In an era filled with sequels, reboots and remasters, it’s refreshing to see a major publisher launching a brand new IP in the AAA domain. Bandai Namco’s Scarlet Nexus is out now for PCs, PlayStation and Xbox – with both last gen and next gen builds available to players. Our test was done with a PS5 console.
In a way, Scarlet Nexus took us back to Code Vein, which was also published by Bandai Namco back in 2019. They’re completely separate games of course, but they’re testaments to their videos of releasing original new content rather than churn out a quick sequel. We would have loved to see a Code Vein sequel, but doubt it would have been as memorable an experience as Scarlet Nexus has been.
In terms of its narrative, you’re a member of a military outlet tasked with the protection of mankind against mutants that are referred to as “others”. There’s some great world building behind that high concept premise as well, with gorgeous futuristic cityscapes and wonderfully creative visual designs for the enemies. Reality and imagination frequently blend together as your mind plays tricks on you because of some invasive technology, making for a unique look and feel that is part The Evil Within, part sci-fi, part anime and part twisted fairytale.
With a firm emphasis on action, however, the characters that inhabit this world don’t really get enough time to present and develop themselves and their personalities. With such a rich and interesting world to explore and enjoy (and enjoy it, we did), it’s a missed opportunity that we didn’t get to fall in love with its characters more. At the end of my adventures I wanted more of Scarlet Nexus and its world, but hadn’t grown fond of any of the rather one-dimensional characters that lived within it. With a ton of NPC and optional quests there’s always something to do, but too few characters stand out from the crowd here.
Combat is absolutely great though, and a highlight of the game just as much as the gameplay world is. A bit like I was doing in Control a few months ago, you get to levitate objects about you and launch them into your enemies. Knocking down their defenses before dashing in the for a melee finisher never stops feeling satisfying, partly because the visuals look gorgeous while you’re doing so.
What also adds spice and diversity to the combat is your ability to absorb the abilities of others, adding attack boosts like fire or the chance to go invisible for a while and surprise a mutant when he’s least expecting you. Add environmental attacks into the mix and Scarlet Nexus has solid action adventure foundations, to which it also adds its own flavor. You’ll see some of the latter with ‘brain manipulation’-related mechanics as well, but since those are interwoven into the stories we won’t spoil them for you.
There are mild RPG influences to Scarlet Nexus as well, letting you level up and equip better gear. Brain manipulation also plays into this, and combined with the ability to purchase and trade in order to get better equipment you can put your own personal stamp on our hero’s role in the adventure quite well. To a lesser degree you can even do this for allies, gifting them the upgrades they might need in battle – which in turn of course also benefits you since you’ll have better support in combat.
Scarlet Nexus plays well and looks great, and we hope this is going to be a foundation for Bandai Namco to build on.