S4 League Review - Does this Shooter Still Have Style?
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot), OnRPG journalist
Back in 2008, Alaplaya graced Europe territories with a futuristic third person shooter that featured stylish team based gameplay and an even more stylish cyber world atmosphere, and it was called S4 League. Created by Pentavision, this third person shooter title was teeming with moderately fast action, style, twists on classic gameplay modes, style, ridiculous fashion and even more style. S4 has seen a lot of changes since its debut and now in 2010, Alaplaya opened its doors for US players to jump in.
But with more shooters titles appearing on the MMO market, is S4 League still in style, or out?
Starting out (with style)
Creating your first character in S4 League will sadly be devoid of any style as there are very slim pickings available for character's top, bottoms, hairstyle, etc.
S4 League's tutorial explains the basics of gameplay simple enough and will only take you around five to ten minutes to get through. It explains movement, some weapon usage and how some gameplay modes work out.
Afterwards, you'll be given a vibrant new sub machine gun, semi-rifle and plasma sword to get you started.
S4 is oozing with style from its visuals to its music. The game world of S4 is completely artificial. The arena environments you play on are all digitally rendered and destroying enemies in battle will make bits of binary data flow from their bodies. Basically, the world of S4 is one giant virtual arena, sort of like the arena thing that TRON had going for it but with tons more style thrown in.
All the characters designs in S4 will make your character look like some kind of assassin's guild reject from No More Heroes. The outfits are generally covered with enough belts and zippers that they would make a J-RPG fan squeal. Still, there are plenty of outfits to choose from and you'll most likely find a look that suits your style.
The creators of S4 are also the same fellows behind the DJMax series, and they've manage to pour a whole lot of its flavor into S4. The music filled with tons of techno, hip-hop and electronica, most of which were pulled directly from recent DJMax games (Fun Fact: "SuperSonic" that plays on Neden-1 was pulled from DJMax Portable Black Square OS.) S4's stylish music either relaxes you or hypes you up for battle, and it's all accompanied by the most outrageous battle announcer ever that will make even the tiniest moments exciting. Seriously: I'll never get tired of hearing the announcer yell "WHO DAT MAN?!" when someone scores a touchdown.
S4's gameplay is all about gating with style. The control scheme is about as average as they come for shooting games, but what makes it so stylish are the amount of weapons and skills available.
You have access to submachine guns, rail guns, sentries, rifles, shotguns, handguns and everything in between. And then you got your skills like being use a skateboard as a grappling anchor, being able to turn invisible, summoning bricks to block off paths or even grow a pair of robotic wings to fly around with.
Mixing and matching between your weapons and skills allow you to create stylish play style combos. Example: Using Mind Shock + Detect skill makes you into a legit wall hacker and using Handgun + Invisibility makes you a spy that can cover ground into enemy spots very quickly.
Game modes in S4 are stylish twists on classic shooter game modes and sports. While Team Deathmatch is basic and straightforward, game modes like Touchdown and Chaser are futuristic versions of Rugby and Tag, respectively.
One feature that I still enjoy about S4 is its semi-destructible environments. Some objects on maps like boxes, bridges and rooftops can be destroyed. When these objects are destroyed, you can see an outline of that object from where it was originally placed and it will respawn back onto the map in a set amount of time. Destroying objects to alter the battle environment adds a small but stylish layer of strategy, and it's always a joy to destroy a rooftop with enemies on top.
S4 League started out as a team based shooter, but now it's starting to lean towards solo performance with Chaser mode and the inclusion of Battle Royal, which I can dig. It's just sad that during these modes, there is no half-time show, so no adorable alien robot can come in and start dancing for you.
Stylish chibi-robot dancing!
One thing about S4 that disappoints me is that it adopted my biggest pet peeve with MMO shooters: Rent only items! Several patches ago they removed permanent items for everything except from capsules, and speaking of which: Capsules are basically another one of those gachapon systems that are used in some MMOs, except with somewhat outrageous prices.
G-capsules are only available for AP users (paying players) and they have a chance of giving very powerful permanent weapons that are overpowered compared to normal weapons (and in the case of the bunny capsule, skills and accessories). Note: it's only a chance that you can get permanent weapons/skills, though, because unless you're insanely lucky, you might end up spending fifty bucks before you get a permanent item from them. For a game that's loaded with style from head to toe, using a gloried gachapon system that favors paying players is so out of style.
Not so stylish gachapon!
But wait! There is an alternative to G-capsules, because for the low price of EXPENSIVE, you can buy an I-capsule using PEN (S4 League's in-game currency.) On the upside: Timed weapons and skills don't start counting down until you use them in battle and prices on most other items are fairly cheap enough for gamers of any preference, but the lack of permanent anything is just so very... un-stylish.
Oh, and there's also hackers. Hacking players still seem to be around in S4, but they only to show up once in awhile, so you won't have to worry about them too much.
Despite some poor changes, S4 League still manages to be a stylish and enjoyable experience with overall fun and exciting gameplay. Alaplaya has been doing a decent job of hosting S4 so far, and they seem to be improving their efforts as of late. Most G-capsules will soon be available to PEN users as I-capsules, so cash shop balance may be improved by this in the future.
My verdict: S4 is still in style.
Team and solo based gameplay
Ridiculously outrageous outfits
Futuristic and digital battle arenas
Lack of permanent items
Somewhat overpowered gachapon system