GUNDAM EVOLUTION’s reveal was a nice surprise. It was one thing to hear about not just one but two Gundam games coming to Xbox, but a free-to-play shooter featuring units from across the franchise sounded pretty wicked to me. And I am always going to welcome a games-as-a-service shooter that isn’t focused on battle royale as a core mode like so many on the Top Grossing and Top Paid sections of the Xbox Store. Now this isn’t Bandai Namco’s first attempt at free-to-play on console (see Blessed Unleashed), but this would be one of the first in-house attempts and on Xbox no less, so how future development goes remains to be seen.
GUNDAM EVOLUTION is a 6 VS 6 hero-based first-person shooter. If you want a point of reference, you can think of games like Paladins or Overwatch. Players pick a Gundam unit, one per person but switching mid-match is OK, and complete the map objective. For this beta, the only mode available was a search and destroy-styled mode where attacking players would fight their way to set charges on two points of the map and defending players made sure that plan wouldn’t see the light of day. Gundam units all have unique abilities that play well to their animated counterparts, and switching units to cover for your team’s faults is always a good idea.
I’ve already played this game on PC, so coming to this beta on a controller was a bit weird. I was quick to adapt though, and I was pleased to see controller rebinding options available as well as crosshair editing. Controlling the actual Gundam units feels solid, and the shooting does the job—I word it like that because, for giant robots, attacks sort of lack the oomph I’d expect from giant guns and big swords. I chalk that up to somewhat weak visuals and sound design, but they aren’t deal breakers and don’t get in the way of the game’s mechanics. Level design is also solid, but with a few more dead ends than I’d like.
For most of my Xbox playtime, I mained Sazabi, a unit capable of pulling itself to allies and to foes with a throwable knife that acts both as an anchor and a way to stun baddies. It was really fun being able to zoom to enemies and dispatching them quickly as well as being able to pull myself to allies and save them from being torn to shreds when defending the objective point. I did try out a few of the other units, and thankfully with the newly added practice arena I was able to get more comfortable with the other playable mechs. The tutorial does the job of covering the very basics, but as each Gundam vary so much, it’s nice to have a place to muck about and find your bearings.
As a free-to-play game, you can expect loot boxes to present. They’ll drop cosmetics that can be equipped to your player profile and specific Gundam, which I’m not too big of a fan of. There will also likely be units that have to be purchased with earnable in-game currency before players get access too, which I’m also not too big on. I think as a game where the Gundam are the heroes of the show and seeing how loot boxes will drop skins for units you may not even have access to, it’s best to give players full access to all the heroes out of the gate. Still, so long as the locked units don’t take much time to unlock in the final game, this won’t be a problem.
My time with GUNDAM EVOLUTION was well-spent. I enjoyed the gameplay and I think, as long as more playable modes and maps are released on a timely basis, this game has a shot at staying on Xbox’s Top Played consistently. I do hope we’ll see casual matchmaking as I couldn’t care less about ranked play, and I do hope that role queueing never becomes a thing. The players I played with were all cool people (naturally, only cool people like Gundam), so I hope that same energy carries into the final release.
Oh, and Bandai? Please don’t forget to implement cross-play.