I’ll be honest, before stumbling across Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe randomly ahead of its release on the Playstation 4 I’d never even heard of it. I try to keep my eye out for 2D fighters, but somehow it went under the radar; don’t get me wrong, whilst I’m a fighting-button-masher at heart, I do like to check out different 2D fighters to not only play as their typically cool cast of characters but also explore the intricacies of their fighting mechanics too. Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe offers quality in both of those areas, but doesn’t do a whole lot to make itself stand out among the crowd of more established fighters readily available on consoles.
I think it’s worth mentioning to begin with that Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe is a pretty accessible game. As soon as I picked up the controller I was pulling off combos with ease, so it’s easy enough for just about anyone to pick up and play. Sure, it’ll take some practice before you can utilise the more complicated combat mechanics, but you should at least be able to complete the story mode on the standard difficulty whilst pulling off moves that look slick in the process. I know the majority of fighting game fans like to master each gameplay mechanic to perfection, but Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe offers enough for casual gamers to get on board with too.
Baring that in mind though, Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe doesn’t offer any form of tutorial where you can learn how each of the gameplay mechanics work. Modern fighting games have offered in-depth tutorials that make it easy for just about anyone to master each mechanic, but Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe forces you to get to grips on your own. There is a practice mode where you can toy around with characters and their move sets, but it doesn’t meet the heights of the tutorials offered by the likes of ‘Killer Instinct’ or ‘Street Fighter V’. It isn’t a deal-breaker, but its omission is a bit of a shame when the bar has been set so high by more modern fighting games.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe features a rich cast of characters, with sixteen to play as in total. Despite knowing nothing about any of the characters before hand, I really loved the diverse selection on offer. Whilst you do have your typical fighting game heroes like Hikaru, Vein, and Rui who don’t really offer anything you haven’t seen before, there are also more eccentric choices like the cross-dressing Catherine (who isn’t afraid of a costume change mid-combo), the futuristic armour-clad Kagari, and even chef Bravo who somehow utilises cooking utensils in his fighting style. Each character not only has their own distinct personality and look, but each feels unique to control too with a great variety of fighting styles on offer – you’ll never feel like any of the characters are a re-skin of another, with each having their own varied move set that will suit different kinds of players. Whilst there are a few clichés to be found, for the most part Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe features a memorable cast who I’d enjoy playing as again in future releases in the series.
On a visual basis, Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe looks like your typical 2D fighter with some well designed sprites and vibrant environments. I did find that some of the character animations weren’t as fluid as I’ve seen in other releases though; some characters moves seemed to be missing frames of animation, or simply weren’t accounted for at all. Now it’s not always the case nor is it glaringly obvious, but there were some oddities that I’d notice mid-combat. Did it bother me? Not really, but I expected a bit more from a fairly modern fighter that first appeared in 2011.
Thankfully other areas of the game’s visual design are well presented with a great deal of variety on offer with each character’s appearance. I’m used to fighting games offering a wide variety of colours for each character, but Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe goes one further by actually allowing you to customise the colour of individual areas of a character’s body to have them look exactly how you’d like them to. These little touches go a long way towards giving gamers a more personalised experience, so it’s something I could really appreciate.
The fighting mechanics of Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe are solid, offering traditional 2D fighting controls mixed up with a few additional extras to spice it up. Attack functions are assigned to the face buttons of your controller, with punches and kicks available in both weak and strong styles. There are also plenty of different special attacks for fighters to use, each one typically requiring the flick of a stick along with a quick press of a button. Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe has each character’s move set appear on the side of the screen too (it features a 4:3 screen ratio so it doesn’t get in the way), so the command list is always readily available to check out – it’s something I really, REALLY liked.
There’s also the Chaos Gauge, a special meter that fills up as you dish out damage to your opponent. Using the Chaos Gauge offers a variety of different moves, such as enhancing your special attacks to deal more damage at the expense of half of a Chaos Gauge meter. Alternatively you can use more powerful attacks such as ‘Ultimate Chaos’ which uses a whole Chaos Gauge meter, or the more fierce ‘Destruction Chaos’ that requires three Chaos Gauge meters but unleashes a hell of a lot of pain on your opponent.
Whilst these are similar mechanics to those you would’ve seen in plenty of other fighters, they offer enough to provide an enjoyable experience to both fighting game veterans as well as newbies to the genre. There are more complicated mechanics such as ‘Chaos Shifts’ and ‘Chaos Cancels’ for more hardcore players to figure out, but I had a lot of fun just sticking with what I knew – I think other players will too. That being said, there’s nothing about combat that really makes it stick out. It’s tried and tested stuff and whilst it certainly does enough to offer fun for the player, it doesn’t do much to make the game really stand out.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe does offer something unique though, by allowing the player to choose additional moves at the start of each battle. Whilst they don’t necessarily make a huge difference, it has the potential to add an extra dimension to a character that typically might not be there. It could allow you to orchestrate more complicated combos, or it might just give you a surprise attack your opponent might not expect – it’s just another nice touch that allows you to personalise the game to best suit each player.
There are a decent amount of game modes to play through, with the traditional ‘Arcade Mode’ offering a story for each character. Whilst these stories don’t go into a lot of depth throughout the main game, they do all culminate in endings that offer a deeper insight into the character or perhaps just offer a bit of comedy at the character’s expense. There are multiple difficulty settings on offer so you can fine-tune the ‘Arcade Mode’ to cater for your abilities as you improve at the game, or alternatively you can use it as a training ground on the lower difficulties to figure out the ins and outs of each character’s move set.
There’s also the ‘Score Attack’ mode where you’re tasked with amassing as high a score as possible, as well as ‘Survival Mode’ where you face off against countless opponents with just the one health bar to survive off. There are also ‘Missions’ to complete, offering you over fifty different challenges to take on – there’s certainly enough to keep you playing the game for a long time.
Of course, there’s also offline and online multiplayer options for you to take on both your friends locally and players all over the world. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really get a chance to explore the online modes that much – not through lack of trying, but through the lack of an online community. I did get into a few fights and the online functions seemed competent enough, but I haven’t found matches readily available every time I’ve attempted to play. That may well change now the game has been out for a few days though, but it’s something worth taking into consideration if you’re thinking about purchasing the game for the competitive element.
Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe has a lot to offer fighting fans of all skill calibers thanks to its accessible gameplay, whilst the colourful cast of characters are both memorable and entertaining to play as. However, there’s nothing on offer you wouldn’t have seen before. Don’t expect a myriad of complicated combat mechanics that feel fresh, but rather a tried and tested formula of fighting that doesn’t do anything outside of the norm.
That doesn’t mean the game’s bad though, but rather that it’s easily unnoticeable; it’s a shame too, because Chaos Code: New Sign of Catastrophe really offers hours of entertaining fighting fun. If you want a quick, slick fighter to play through, it’s definitely worth checking out – just don’t expect something as invigorating as the likes of ‘Killer Instinct’ or ‘Street Fighter V’.
Developer: FK Digital
Publisher: Arc System Works
Release Date: 16/03/2017
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), PC