On a dark and stormy night, Megan Brooks returns home to find her home broken into and her daughter Vanessa missing. Calling on her friends Ethan Rivers and Connor Grayson for help, it is now up to the trio to fight through the endless horde of gang members, crime lords, robots, zombies and whatever else stands in their way in this classic style beat ‘em up. Bring justice to the streets of Steel Port, save Vanessa and stop The TakeOver!

Gameplay

The TakeOver is a side-scrolling beat’em up in the style of 90’s classics like Streets Of Rage and Final Fight - honestly, I could just end the review right there. If you’ve ever played a typical side-scrolling beat ’em up, then you’ve played The TakeOver.

In typical beat’em up fashion, you are given a choice of three characters to play as, all with different playstyles: there’s Megan who is fast and good at stringing combos together, Connor who is the heavy hitter of the group but has slow attacks and Ethan who is the all-rounder and the middle ground between the two. Each level persists of fighting waves of various enemies on a 2D plane until the game tells you to move forward with a huge “GO” sign flashing on the screen, as if you’re a child and don’t know how video games work. Each character has a punch, kick, gun and special buttons which can be chained together to form many interesting combos. These also change depending on which direction you’re holding which is something a lot of classic beat ’em ups didn’t have.

Something The TakeOver shares with its inspirations is depth perception troubles. Fighting on a 2D plane isn’t easy, especially when all of the playable characters and enemies are different heights. Unless you are constantly looking at where each character’s feet are, you will consistently misjudge where you are on the 2D plane and miss your attacks. That being said, the game does have some leniency on the hitbox of your attacks but there are times when even that will fail you. I had times where I was nowhere near the enemy and yet I was still hitting them and other times where I was right in front of them and attacks refused to connect.

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Occasionally, you can find weapons in breakable containers in the levels but I’ve found that they’re all a liability to your survival. Melee weapons like crowbars or katanas don’t follow up into combos and are more for keeping large groups of enemies down but if you run into the aforementioned depth perception troubles and miss your swing, you are left wide open to attacks. You can also find rifles in these boxes but using them feels really clunky. To use a gun, you have to hold down ZR to take it out and then A to fire it; in the time it takes you to pull out the gun, enemies can easily get within melee range and hit you out of gun mode. Consequently, you then then need to back up and hope you’re far enough away that the enemies won’t catch up to you by the time you start shooting.

World / Level Design

When you load up the first level you get an amazing sweep shot of the level which shows off the polish of the 3D models in the environment. Unfortunately once gameplay starts, everything is in a 2D plane so all the cool 3D details in the environment get lost most of the time. There are times when a hard attack will land or someone will hit the ground hard enough to make the 3D assets in the background shake a bit, reminding you of the effort that went into making each level, but they will then just fade away as all you’re thinking about is punching dudes.

The levels themselves are quite varied and interesting but they feel very disjointed to what’s happening in the story - even in context, they don’t really make sense. One second you’re on an island surrounded by zombies and the next, you find a pristine Japanese temple. After you beat the boss at the end of the level, for some unknown reason, he has a personal fighter jet and you fly it to an offshore oil refinery.

Story / Personality

The TakeOver was co-created by Matt Kowalewski of “Super Best Friends Play” and “Wha Happun?”. Fame, his personality and his sense of humour can be found all over this game. Throughout my entire time with The TakeOver, I could just imagine the conversations that lead to some of the games design decisions. “Man, toy cars are rad! We should make toy cars the game’s main collectible.”, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made Sabrewulf from Killer Instinct a boss fight? Wait! What if you fight two Sabrewulfs and you fought him in the hallways of Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero! That would be sick!”, “We gotta get The Baz in here somehow, how else will people know that I worked on this game?”

Overall, the game’s story is pretty basic but to be fair, so were all the games that inspired it. Story-wise, each level plays out the same; you fight a bunch of dudes down a hallway, fight a boss, beat him into the dirt, yell “WHERE'S VANESSA!!!”, get info on the next location from the boss, explosion, repeat until Venessa is found.

Graphics / Art Direction

As previously stated, the level design for this game is gorgeous but what I really want to talk about is the characters and enemy design. The designs for the main characters are pretty bog standard; Megan is just “a girl in a skin tight suit” because how would you know she’s a badass if she isn’t wearing a skin tight suit? Ethan is an amalgamation of every beat ’em up main protagonist with a slight hint of Street Fighter’s Ken Masters and King Of Fighters’ Iori Yagami to spice him up a bit and Connor is just Mike Haggar but younger and with a shotgun. You don’t need to have the most unique character in the world but having something that sets them apart from similar characters is essential to having your game be memorable to the player. No joke, I had to look up the characters’ names like five times for this review because they are that forgettable.

The enemy design is also pretty generic for the most part but that's a bit more excusable since they’re just meant to be fodder before boss fights. However, the vast amount of enemies that are just “guy or girl in a leather jacket” can make things a bit confusing from time to time. After the first level, I just stopped looking at the characters for hints on how to approach them and just looked at whether they were holding a weapon or not.

And now for my biggest gripe: the animation. The TakeOver animates the characters and enemies with limited frames to make it look and feel more like the classic sprite based beat’em ups from the 90s, which is a nice idea in theory but in execution, it’s downright awful. This combined with the issue of the genericness of the character and enemy designs makes the game look like it's made with basic Unity assets just thrown together to make a quick buck instead of a passion project made by people who miss the classic beat ’em up genre like it’s supposed to be.

Music / Sound Design

The TakeOver’s soundtrack is downright amazing! With the talents of LittleVmills (Who I’ve been a fan of for many years, so I may be a little biased), Nerdcore Hip Hop artist Richie Branson, James Ronald who has worked with people like Dex The Swede and Mike Matei and industry legend Yuzo Koshiro who has composed for Streets Of Rage, Etrian Odyssey, Super Smash Bros and Persona Q just to name a few. The soundtrack is guaranteed to get your blood pumping and get you hyped to beat up a bunch of dudes on the streets of Steel Port.

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Final Score: 42%

I really wanted to like this game. Everything outside of general gameplay is amazing but playing the game is just a boring slog. I was genuinely asking myself after each level if I was done so I could get started on the housework. I’ve played quite a few games that attempted to revive classic beat ’em up style gameplay and almost all of them have been pretty bad. I'm convinced the genre just doesn’t work in this day and age and should be left in the 90s where they belong.

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