Title: The TakeOver
Release Date: June 4, 2020
Reviewed On: Switch
Publisher: Dangen Entertainment
Genre: Beat em' up
The beat em’ up genre has taken a bit of a back seat in gaming. Each year we see several releases that aim to recapture the games from our past, but this doesn’t always work. With each new console generation, it seemed like less and less beat em’ ups were being released, with the genre feeling all but dead and gone today.
The TakeOver is one of a few recent indie games looking to put a spotlight back on beat em’ ups. Initially released on PC back in November of 2019, it came and went with very little fanfare. However, now that it is releasing on Switch, it has more eyes on it than ever.
Sadly, after spending some time with The TakeOver, it isn’t hard to imagine why no one seemed to care about it on PC. Just about everything about it feels mediocre or out of place. It isn’t bad by any means, but, in an era with so many games released each month, being merely passable isn’t always good enough.
The TakeOver takes place in Steel Haven, a city engulfed with crime. Recently, all criminal activity has united under one banner, threatening to take over the city entirely. When police officer Ethan Rivers and his girlfriend Megan’s daughter is kidnapped, they begin a journey to rescue her and prevent Steel Haven’s takeover along with their friend Connor.
Everything about this premise is generic. No, I don’t think anyone has ever played a beat em’ up for its riveting plot, but they generally need to have something to make them stand out from the crowd. The TakeOver does not, especially not in its plot.
It is impossible to talk about The TakeOver’s story without touching on its different art styles. Aside from the intro, each of the story cutscenes is drawn in heavily stylized cartoony illustrations. While the art in these cutscenes looks good on its own, it stands in stark contrast to the in-game character models. When you are actually playing, the characters are much more realistic, reminiscent of a game you might see in an arcade in the mid-2000s. Neither of the two art styles looks terrible, but the constant jump between them was jarring.
The TakeOver’s cutscenes are fully voice acted and ultimately cement the generic, cheesy tone of the plot. Each voice performance in the game feels as if the actors recorded their lines once, went, “that’s good enough, I guess,” and called it a day. I’m not going to act like these are the worst performances I’ve ever heard, but they certainly went along with the game’s “mediocre” theme.
As I mentioned earlier, no one really plays a beat em’ up for its plot; they play it for fun, mindless gameplay. This is where The TakeOver excels. Actually playing The TakeOver almost always felt satisfying, if not slightly unpolished. Making your way through each of the seven stages can be a fun time, especially when playing with a friend.
The TakeOver features a few different gameplay modes, most notably Arcade, Challenge, and Survival. Arcade is the classic beat em’ up story mode experience: seven stages, each separated into smaller sections with a boss at the end. Aside from the story, my only other real complaints about the Arcade mode is how easy it is. The entire experience is a cakewalk if more than one person is playing and still leaves much to be desired solo.
Players slowly build up a “rage” meter during levels that grant invincibility and high damage when activated. This meter can be saved until the end of each level and used to swiftly defeat every single boss, leading to many anticlimactic encounters. This ability, along with certain combos and melee weapons, feel like they should have been balanced a bit more before the game’s release.
Challenge mode takes levels from Arcade and adds new objectives to them, such as, “don’t let your health drop below 50%,” or “don’t use super attacks.” Survival mode is really only for those that seek a high score. All this mode does is throw players into a level with no extra health pickups and sends an infinite number of enemies at them until they die. While these modes aren’t anything revolutionary, they give those that want something beyond arcade mode more to do and present players with a real challenge.
The TakeOver also features two vehicle missions that are only playable with one player. These were a fun distraction from the normal gameplay loop, and it would’ve been nice to see them expanded upon or made playable with a second person.
It is hard to talk about The TakeOver without addressing the recently released elephant in the room: Streets of Rage 4. Streets of Rage 4 does everything The TakeOver does leaps and bounds better. Its honestly a shame, as I might have appreciated The TakeOver’s “don’t reinvent the wheel” approach to the beat em’ up genre a little bit more if I hadn’t experienced one of the best beat em’ ups I had ever played just a few weeks ago.
The one thing that The TakeOver does have unabashedly going for it is its soundtrack. Almost every single track in the game is an absolute banger; I found myself humming the first stage’s music for hours after walking away from the game.
The TakeOver has next to nothing special about it. Aside from its stellar soundtrack, everything else about the game screams “mediocre:” its gameplay, its art style, its modes… nothing about it stands out. While it isn’t necessarily bad, it has the makings of a game that will be completely forgotten about in a few days. Unless you are simply dying to play another beat em’ up on the Switch, The TakeOver probably isn’t worth your time.
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