Preview: Gundam Evolution is a friendly, well known hero FPS

I admit that a team-based competitive shooting game is not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions a game based on Mobile suit Gundam. And yet, Bandai Namco has managed to make that connection with Gundam Evolution. By adapting the iconic mecha franchise to the principles of the “hero slider”, the company opened a new path for Gundam feel. Judging by about 12 hours spent with the game’s closed network game test, it may be a path worth taking.

That’s when Bandai Namco started promoting Gundam Evolution with clips from early beta tests, many fans joked that it looked like one Gundam-theme take on Overwatch. It turns out that this is true in many ways. There is no underestimation of the creative debt Gundam Evolution‘s development team owes Blizzard’s multiplayer shooter. The good news is that it has taken it on for good reason. Gundam Evolution sports a strong set of fundamental elements. Even within the framework of a limited gameplay test, it appears to be a much smoother, more polished, broadly appealing experience than many others Gundam-labeled titles. Like I enjoyed titles like Gundam versus and Gundam Battle Operationtheir idiosyncrasies can turn away players looking for a more conventional experience. Gundam Evolution is downright familiar, which in turn makes it easier to pick up.

Gundam Evolution is a free-to-play title that pits two teams of six players against each other in round-based matches. Each player chooses from a lineup of playable Mobile Suits (MS) drawn across Mobile suit Gundam multiverse. Twelve are included at launch, with two more that can be unlocked via gameplay or microtransactions. Each mobile color is actually a separate character with a unique weapon and a set of abilities. Unlike more human hero shooters, any MS in the game can use its thrusters to boost, hover for a short period of time, or “quick step” in any direction. This makes the match more vertical. It also poses a particular challenge for melee specialists like Exia and Barbatos. However, skilled players in these meccas can really clean up.

Although the information in the game does not assign each MS to a class on its own, each MS description indicates a preferred style of play and role in a team. For example, the GM Sniper II is slow, clumsy, and curls like paper under fire, but it can pick up even the toughest enemies at an unmatched range and revive a disbanded teammate from a safe distance. Meanwhile, the RX-78-2 Gundam is a medium-range tank capable of advancing under shelling by going behind its shield and stunning enemies with its thrown Hyper Hammer weapon. My personal favorite, Sazabi, is the giant around which entire team strategies are formed. It is larger than any other MS in Gundam Evolution and has the slowest default speed. However, it has a huge pool of health and can shield itself from incoming fire. At close range, it can melt targets with its spray gun and throw a beam ax to stun an enemy. However, it does have a good trick, as it gets a free boost to a nearby ally … or its tossed ax. Thus, the normally emptying Sazabi can “super jump” by boosting against its airborne ax, traveling enormous distances and moving at a speed that contradicts its bulk.

Gundam Evolution

With each MS has a unique playing style and characteristics, the key to success in Gundam Evolution is choosing characters with complementary abilities and working together as a team to achieve goals. Even the rugged Sazabi will not last long alone, especially not against a zippered Exia or the stunning mace of Barbatos. Almost every unit has some ability that can work to support the team. The GM and Pale Rider can throw healing devices down, while the airworthy Methuss can be healed directly via repair cables or secure an area with a deployable tower. Dom Trooper can deny entire areas with its landmines and rocket launchers and strengthen allies with its armored pistol.

Finding the right team composition for the situation is crucial to achieving the goals. In the Network Play test, these goals came in three variants: Point Capture, Domination and Destruction. Point Capture challenges the attacking team to capture two points before time runs out. Domination gives both teams one of three points to fight for, and alternates between them at fixed intervals. Destruction is a plant in bomb-style mode. The attackers try to plant a “megacharge” at one of two points while the defenders try to stop them. Matches were often set and could swing both ways, especially in those early days when everyone is still learning their favorite MS and finding new tricks with their abilities and team compositions.


Encouraging mastery is the game’s metastructure for progression. Gundam Evolution is a free game and supports itself through microtransactions. The play test included a special match pass at 20 levels, which awarded cosmetic unlockings and loot box tickets as players increased in levels. The Lootbox system is very similar to that found in games such as Overwatch and Apex Legends. Various cosmetic and customizable items can be unlocked by opening loot boxes, with varying drop rates based on rarity. The cosmetics range from pretty mundane things like profile icons and sprays to Mobile Suit skins. The MS skins can be pretty banal, like adding a blue stripe to the accents, or wild, like a glowing neon green version of the Gundam Exia. It is also possible to unlock some items manually by earning a “blue” currency in the game called “Capital”. Some capital given to playtest participants was used to unlock Exia and Marasai for immediate use. A green “premium” currency was also earned by getting duplicate items from loot boxes that could be used to unlock certain skins.

Gundam Evolution

That said, the limits of the play test were still clear in my short time with Gundam Evolution. Despite using the recommended region for my geographic location, I experienced several dropouts in the middle of the fight. At this point, the game also imposes a pretty harsh “quitter penalty”. It locked me out of participating in a new match for several minutes. I also received error messages on several occasions telling me that my account was suspended, only to be locked in again if I restarted the game.

Another potential problem is readability. Where original titles like Overwatch and Team Fortress 2 deliberately construct their characters so that they are easy to identify, Gundam Evolution is bound by the actual design of the MS devices it uses. And some of these devices look pretty similar. Despite being one Gundam fan, I can tell you that I died more than once to confuse a Pale Rider for a GM Sniper or think an RX-78-2 was a GM. Perhaps a better or more unique selection of skins will help players mark who they are struggling with in sight.

All in all, with the right support and polishing, Gundam Evolution feels like it has what it takes to grow a long-term presence in the cannon of competing shooting games. I look forward to pushing a few more fights in after the launch.

Gundam Evolution debuts on PC, PS4, PS5 and Xbox Series X and S in 2022. The network game test ran from April 8, 2022 to April 12, 2022 for select participants.