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Attack on Titan should be an amazing video game, but it isn't

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The first time I saw Attack on Titan, all I could think about was how awesome it would be as a video game. The story is all about humans fighting against towering giants using something called "omni-directional mobility gear," which essentially lets them swing around like Spider-Man. It's basically a series of boss battles that require crazy-fast aerial acrobatics, which sounds like a recipe for a great game. But the new Nintendo 3DS adaptation of the series doesn't live up to that.

The anime takes place in a grim alternate reality where humanity is at the brink of extinction thanks to an inexplicable menace: giant creatures called titans that look like naked humans and like to eat people for fun. The humans who are still alive cower inside a heavily barricaded city. The thing about titans is that not only are they big and hungry, but they're also very difficult to kill. They can regenerate limbs almost instantly, and their only vulnerable point is a small weak spot on the back of their necks — sort of like a video game boss. In order to fight this menace, human soldiers train for years and use a combination of the omni-directional gear and a pair of swords to take down their foes. They don't usually succeed. Most battle scenes in the show involve huge massacres, where human survivors are rare.

Taking down titans is incredibly boring and tedious

The combination of terrifying enemies and a thrilling sense of movement is what had me excited about the Attack on Titan game. Titles like Sunset Overdrive have shown that simply moving around can be fun if done right, and the premise of Attack on Titan has that same potential. Unfortunately, swinging through the city makes you feel less like Spider-Man, and more like a window washer tumbling down a building. The controls are cumbersome and the camera is disorienting; often I'd launch a grappling hook and speed over to a location, only to find the camera would spin around so that I wasn't quite sure which direction I was headed. To make matters worse, what should be the best part of the game — taking down titans — proves to be incredibly boring and tedious. Instead of a thrilling battle, it's more of a paint-by-numbers experience where you have to take out a titan's legs to knock them down, and then swing up to hit them in the back of the head. It's the same every time, and never particularly thrilling.

Attack on Titan

The game tries to mix things up a bit by adding in different objectives. Sometimes you'll be rescuing citizens, other times you'll need to take down a specific number of titans. One quest has you running around the city as the perpetually hungry Sasha Blouse in search of steamed potatoes. But the side objectives are even less interesting than the core combat. Even the scenes where you get to take control of a titan to fight other titans are inexplicably dull. Really, there are very few moments in the game that could be considered fun, which is insanely disappointing.

To make things even worse, there is little bonus material for fans of the show to dig into. The story the game tells is exactly the same as the anime, to the point that the in-game cut scenes are ripped directly from the show. You get to play as different characters, five in total, but you don't get any new insight into them or the world they inhabit. And if you're coming into the series fresh, the story is so chopped up that I have a hard time believing you'll understand anything. In the amount of time it would take to play through the entire game, you could watch most of the show on Netflix, and that would be a much better use of your time.

It's probably not surprising that the game is bad. With a few notable exceptions, games based on movies and TV shows tend to skew toward awful. But there's just so much promise in Attack on Titan that I can't help but be disappointed. There are so many aspects of the series that feel like they would translate perfectly to a game, but instead we get this bland mess. Maybe someday we'll get that amazing Attack on Titan game.

Until then, there are always Minecraft mods.