I can’t remember the last time I tried a tank battle arena. It’s a genre that can be fun when done well, but it’s often a difficult genre to jump into. Usually such games require a lot of reading and start-up time before you can actually start playing only to then get dominated by the hardcore players that have already put in hours of devotion. But when I got a look at Gear Up I decided to give it a try. My interest came from the fact that it actually doesn’t look like a serious tank simulator. At first glance it seems very cartoony and that’s exactly what I wanted. But I was admittedly wrong. Doctor Entertainment may have created something that looks childish but the gameplay is the real deal and it’s much too hardcore for casual players. Before you read any farther understand that if you’re not in it for the long haul then this game isn’t for you.
I was really happy with the visual style used in Gear Up. As I already mentioned, it has a very fun-loving style that’s very accessible to a wide audience of gamers as opposed to something super serious like World of Tanks. Objects have mostly round edges and use a rainbow of colors. The high level of customization allows players to design the tank they want regardless of how ridiculous it actually looks or how useless the accessories are. Two words: Shark Turret!
There are so many different options for your tank’s appearance. It’s a good thing you can keep up to 3 saved because you’ll probably have trouble committing to just 1 design. And this is not just an aesthetic problem, because the way you design your tank can have drastic effects on the gameplay. Even just picking the propulsion system will be quite difficult with so many vastly different options such as spider legs or hover engines.
The 9 plus playable arenas are all really impressive and quite detailed. The levels are nice because while they’re big enough to fit 16 players, they’re still small enough to traverse rather quickly once you get the hang of driving. The textures, while cartoony, are done very well. I was especially impressed with the sand. Levels also take place at different times of day which really adds to the character of the game. Most of the time it’s mid-day, but you will also find yourself playing at night or dusk. The pickups don’t look half bad either.
I know what you’re thinking: This is a tank game so what about the weapons and explosions? The weapons, as in the actual guns, look great and come in a variety of different types and styles. It’s not as simple as a barrel. There are 26 different types of main weapons each designed in a different identifiable style such as the “Dragon Cannon”. But there are also a number of secondary weapons to choose from such as rockets. You’ll be happy with the level of clarity at which you can see the rockets and shells before they hit. I wasn’t super impressed by the explosions and death effects, but they definitely pack enough of a punch to satisfy your need for carnage. I did find dying a bit odd at times though because the screen turns grey and still lets you drive around as a ghost or something for a few seconds before you respawn.
One thing that I really liked was the minimalist style of the menus. They’re very simple and clean. Just opaque black backgrounds and yellow text in Arial font. But not hard to look at overly shiny yellow. The splash of orange works really well for your eyes.
The simple gameplay system allows for a very simple HUD that’s easy to understand and mostly uninvasive. Just a small life bar in the center of the bottom of the screen that also accounts for any power-ups, your main weapon ammo in the left hand corner, a live map that tracks other players, a simple clock, and the scoreboard. With no explanation you’ll understand everything you need to know in seconds.
Something I really liked about the graphics was that even at lower display levels the game still looks pretty good. It was only when you pull out the antialiasing (kudos for having that option) that you really noticed a drop in the visual quality.
Overall, it’s a nice looking game that both kids and adults can enjoy whether they want to have a totally ridiculous looking monstrosity of a tank or an elegant almost realistic basic vehicle with normal treads and barrel. But trust me you won’t.
Sound wise the effects are great, but don’t go in expecting much in the way of music. I liked the effects as far as what they were and how they were used. The futuristic building sound when you change parts on your tank is a good example. Explosions, machine gun fire, and tank treads are the soundtrack of war in Gear Up.
The music was disappointing for me. It doesn’t play a huge role because it is an online multiplayer game so it isn’t even really used during actual gameplay. You only hear it while in menus and during the match countdown. Honestly you won’t even remember the music in the long run if you notice it at all.
In the grand scheme I’d grade the sound in Gear Up as average. It doesn’t play that big of a role in the game in reality. I can totally see myself playing while listening to my own music. As with any game the sound effects do help you locate other players, but not to the extent that you need it. The map, your life bar, and the shell trails are just as good. If you do want the sound though, go headset. It sounds world’s better than laptop speakers.
As with any multiplayer only game, the gameplay is the most important factor. Gear Up is no exception. It’s an online battle arena game with no plot and very limited local play options. Since this is a tank battle simulator, I’m sure you already have some idea about what the basic gameplay is like. The controls are pretty simple and fully mapable. You can use a gamepad, but this is one of those rare occasions where I have to say stick to your keyboard and mouse.
Movement is similar to that of most tank games. You control the direction in which you want to go with left and right and then you choose whether to go forwards or backwards with up and down. The movement works well. It’s very responsive and has no latency. But I believe Doctor Entertainment should have gone with the easier straight directional movement system. While the split system is the more realistic one for driving a tank, it ceases to make sense when using many of the abnormal propulsion systems. When you’re riding on 6 spider legs, there’s no treads and you will intuitively try to move like you would in any other game. But you can’t and it gets really irritating. Graphically it still makes sense because of the fact that the body still rotates in the direction you’ve chosen even if it doesn’t seem like it should matter. Yet I still think the tread driving system only makes sense with tread style parts. You aim the gun independently of your vehicles movement which is nice because you can shoot in any direction while moving in any other direction once you get used to moving opposite of shooting.
Customizing your tank is easy and important. While stats are affected by the parts you choose, the only important choices to make are what type of propulsion and what type of weapon. These decisions will drastically alter your experience so you should try them all out individually. What’s nice is that you can alter your tank at any time. Even during a match. Of course everything will still be going so you risk dying, but the point is that you can completely change your style of play mid battle. The many guns differ in a number of ways such as amount of ammo, damage ratio, range, and size of impact. There are even different types of shots. But once you’ve gotten the range you prefer the rest will not be so important.
Ultimately the propulsion is what really matters when building your tank. Your choice of propulsion will dictate the way you play the game and how much of the world you have access to. If you use a ground based part then water is off-limits to you, causing instant death. You’ll have to choose a hovercraft if you want to access those areas. Spider legs allow you to climb walls but they also move much slower than wheels or treads. It’s these sorts of decisions based on the level you’re playing on that will decide your fate until you’ve mastered them all.
The game’s tutorial mode is just a shooting gallery that allows you to play around, but doesn’t include any live targets. The bot mode is much better because you can play matches wherever you want with up to 32 bots which will be generated randomly. You can set their difficulty too. Other than that you’re always playing online multiplayer.
The 3 modes of play are Death Match, Team Death Match, and Conquest. Conquest is about collecting points by taking control of towers. It actually takes quite a while to take a tower, but capture progress is saved unless actually stolen back by the other team. All 3 modes are pretty simple to understand very quickly. Creating and entering matches is really fast and easy. To join you just pick a lobby and jump right in. Creating a match allows you to choose the stage(s), number of players, mode, time, and kill limit. Matches can be private or public.
Matches can be customized in a number of ways. They can last a few minutes or more than half an hour. Up to 16 players at a time in any mode and the respawn time can be long or short. Joining matches can take a whole though and there’s quite a bit of lag depending on the stability of everyone playing. But that’s impossible to avoid in an online scenario. All in all I liked the gameplay. It’s simple and easy to learn, but quite varied depending on the tank you choose to pilot. I just wish driving was more simple and intuitive.
As this game is exclusively used for online multiplayer, much of the replay value comes down to your interest. You won’t get any more or less out of it than with the COD lobbies. But Gear Up does have achievements and leaderboards to motivate you to play towards something for at least a while.
Something important to consider is that there will be different versions of Gear Up and your version will ultimately affect your experience significantly.
I was playing the premium version which meant that I had the ability to save up to 3 tank designs, had access to all the parts at start, and could practice in bot mode. The basic version still allows you to save 3 tanks and has achievement support, but you don’t start out with all the parts. You have to unlock all the parts by playing. In some ways this may actually add to the replay value, but you lose the bot mode. The free version, which is a much worse experience, doesn’t have achievements and still makes you unlock all the parts, but limits the amount of space you have for parts. You can unlock more spaces by leveling up, but it’s only 1 extra slot per a level. Essentially you have to sell parts off in exchange for new parts which you may or may not prefer to the parts you sold in the long run. Thankfully though you can at least unlock every part in the game using the free version.
I think that £14.99 / $19.99 is a bit expensive, but £7.49 / $9.99 is fair, however the amount you lose by not going premium is significant. But if you need real goals in order to stay motivated then I would go for the basic version which is basically the same as the premium except it’s half the price and gives you the challenge of unlocking the parts thus allowing you to familiarize yourself with all the components as you unlock them if you choose to. The only difference is that you won’t be able to use the bot mode for practice, but learning by doing is always so much more fulfilling anyway. While it seems kind of odd to complain about a free game, I have to say that the free version just doesn’t seem fair by comparison. You’ll never be able to really experience the full potential of the game when you don’t have access to all the parts. And to unlock enough space for them all will take you longer than it would take to just panhandle the $10 for the basic version. The paid versions are unquestionably the way to go with this game. A sad truth becoming more and more common with “free to play” games.
Online lag aside I really did enjoy playing this game even though it was very frustrating at times. I’ll even go as far as saying that it kind of turned me back on to the tank genre. Well at least the unrealistic kind anyway. I’d describe this game as the Mario Kart of tank sims. I really enjoyed the graphics and the gameplay mechanics which is basically all that matters in a game with no plot. Ultimately I’d say try the free version first and if you enjoy it, then perhaps buy the basic version. There’s no need to go for the premium version as you’ll find the challenge of unlocking everything more satisfying in the long run. I’m not gonna say it’s an essential purchase, but if you’re looking for a good multiplayer experience that is easy to jump into but will take a while to master then this might just be for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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