Aside from being used to navigate through the world, the Omni-Directional Mobility Gear also plays a key role in combat. The hooks are fired into a Titan’s limb and you then get pulled towards it in order to attack. An on-screen reticle lets you know if you have a clear shot at the limb, which causes more damage when you attack, and distance meter appears so you know precisely when to press the attack button. This would all be quite easy if the Titan stood still, or if there weren’t environmental objects like trees and buildings that go in the way. So if you don’t have a clear approach, you can move around in that three-dimensional space using the analog stick until you do, and then let go of the stick to zoom towards the target. It’s all very deliberate and a welcome departure from the usual “mash on a button and watch stuff die” routine.
Having your view suddenly blocked by something in the environment, though, is only one of the problems with the targeting system itself. The bigger issue is that it’s often imprecise. You’ll often go up against a group of Titans that are all rampaging in an area. There may be a specific Titan you wish to target - either because it seems like the easiest to take down or maybe it’s about to kill an ally - but there’s no reliable way to do so. First, you have to switch out of the movement mode into combat mode, then (assuming it didn’t auto-target the Titan you want) you have to cycle through all of the nearby Titans until it’s the one you want (which can be hard to tell if you’re on the ground looking up at a bunch of legs), and finally select the limb you want to attack (while also hoping you’ve got a clear shot at it). It all feels about as elegant as getting off a packed bus during rush hour.
Despite the issues with the targeting system, the combat system as a whole is satisfying. After attacking a limb, your character continues moving in whatever direction they’re going; so if you’re attacking from the front, you’ll end up behind the Titan, or if you’re attacking from above, you’ll be headed towards the ground. Knowing this, you can position your initial attack in such a way that on your follow-through you can hook into another body part and make a successive strike. The first time you utterly dismantle a Titan in this way feels good and it continues to feel good the 5th, 20th, and even 150th time you do it. Provided, of course, you've got the appropriate gear to support you.
Mastering the movement system is a key part of Attack on Titan’s gameplay, but it’s also vital to go into combat with the right equipment. There are three pieces of gear you can equip to your character: a blade, a gas canister, and your omni-directional mobility unit. Each of these have their own stats but the short version is your blade determines how much damage you do, the gas canister determines how fast you move around in the air, and the mobility unit determines how far away from a Titan you have to be to hook into it and how quickly you’ll accelerate towards it once you do. All of this gear you’ll have to craft using the funds and materials you acquire for completing missions, which means playing through missions repeatedly in order to gather enough resources to do so. As I mentioned earlier, Attack on Titan’s story is just enough to help pull you through the story missions the first time, but none of them are particularly noteworthy or fun enough to warrant multiple playthroughs. That’s where the co-op mode comes into play.
The Attack on Titan we’re getting in the U.S. isn’t the same game that was initially released in Japan. That game only had the single-player “Attack Mode.” A month later, though, the “Expedition Mode” was added to the game along with the four player online co-op. This mode allows you to choose your character, rather than be forced to play as a particular one, from among those that you’ve unlocked through the completion of “Attack Mode” missions, and then take on a variety of scouting missions to earn rewards. These missions vary in difficulty and provide you with greater rewards for completing the tougher ones. You can also choose to partake in “Expeditions,” which serve up three scouting missions in successive order from those that are available. Each of these missions are more difficult than the last but completing them all earns you more rewards than if you were to do them individually. Fortunately, everything you earn - the materials, the money, the new gear you craft, the experience you earn - gets carried back over into the “Attack Mode”, so you don’t have to do it all over again when you change from mode to the other.