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With the constant influx of MOBA’s these past couple of years, it must be difficult for a developer to distinguish themselves yet keep that familiarity that gives success to the genre of the multiplayer online battle arena. Heavy Metal Machines is a title that admirably separates itself from the crowd.

Heavy Metal Machines is an online 4v4 vehicle combat game developed by Hoplon Infotainment, currently in its beta phase and most noticeably, it’s free to play. Initially I assumed that Heavy Metal Machines would be a mess of sorts. Trying to combine various genres and gameplay mechanics is a tricky thing for a developer to create in addition to play, and I was sceptical that combining multiple styles of games into one would create an all over the shop experience. Prejudice aside, the gameplay is totally solid and provides a very enjoyable experience with a unique premise.

The rules are straightforward. Two teams must try and score a goal by planting a bomb in the opponent’s base, successfully doing that three times and your team wins the game. Each machine is also equipped with varying abilities that places them into three distinct roles to allow players to create a balanced team composition. From the sounds of the roles, they are self-explanatory to the unfamiliar MOBA player. The interceptor is equipped with abilities to protect the bomb carrier by fighting other players, the support provides teammates with healing abilities and shields, and the transporter has speed related abilities to transport the bomb quicker than the opponents. I found at times that it didn’t really matter what role I was, I could still transport the bomb effectively as well as choosing machines that had abilities which made the game more fun to play. There is also an option to pass the bomb, however I noticed that players would hardly pass it at all unless they were in a pre-made team. Passing the bomb is an innovative idea to split the play and get it to machines that have speed enhancing abilities, however it does take some communication.

One thing I must give Hoplon credit for is the motion of the vehicles. The movement and physics of the cars are among the best in terms of top-down perspective driving games. The way that the machines glide around corners and jitter left to right makes them look like the real thing. Swerving constantly as you try to manoeuvre yourself also makes it difficult to execute skill shots, which makes it more rewarding when you pull them off. Speaking of skill shots, I found that machines with tether abilities were the most fun I had playing. Dirt Devil’s harpoon ability and Clunker’s tow were great methods of annoying the Hell out of the opposition, as well as being great ways to rescue that last-minute attempt on goal.

What lets Heavy Metal Machines down is its extremely generic presentation. It doesn’t feel like a lot of effort went into the overall aesthetics. The characters all feel like re-hashed versions of other heroes and champions from various other MOBA’s. Appearance and ability alike. Also, their background lore feels like it was written by a ten-year-old after they watched Beyond Thunderdome for the first time. I understand this is a multiplayer game with no story, but a game with colourful characters makes a game tick, and including a decent background story does make a difference.  In terms of the map, it’s a clumsy mess of two parallel racing tracks simply stitched onto a figure eight arena; like two hot wheels tracks sellotaped to a BeyBlade arena. Despite the figure eight arena existing primarily for retrieving the bomb as well as showcasing the fighting scenes in the trailer, I found that most of the action occurred on the racing tracks themselves. If the centre area disappeared from the game, it would hardly make a difference. Speaking of hardly making a difference; the skill tree for upgrades. The in-game shop menu for upgrades on abilities isn’t exactly that well-presented, and it didn’t really help me decide on which upgrades to purchase. I was simply just selecting upgrades without any care or incentive, as the descriptions were completely overcomplicated and lacked any obvious improvements on abilities. I experimented a few games without upgrading any abilities at all, and it didn’t alter my performance one bit. In a nutshell, the upgrades are marginal at best. On a final negative point, the music is truly awful. One song I came across just consisted of constant screaming and a few thrash metal power chords, so irritating to the point where I had to turn the volume down on my speakers, and missed a matchmaking lobby in the process. I love heavy metal, I have been a Sabbath fan since I was little, but this was very disappointing.

Despite its design flaws though, Heavy Metal Machines shows a tremendous amount of promise. It cleverly combines a capture-the-flag mode with a game like Motor Mayhem, and for a free to play beta, Hoplon managed to produce a very entertaining new title. According to several Steam reviews, many people have trouble matchmaking and have waited lengthy periods of time to connect to games, however I experienced none of that whatsoever, and matchmaking was a breeze for me, almost getting just under one minute waiting times per game. Lag issues were present yet minimal, however in one instance I was completely out of sync with the game which forced me to restart. On the contrary, the game is still in its beta stage so problems such as this are inevitable. There is a shortage of a players at the moment, which pretty much builds up the bulk of negative steam reviews, however a game as unorthodox as this one will soon draw a crowd. If you want a new MOBA experience with a twist, then give Heavy Metal Machines a chance. You can download the beta for free right now at:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/331360/Heavy_Metal_Machines/

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So I formerly studied computer science and now I am a media grad studying journalism. I have been playing computer games since I could hold a controller in my hand, and I remember my first ever game: Pandemonium 2 on the PC. After that, I was hooked. As a massive football fan, I love watching Swansea City, and as a massive FIFA fan, I love playing them online. Currently Rocket League is my forte, sitting comfortably in gold. And I love an old MOBA or two such as Overwatch and League of Legends.

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