Mars: War Logs review for PSN, XBLA, PC

Platform: PlayStation Network
Also On: PC, XBLA
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Spiders
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Is Mars: War Logs a good game? By pretty much any objective measure, the answer is probably no. In fact, to be completely honest, it’s kind of terrible. This is clear from the very first shot of the game, when you see a bunch of identical-looking NPCs sitting in the back of a truck, and they’re all moving in sync. If that doesn’t clue you in right from the get-go that you’re not exactly in for a slick, AAA experience, then maybe you’ll notice it when…heck, I don’t even know where to begin, this game’s list of sins is so long.

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Just off the top of my head:

  • The graphics, while not quite PS2 era in terms of quality, could be described as PS2.5. Also, everything is very brown.
  • Pretty much every character in the game could be described as “space marine with a shaved head”. While this design choice, at first glance, makes it seem like the developers opted for the most generic route possible — and it also makes it awfully hard to tell everyone apart — once you see characters with hair, you’ll quickly come to appreciate the shaved head look.
  • Because everyone and everywhere looks so similar, you need to rely on the map to tell you where to go to to meet each objective. There’s no in-game map, so you’ll be exiting to the Select menu (or your platform’s equivalent) very, very frequently. As you’d expect, this doesn’t help Mars: War Logs flow very well.
  • The voice acting is laughably atrocious, not to mention a little inconsistent. Within my first half-hour of starting out, I had a moment where the main character’s voice seemed to change octave and tone twice in the course of a few sentences. Admittedly, he was pretty consistent from that point out…but still, having something like that happen right at the very beginning of a game doesn’t exactly set a great tone.
  • Characters are named things like Prowess (who just so happens to be skilled at building bombs) and Innocence. Except for you: you get to play as Roy. This isn’t necessarily a point against the game, but it did make me laugh.
  • Oh, and that Innocence fellow? He becomes your sidekick after you save him from being anally raped at the hands of a morbidly obese Englishman. Subtlety isn’t Mars: War Logs’ strong suit.
  • The whole world seems very static. I mean, I know the point of most games is that you’re the main character, and thus the centre of the story, but in Mars: War Logs the world seems to revolve around you completely. No one ever moves from their specific spots (which, in theory, means the NPCs are having some ridiculously in-depth conversations), and you never once feel as though you’re existing in a place that could, conceivably, exist separately from you.
  • Any time you want to go through a door, finish off an opponent or climb up/down an obstacle, it triggers a short (and, admittedly, skippable) cutscene. There are a ridiculous number of doors to open and walls to scale in this game. Like the map thing, it quickly becomes an annoyance.
  • Combat involves lots and lots of rolling. There are certainly worse things that could be same about a game’s combat system (especially since it’s kind of fun to just keep rolling everywhere as your enemies try to hit you), but it still comes off as awfully silly when you consider how deadly serious everything else in the game is.

Basically, there are plenty of reasons why Mars: War Logs isn’t a good game. All that said, however, if you change the question from “Is Mars: War Logs any good?” to “Is Mars: War Logs worth playing?”, the answer suddenly becomes a little more complicated.
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Now, I should admit here that I have a bit of a thing for bad games — and by “a bit”, I mean that in the last year or so, I’ve actively sought out and played games like Men in Black: Alien Crisis, Fast and Furious: Showdown, Aliens: Colonial Marines and The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. In other words, I find joy in playing games that are complete and utter garbage. So you might want to take what I say next with a grain of salt: I had a blast playing Mars: War Logs.

Again, it’s not a very good game. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to revel in its cheesy, poorly-made awfulness. At root, I think this is because Mars: War Logs differs from all those other games I just mentioned in a fundamental way: it’s not some cheap cash-in designed to generate money from name alone. It seems like the team behind it had a story they actually wanted to tell, and even if their execution of that story turned out to be (far, far, far) less-than-perfect, it’s hard to deny that a fair amount of love and care went into the game.

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Admittedly, that love and care ultimately created a game that answers the question, “Hey, what would Mass Effect be like if every element of it kind of sucked?” But as you’re rolling around on the ground, trying to hit the sick dog with your enhanced mole bone, hoping you can kill it and grab a sample of its diseased flesh to bring to the camp cook (who also happens to be a vet!) so he can craft a vaccine for a disease (that later turns out to not be communicable to humans)…none of that matters. If you can embrace the silliness — and, more importantly, overlook lots and lots and lots of glaring flaws — then you’ll find that Mars: War Logs is, in it’s own way, more fun than you could ever imagine.

Grade: C+