Jump Force Beta Impressions
Played on PlayStation 4
This past weekend a select number of players got to participate in a closed beta for the upcoming anime crossover fighter, Jump Force. Bandai Namco was kind enough to send us a code to enter the beta and try the game out. The beta had 15 characters and 4 stages available, so some already revealed characters were absent, most notably the King of Games, Yugi Muto. But the game doesn’t officially release until February 2019 so I imagine we will see another beta before the game’s full release. For a full description of the game’s mechanics check out our preview of the game from E3 here.
The whole purpose of the beta was to test the online stability of the game, and overall it is fantastic. Due to some internet problems, I had to use my mobile hotspot, and my matches all still ran super smooth. A few matches had long load times in the beginning, especially if you skipped the intro dialogue, and stuttering when the action became extremely chaotic with lots of particle effects filling the screen.
At the start players pick one of six pre-made avatars to travel the central lobby. Only one avatar looked good, but it didn’t matter since you will only see the OC in the lobby, unless you decided to play with them for some weird reason… More customization options will definitely be available when the game fully releases, so it should be fun to make original OCs (do not steal) once more options are available.
Once players reach the central lobby you can only head to one area to initiate matches with the CPU or against real opponents online. While the lobby area was empty, aside from some cast members loitering about to exchange dialogue with, there will surely be more to do in the area once the game officially drops. While waiting for matches you can choose to practice against a dummy CPU opponent until the matchmaking kicks in, which took only a few seconds considering how many people were in the beta, but this is definitely a good feature to have down the line.
The combat in the game is simple to execute and very flashy, true to each character’s source material. Every character seemed strong, but it was clear Ichigo had a leg up over his competition. It remains to be seen if Ichigo will be as dominant as he was once the full cast is available, but for now he is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast.
A few things became clear after some extended time, however. The game is not meant to be competitive, and offense is definitely favored over defense. At first glance it appears defensive options are severely limited, but after about 10 matches the defensive options available became far more accessible. There is no tutorial mode however, and it would have been greatly appreciated, as many things were not explained up front and had to be looked up online later. For example, the circular meter on the bottom corner of the screen determines how often you can execute defensive maneuvers like escapes. When being hit or blocking you can press L1 to dash out of the opponent’s attack. Your opponent can still follow up with a chase attack by pressing L1 though so there is a nice rock/paper/scissors system for attacking and defending.
One of the more advanced defensive options was the counter-attack. When being attacked you can press R1 to initiate a high-speed counter (similar to substitutions in the Naruto Ninja Storm series of games) and can follow up those attacks by pressing square multiple times. The opponent can counter your counter by pressing R1 but the timing is INCREDIBLY strict. For a game that is meant to be accessible to a more casual crowd, one of the main defensive tactics shouldn’t have Street Fighter III Third Strike parrying levels of timing. Loosening it up just a little bit would help the back and forth of combat out a lot in the long run.
On the offensive side, it is very easy to do extremely damaging combos without complicated inputs. The main team I was using for the beta was Ichigo, Yusuke, and Zoro. An extremely effective combo I was using consisted of Ichigo performing his ground attacks, his Square special (which had an automatic launcher, something not a lot of specials seemed to have, which made it very effective), Ichigo’s air attacks, tag in Yusuke, have him perform his series of air attacks, slam the opponent to the ground, and finish it off with a Spirit Gun. That combo consisted of literally three buttons and did almost half a life bar of damage. In addition, most attacks function as off the ground attacks (OTGs) so it is always easy to follow up a combo with a special attack at the end. Every character feels very powerful, as it should be considering the cast involved. All the playable characters are the main heroes or villains of their respective series and it feels that way.
One thing that felt off was the tag button. To have your character perform an assist attack you had to hold down the L2 button, and to switch characters entirely you just have to tap the button. This is definitely backwards. Switching your character is a far more commital action than just doing an assist and the button press should reflect that. Anyone used to the Versus series of games like myself may struggle with that function at first, and I sincerely hope it is something that can be changed before release. Another thing to note was that not all Ultimate attacks are invincible on startup. This means that some Ultimate attacks can be stopped with a simple punch. Just something to consider when choosing your characters.
The camera can get wonky at times and lose track of the action on screen when characters are dashing long distances or using moves that alter the camera angle, which is something that can also hopefully be fixed by release. One thing that I am almost positive is just a beta issue that will be fixed by release is that there are no alternate costumes available. If both players pick the same character, there is no way to tell them apart
The graphics overall look great and mix the cartoony look of each character and the realism of the Unreal engine very well, save for a few instances where it looked like more polish was needed. The game isn’t out for another four months though so there is time to fix this as well. I did love the new Hong Kong stage though, it looked great.
If I could suggest one thing, it is that some form of team up attacks be included. Considering the diverse and popular cast of the game, it is almost criminal that they aren’t allowed to interact more directly during combat. Even their intro dialogue isn’t specific to each character and is generic pre-battle banter. Considering Bandai Namco’s other titles like Dragon Ball FighterZ, which has a HUGE amount of character interaction, it would be a shame if this massive crossover game had none of that.
Despite the issues I had, the two hours I spent with Jump Force were EXTREMELY fun and only made me want to play the full game with the full cast available even more than I did before. With four months still to go, there are sure to be plenty more character reveals coming up *cough*JOJO*cough* and hopefully another beta as well, perhaps open this time.
Jump Force was a lot of fun with great online functionality, and what few hiccups did occur didn’t come close to ruining the good time I had overall. Jump Force releases February 2019.
Access to the beta was provided by the publisher.