Chromehounds (クロムハウンズ Kuromuhaunzu?) is a video game for the Xbox 360 by FromSoftware. The game is set in an alternate universe where mechanised HOUNDs (a kind of mech) battle for control of Neroimus, a fictional region somewhere near Black Sea (according to the Japanese website). The game features a system for personalized customization of the player's mech and an online campaign mode where players wage war in a persistent world over Xbox Live. However, the online servers were shut down by Sega on January 6, 2010, completely disabling any possible online play.
The single player story starts before the Neroimus war. The player takes the part of an unnamed mercenary from Rafzekael who, over the course of six missions, becomes familiar with the various HOUND archetypes. The main premise of the story is that the constant skirmishing between nations has caused the Kingdom of Sal Kar to feel threatened. Claiming its borders are at stake, the Kingdom builds a forward base in the Tajin region, on the shared border of all three nations. The neighbouring nations of Morskoj and Tarakia violently oppose this construction, and conflict ensues.
It offers opportunities for strategic thinking, as there are sometime multiple objectives for each mission. Both the single player and online game modes occupy a specific point in the game's timeline: the Single Player "Offline" story mode chronicles events just prior to the outbreak of the Neroimus War, while the Xbox Live "Online" mode takes place during the actual war.
There are six different mech classes known Role Types (RT for short) to choose from in Chromehounds. Each class of mech has seven different missions in the single-player campaign mode. Several types of other mechs and vehicles can be found including real world vehicles most notably; M1A1 Abrams, Leopard 1A5, T-72B1 and Merkava Mk.I main battle tanks.
Chromehounds features a garage mode where the player can customize HOUNDS. While the garages in each mode are functionally identical, HOUNDS constructed in single player are limited to the parts won in single player missions.
New parts for HOUNDs can be unlocked by completing single-player missions, purchased in in-game shops and some parts are available for free/pay download on Xbox Live Marketplace. Special parts can also be bid on in the Lottery. These include experimental parts developed by the player's own country, but have been discontinued by all three nations, and captured parts won in battle. Every day winners are chosen randomly and the bidding begins again. The selection of captured parts changes every day, and occasionally old experimental parts are moved to the normal shop and new ones are placed in the lottery to replace them. Bids are limited on a squad basis and higher ranked squads are allowed to place more bids (all experimental parts are now able to be purchased in the in-game shops, in their respective countries).
The Neroimus War was an online campaign mode which involves the three countries fighting for the region of Neroimus. Players can join or make a squad, the equivalent of a clan or guild in other online games, to participate. The map of Neroimus is divided into several areas connected by paths. Each area is divided into several maps. Players may launch a mission within any enemy area adjacent to a friendly area, or in any friendly area which is under attack. Victory yields merit points, which raise your rank, captured parts for the lottery, and capture points. When a country has gained a certain amount capture points on a map, 25,000 to 32,000 for normal battlegrounds and 50,000 for capital cities, that map is turned over to the country. An area belongs to the country which has the most capture points in its maps. When a capital city falls, all areas under that country become part of the conquering country, and players may only fight to reclaim their capital, or seek asylum in another country. The War ends when one country controls the entire map or after two months have passed. After a war ends, squads may choose to change alliance to a different country, and then the next War begins. It should be noted that all of the experimental parts have become available, now only captured parts are available.
On August 7, 2009, Sega announced that the online servers would be shut down on January 6, 2010. From that point on, players were only able to access the offline mode.
The game received "average" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic. Most gaming critics complimented the game's online play and customization options, but criticized it for having a poor story, average graphics, and slow-paced gameplay. In Japan, Famitsu gave it a score of 33 out of 40, while Famitsu X360 gave it a score of one nine, two eights, and one seven for a total of 32 out of 40.
Maxim gave it a score of four stars out of five, saying, "Not unlike when you used to select frilly ensembles for your little sister's Barbie collection (when no one was looking), Chromehounds lets you play big, bad burly man." Detroit Free Press gave it three stars out of four and said that it "will suck you into its wartime world if you let it. And once you've adjusted to the game's quirks and interface, you'll find it very enjoyable." However, USA Today gave it a score of six-and-a-half stars out of ten, calling it "a war worth avoiding. Online play is enjoyable, and the details on the mechs are superb. But much like these giant metal 'soldiers,' the game lacks life." The Sydney Morning Herald gave it two-and-a-half stars out of five and said that it "offers a smattering of explosive action" as long as players "don't fall asleep at the wheel".
There are currently grassroots movements to get a sequel made to the series with online petitions on Facebook for Chromehounds 2: Battle for Tarakia. Chromehounds has a loyal and devoted fanbase, who believe the game to be ahead of its time. Fan criticism of the reviewers believe that they underrated the game, and that Chromehounds was far ahead of its time. One of the major differences of the game versus other mech titles such as Armored Core and First Person shooters, was that the game took an approach more akin to real simulation. Chromehounds became the embodiment of fans who value customization, strategy, and more thought out gameplay than a typical run and gun shooter.
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