The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but if you have your way, it will be paved with the remains of your enemies. So it is in Army Corps of Hell, a hybrid strategy action game and launch title for the Vita. The game combines elements from both genres and places them smack dab in the middle of hell, while adding in a kickass metal soundtrack. As promising as the concept is, Army Corps of Hell falls woefully short in the gameplay department. Too often will you find yourself taking on the same groups of enemies and progressing through levels lacking in any real sense of variety. Army Corps of Hell is an infuriatingly missed opportunity, a great theme that is undercut by average gameplay.
The story behind Army Corps of Hell wouldn't be out of place on a DIO album cover. As the King of Hell, you are fighting to claim your rightful place as the leader of the underworld, fighting off legions of demonic enemies and huge bosses while pushing your way forward and asserting your place in hell.
The gameplay is a cross between Overlord and Pikmin, giving you command of a group of Goblins who fight for you. They are divided into three different types – Soldiers, Spearmen, and Magi. Soldiers are your basic workhorse fighters, you'll chuck them at your enemies and stack them up in order to pull off high-damage yielding Salvo attacks, while Spearmen are long-range, narrow attackers. The final class, Magi, require you to charge up their attacks, but are capable of hitting protected targets, like enemies that are covered in fire for example. You can also set your different unit types into formations, resulting in improved attack power, defense, and mobility depending in which unit type you're using.
As you play through the game's stages, you'll come across loot and drops from your enemies that you can use to alchemize new items and weapons. You'll unlock more alchemy items as you play, and upgrading your Goblins' weapons and armor will make them stronger and able to take more damage. Additionally, you can create new magical weapons for your Magi, enabling them to cast different spells against your enemies.
Some of the coolest moments in the gameplay result from the bosses that you'll face at the end of many stages throughout the campaign. You'll take on a variety of tough bosses, including giant dragons, horned demon beasts, and hydra-like worm monsters. The bosses are huge and make up some of the game's more exciting battles.
However, the biggest issue that Army Corps of Hell faces isn't giant evil bosses and dark forces trying to depose it from its throne; it's actually repetitive gameplay that is the game's worst enemy. The environments and enemies you face look pretty samey as you play, and the gameplay seldom branches from fighting off the same few enemy models. After each skirmish, you're whisked away down a bridge to another one; lather, rinse, repeat. As cool and engaging as the boss battles can be, the overall action is way too tedious.
Army Corps of Hell's aesthetic does little to help the situation of monotony. The characters and environments are pretty bright and colorful, but they lack detail. Additionally, the hellish landscape lacks much in the way of variation. You can only look at the same lava flows and craggy mountains before it all starts to run together. Whereas other Vita launch titles easily rival what is seen on consoles, Army Corps of Hell technically could've been accomplished on the PSP.
Faring much better is the game's soundtrack. The heavy metal score captures the mood of the game perfectly, with Death and Black Metal adding a fantastic level of atmosphere to the infernal setting. The music is far and away the best part of what Army Corps of Hell brings to the table. The sound effects themselves, on the other hand, can be pretty obnoxious due to your Goblin brood's high-pitched cackling and wailing. Fortunately, you do have the option of playing the game with the sound all the way down and the music all the way up.
Army Corps of Hell has a great premise, some intense boss fights, and a fantastic soundtrack. Unfortunately, the repetitious gameplay bogs the experience down, making this a trip to hell that you're not going to want to keep returning to.