I have been waiting a long time for this game; Samurai, Vikings and Knights going at in a brutal bloodbath is something that dreams are made of. The hours I have sweated into For Honor over the weekend have in no way been wasted, instead they’ve given me minute after minute of cut-throat swordplay, tense-as-hell last minute comebacks and a strong sense of childhood nostalgia (if you don’t count all the beheading). The beta isn’t without its flaws – but it’s a beta, that’s to be expected and it’s allowed. To cut my first impressions short, it’s been the best beta I’ve ever had the honour of playing – and I can’t wait for the full release.
That’ll be the only pun, I promise.
You start off where even the best warriors need to begin, a generic video game tutorial. It threw me in front of some nameless AI’s and taught me the basics of the unique and genius combat system. It’s here that I first got to see the lock on camera – on first look, it gave me horrid flashbacks to the tragedy that was The Order, with that bloody pretentious letterbox, cinematic camera scope. Fortunately though, For Honor grants the use of this look and it really adds to the overall presentation. It never gets old locking on to an enemy hero and having the letterbox effect instantly appear – helping to focus in on your fellow fighter, creating a sense of brutal intimacy between you both, which blocks out the unnecessary blur happening elsewhere.
This is when the game begins to really set itself apart from the rest. While other fighters may require you to tap a few combos – For Honor forces you to put your problem solving to the test. Should you guard to your left? Is your opponent going to hit you overhead? Do you have time to dodge right and look for an opening? Every fight is a beautifully complex mini game of reflex and tactics – and I love it.
The game modes available to play in the beta were ‘duel and brawls’, which consisted of 1v1 matches and 2v2 matches. ‘Deathmatch’, which are 4v4 matches in best out of 5 matches. Then you had Dominion – this again pitted two teams of 4 against each other. However, this time you have three points on the map to capture (when captured you can use it as a base to recover some health). On top of this, both teams have an army of one hit kill soldiers who battle in the middle of the map throughout the entirety of the game. This not only helps to create the atmosphere and aesthetic of a full-blown war, but extra points for your team (and health and stamina as certain classes) gives you an incentive to slice through the helpless horde. It’s also undeniably satisfying to feel like an unstoppable god of war.
The moments that really stick out for me are when I was put up against a fellow opponent who had obviously sweated it all weekend as well – the fights could last real minutes, a real grueling dance of blocks, parries and movie like sequences. I would describe For Honor as the Battlefield of fighting games. It’s like it was made for those incredible moments that you and your friends will speak about for weeks after – a game that can create amazing gaming memories without having to do anything but give you the tools and the playground to create them in.
I think the best way to explain my point further is to explain some of the incredible moments that have stuck with me.
Imagine this – me and my friend in a two on two battle. He’s a huge samurai, I’m a double wielding, small and nimble knight. We’re pitted against two vikings who want nothing but to see us die.
The battle is well underway, when I see that my friend has fallen dead. I hadn’t played much as this class – so I was certain that the match had been lost. The viking who had fought my friend is pretty much on top of just as I land the killing blow on the one I was already dealing with. The hit from the second Viking left my health with an inch left, he’s still got pretty much all of it.
I don’t know how I did it – but I somehow managed keep his huge axe away from my face as I brought him over to a nearby river.
With my heels pretty much in the river, the Viking swings his axe at me, I feign left so we switch places. I stun him and do this incredible backflip, sending him into the water.
We managed to win, it was clutch.
It was moments like that one that kept me coming back to the beta hour after hour – if you can call it a beta. If I’m honest – it really doesn’t feel like I should be calling it a beta. The actual release is only a few weeks away, it’s more like a demo.
There were no real performance issues on my PS4 – it was only the frame rate that fluctuated from time to time and never made it up to 60fps. This was my biggest disappointment with the experience and I know it might be far too naïve to think that on full release it will be playing at a smooth, consistent 60fps, but we can dream can’t we?
I had an amazing time with the For Honor beta. I urge everyone to go out and buy this game when it releases – it’ll be the best decision you make in February, I am sure of it. I’m already missing the nail-biting adrenaline rush of having an inch of health left and having to block and parry for dear life. It’s also such a delight to know that I haven’t seen everything the game has to offer, as the promise of a full pledged story mode will be included on release.