Games review: For Honor is the best new fighting game of the year
For Honor (PS4) – they dance when e’er they’re able

Ubisoft’s new medieval brawler is already one of the best multiplayer games of the year, but what about the story campaign?

The interesting thing about reviewing For Honor now, after it’s been released, is that we already know it’s been a success. Admittedly number one in the UK at this time of year doesn’t mean an awful lot, but it beat the well-established Sniper Elite 4 and word of mouth is clearly very strong. Which means that once again it has fallen to Ubisoft to prove that making a success of a new IP is really not that hard. It needs proper build-up and marketing, which For Honor received, but as long as it’s a good game people won’t turn away just because it’s not a sequel.

Between all the alpha and betas, and the fact that the game has been out for a week, there’s a good chance you’ve already played For Honor in some fashion. But if you haven’t the concept – although essentially very simple – is pleasingly unusual. For Honor is a primarily multiplayer game designed in the same way as modern shooters, in terms of gaining experience and rank, and the structure of online play. The rather sizeable difference though, is that rather than shooting anyone you’re playing as a knight, a Viking, or a samurai.

Each faction has multiple different class types, but all use the same basic control system that, although easy to pick up, allows for an impressive amount of nuance in battle. In fact, this might just be the best new fighting game of the generation.

Although For Honor does have an (excellent) one-on-one mode there seems few other obvious similarities with a game like Street Fighter, or even SoulCalibur. Although there is one clear parallel with Capcom’s latest fighting game: neither of them has a decent single-player mode.

For Honor is not a stickler for historical accuracy and the game makes no pretence that any of the armies or characters are, or rather were, real. That immediately creates a problem when trying to come up with a plot for the story campaign, and the resulting nonsense about a fallen angel wanting to create a world of perpetual warfare is painful to sit through.

The campaign works as a relatively competent tutorial, but the artificial intelligence is awful and at roughly six hours it all goes on for far too long. Effort has clearly gone into it, with mini-game style sequences like horseback riding, but For Honor’s appeal lies solely with the multiplayer.

Rather than a traditional fighter the combat in For Honor most closely resembles Dark Souls, although the recent Nioh is even closer. The games have nothing else in common, but the slow, deliberate nature of their battles is very similar. A moment’s slip in concentration can cost you dear and when the action does flare up it requires lighting fast reflexes to survive.

For Honor (PS4) - Tom Cruise is looking well
For Honor (PS4) – Tom Cruise is looking well

The specifics of the controls are entirely For Honor’s own, and revolve around the ability to attack or block in one of three directions. The idea is to fake out your opponent, or break their guard, so that you attack them in a direction they’re not blocking. On a surface level that’s all there is to it, with success dependent on being able to read your opponent’s intentions and hide your own.

But beneath this are multiple layers of complications, including counters, parries, guard breaks, feints, and dodges. And yet all you need to know at first is that button-bashing is going to get you nowhere. Once you understand that everything else flows naturally.

Although it was already an issue in the beta, one of the main problems with the game now that it’s out in the wild is what to do when you’re set upon by a group of enemies. The one-on-one (or two-on-two) duels are great, and arguably the best part of the game, but the 4 vs. 4 modes are very different.

Dominion, for example, is similar to Battlefield’s Conquest, in that you have to hold three separate control points. But battling four opponents at once, plus their computer-controlled cannon fodder, ends up being a far less elegant affair compared to when it’s just the two of you.

The similar Elimination and Skirmish modes are barely any less chaotic, but that hardly feels like a complaint; no matter how frustrating it is being dogpiled by multiple players at once. Teamwork is paramount in the eight-player modes and failing to organise your own team is as big a mistake as missing a parry or forgetting to dodge.

Although there have been some problems with hosting, For Honor now seems to run acceptably well online. And so the main question becomes how much longevity the game has. Ubisoft has announced a series of free DLC expansions, in the manner of Rainbow Six, and considering how well they’ve nurtured that game For Honor seems to be in good hands.

Whether the Faction Wars meta game will help sustain interest over the long haul we don’t know, but the core combat is certainly entertaining enough to have you coming back for many months to come.

For Honor

In Short: One of the best new fighting games of the last several years, and all the more exciting because of its originality and accessibility.

Pros: The combat system is excellent, with plenty of depth and a wide range of highly varied class types. Plenty of multiplayer modes, including an excellent one-on-one mode.

Cons: The story campaign is predictably bad, leaving nothing of interest in terms of single-player. Larger battles can become too chaotic, and unwinnable without solid teamwork.

Score: 8/10

Formats: PlayStation 4 (reviewed), Xbox One, and PC
Price: £54.99
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 14th February 2017
Age Rating: 18

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