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Style, Sports, Shooting And eSper?
Combining the likes of the J-pop sub-culture, virtual reality deathmatching and over-the-top gun mechanics, PentaVision's S4 League is almost a sensory-overload experience for MMO gamers. The colors, the weapons, the characters, the clothes…everything is made to be superfluously stylish if not to the point of nearly being absurd.
Nevertheless, the game has some saving grace qualities in the form of decent gameplay modes and a community-based effort for ensuring that all players come out of each session with some form of experience or credits.
The game is called “S4” because it’s about: style, eSper (for the special abilities), shooting (a no brainer) and sports (because of the team sporting event on the game. The name doesn’t make a whole of sense but the game is generally fun to play on occasion.
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After choosing a male or female and some newbie starting clothes, players are thrust into a tutorial to help them learn how to play. The control mechanics are quite similar to third-person games like Gunz: The Duel or BattleSwarm. The mouse aims and turns the character, while ‘W’,’A’,’S’,’D’ strafes; it's the typical third-person controls. Players primarily duel one another in several modes, including standard deathmatch, touchdown (like football where a team scores by putting the Fumbi ball in their opponent's goal post), and chaser ( a mode that consists of each player taking turns as the “Chaser” and must get as much score as possible, it’s equivalent to Halo’s “Juggernaut”).
Each mode is fun in its own way but nothing particularly groundbreaking. Chaser is probably the most original mode on the game and is a good way to help players use a little teamwork and strategy for staying alive. Being that the game is an MMO, the actual gameplay is affected moderately by special skills and upgradeable stats but not quite as much as player skill.
For the most part the action is solid and players with twitchy-fingers and a good eye for keeping the reticule locked on an enemy will fare well within the game. It requires the typical third-person-shooting skill and relies very little on the actual level of a character to differentiate player efficiency. It's actually possible to get really high in level but still get owned pretty hard by a sharp-shooting newbie.
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What’s a game about guns if the gunplay isn’t good? Well, I can safely say that the gunplay in S4 League is nearly as stylish as the garb and the gun designs. First off, I should mention that the gun designs are extremely stylish, it's not like typical third-person MMOs with standard military themes. The chainguns, rifles and shotguns don’t even resemble what most gamers may be used to. That’s definitely a good thing because the characters use each weapon with dynamic animations complete with custom reloading and firing to fit in the with the game’s excessive aesthetic.
During the actual game each gun behaves differently, offering players a diverse and yet satisfying result according to the player’s gaming style. Revolvers pack a huge punch but at a limited distance, which is almost the same with shotguns but with less reload time. Pistols and sub-machine guns offer a lot of distance but with limited damage, while heavy machine guns are excellent for crowded areas but are weak for long-range attacks. Baseball bats, blades and counter-swords round out the melee weapons and they help to balance out the guns.
There is even an odd assortment of miscellaneous weapons including a mind-shock weapon, which I don’t know how to describe other than that it can electrocute players, even through walls. There is a healing device to help other players, sentry guns to shoot at enemies and even plasma and rail guns that work as sniping weapons.
Each weapon is truly unique and extremely fun in its own way. With that said I have to admit that PentaVision has done a good job making odd looking iterations of classic guns behave and operate in a functional way that keeps the game fun.
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Graphics And Sound
As I mentioned in the intro paragraph, S4 League is almost sensory-overload incarnate. After about an hour of play the game will throw up a message and suggest that players take a break, and I can seriously see why. This is not to put down the game, but S4 has a color palette rivaled only by Sega’s Jet Set Radio Future and possibly gPotato's Street Gears. However, Jet Set’s gameplay was paced insofar that player’s weren’t constantly engaged in battle or always activating special attacks, etc. S4 League is non-stop special attacks, non-stop shooting, non-stop wall hopping and a non-stop workout on your senses.
It’s an insanely fast-paced experience that is a real spectacle to watch (and participate in) but can leave your eyes and ears feeling like they’ve been put through a techno-colored wash machine of a Japanese music video full of incessant shooting. Yeah, it’s one of those kinds of games.
The character and stage designs are quite nice, though. The weapons and clothing, in particular, have an over-the-top anime look to them. It’s like someone thought being “stylish” meant going way over the top and then some. I can't complain that it doesn't work for this game, though.
Moreover, I should simply warn gamers that the graphics are quite nice and very vibrant, although they will wear your eyes out. It’s also to warn gamers that the music and sound effects (complete with arcade-style color commentary) is just as upbeat as the on-screen action -- with plenty of kicking bass and electric guitars -- but will also leave your ears throbbing if you play too long. If PentaVision was gunning for an overdone, futuristic grungy feel, they certainly nailed it with S4 League’s aesthetics.
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By now you should have some idea of what this game is like giving the descriptions of the gameplay, visuals and audio. However, I might note that there are a few hidden gems within the actual concept of S4 League’s MMO execution that make it a standout among the rest of the herd. The Fumbi shop dance is one nice addition to the game that allows players to spend a little cash to receive a random item and attribute, some of which are really high level and definitely worth owning.
Another neat concept in S4 League that other games rarely utilize is limited item acquirement. While most games let players purchase items and keep them for good using in-game cash or cash shop credits, S4’s items can only be used for up to 30 real life days. The timer for the items only becomes active while players actually use the items in the game. However, since most of the items aren’t level-based with specific attributes, players of low or high rank can acquire any number of the game’s items by completing license tests, which is a fun way to get acquainted with weapons and skills.
Players are also awarded rare limited items by completing missions (which usually includes performing specific tasks ‘X’ amount times in a specific game mode) and it helps differentiate a player’s look from the next character over.
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S4 League suffers mainly from stage designs that are a bit too small and lacking player-vs-environment modes. Maybe they'll add a few new (larger) stages to the game in a future update. Nevertheless, the concept for item acquirement through the dancing Fumbi and the original visual and audio aesthetics make it real standout in the overcrowded MMORPG universe. Solid gunplay and a good selection of diverse clothing and weapon options also ensure limited clone-encounters. And we all know that encountering far and few clones always makes the game that much more fun.
While S4 League is mainly for hardcore gamers due to its requirement for constant attention and quick finger-work, it’s definitely something any gamer should try out if the tired and worn-out military MMOFPS genre has players in search of something fresh and new. You can check out S4 League by paying a visit to the Official Website.
Looking for more MMO action games to play? Be sure to stop by the Bright Hub MMOFPS Game Directory for a complete listing.