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June 2019

Megaton Rainfall

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Developer: Pentadimensional Games
Release Date: Aug. 9, 2018


PC Review - 'Megaton Rainfall'

by Cody Medellin on Feb. 22, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Megaton Rainfall is a first-person superhero game where the playground is an entire real-sized Earth, featuring procedurally generated cities and terrain that you have to protect from an alien invasion.

To some, Superman is the ideal superhero: nearly invincible (except for Kryptonite and magic), powerful in almost every way, and a righteous person. However, he's been a difficult hero to translate into the video game realm. Some titles, like The Death and Return of Superman, work fine even if they fail to capture some basics, like flying. Others, like the infamous Superman 64, are train wrecks. Developed by one person, Megaton Rainfall aims to be a Superman game without the licensing to back it up. Unfortunately, the game falls in line with other Superman titles that players have seen since the genesis of the medium.

The game casts you as a being with no name, but the one who gave you life refers to you as his offspring. A former human, you have been given the power of flight and the power to fire energy balls. You're also invincible, which makes you a perfect weapon against mysterious alien forces that have come to threaten Earth.

While the premise seems to be standard stuff for a superhero tale, it still plays out in very curious ways. Almost all of your non-gameplay interactions involve you listening to your creator ramble on about the invaders, your powers, and your purpose. It can be pretty heady or pretentious, depending on your perspective, but it's nice to see a game try to do something a little different in an area that's usually ignored in games like this.

For the most part, the game flows on a familiar and repeatable cadence. After speaking with your creator, you fly to a destination on Earth that is being attacked by the invaders. Once you reach the area, you use your powers to destroy the invading forces, which have red spots on their bodies to indicate their weak spots. Some missions mix this up by having you throw away destructive items instead. Once you destroy the enemy forces, you grab on to their energy core and return to your creator to receive more story exposition and a new power before flying to another location and repeating the process.

At the very least, your powers and the various enemies make the idea of being a superhero an intriguing one. You'll uncover the ability to freeze time, unleash a focused laser blast, or burrow through the earth. By getting a new power in each stage, you're ensured that the game feels different despite the lack of variety in most missions. The enemies look cool or even a bit silly. For example, the mechanical worms twist and turn constantly while they burrow through buildings, and there's a different kind of ship that looks like a hammer and rears back and crashes into buildings to topple them over.

Aside from playing as a nameless superhero, there are two additional hooks to the game. Since you're essentially invincible, you never have to worry about dodging enemy fire or being harmed. Instead, you have to monitor the health of the city. Attacks are aimed at the city and its civilians, so the city's health decreases as it sustains damage. This also applies to your attacks, as errant shots will also lower the city's health. Thus, it is entirely possible for you to harm the city if you go around shooting all the time with no regard about where your shots will land.

Your views on this mechanic, last seen in the likes of the Superman Returns video game about a decade ago, will vary. On the one hand, it does a good job of adding consequences to typical superhero actions. Few games, if any, bother to have the hero show restraint, so even though you could destroy entire towns on your own, those games are fine with civilian casualties so long as the enemy is destroyed. Here, recklessness is frowned upon since a real hero would do his/her best to ensure that no innocent people get hurt. It pushes the argument of having the hero be more ethically sound, and that's refreshing.

On the other hand, this game does you no favors if you're trying to be careful with your shots. Even with more powerful abilities, your shots travel at a fairly slow pace, and enemies are often zippy. Unless you're close to them when firing, there's a good chance your shots will hit buildings instead. That result is amplified by the fact that the controls are rather floaty, so getting a bead on the enemy is tricky, especially without any form of lock-on. As expected, things are better if you stick with the trusted keyboard/mouse setup, but for those who are used to the joypads or want a more couch-oriented experience, the fights can be frustrating at times.

Unlike almost every other superhero title, Megaton Rainfall is played from a first-person perspective. Interestingly, your hands and feet are rendered as blue transparent energy, so all you have to go by is an on-screen aiming reticle. Combined with your constant flying, this becomes something like a flight simulator, albeit with the ability to stop and start in mid-air. That also means that the sense of speed during flight is fast, so players can get an incredible rush just from bouncing between locations.

Players have to enjoy the flight sequences since there isn't much to do during those times. On Earth, the game doesn't give you any of the expected open-world things, like finding collectibles or providing side-quests, so there's no incentive to deviate from the main story missions. The world also seems to be rather lifeless. Despite hearing the screams of the people as structures get pulverized, cars fail to move, and there's no hint of people trying to scurry to safety. Once you make it to the outer universe, you'll hunt down more energy, but you'll do so with no one else trying to bother you. You can kind of spin this as being able to experience the loneliness, but that only works if you're expecting superhero stories to be deeply dramatic works.

The emphasis on flight doesn't explain why the PC version lacks one of the PS4's big draws: VR support. On that platform, the long flight times make sense, since it means more time to experience the sensation of flying before you have to fight enemies. It also makes the time spent in the universe more memorable because you have full control of what you see as you zoom past it. On the PC, that option is missing, so you can still enjoy flying, but the task can feel tedious.

As far as audio goes, the game is quirky. Beyond the screams of people as they get blown up, the only voice you'll hear is that of your creator. His voice has the right amount of gravitas while also making you feel uneasy. The soundtrack is interesting since it goes for different electronic styles. Some are calm and meditative, while others are more action-oriented, but nothing goes into pure dance territory. It seems like a curious choice for the genre, but it works well, especially when the vocals begin to sync up with certain moments in each mission.

Initially, the graphics are awe-inspiring, especially the flights in space. Zooming across the planet and re-entering the atmosphere looks quite stunning. The illusion falls apart when you notice the amount of pop-in for numerous things, including buildings, cars and clouds. Despite the procedural generation of the cities, they all tend to look the same. Destroying buildings or enemies never gets old, as they explode into thousands of tiny pieces. The slow motion used for their destruction can last too long, but the effect is still wonderful since it doesn't bog down the game's performance.

Megaton Rainfall is a game at odds with itself. It seems like it was built to be a VR title about being a superhero, but it lacks the hardware support on the PC to make that a reality. It tries to make you a more responsible superhero when it comes to protecting innocent lives, but the controls and lack of a good targeting system make it difficult to follow through. The game provides an open universe to explore but very few things to actually check out. In the end, Megaton Rainfall is a curiosity, and although it isn't a must-have title, it could be worth a look if the price is right.

Score: 6.0/10

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