed to in recent memory. If you’ve shied away from the series until now, you’ll find no better time to jump in than right now.