UNDERDOGS promises a refreshing take on futuristic mech combat, using physics-based combat with a stylish presentation. We went hands-on with a preview build – read on for our full impressions.
I believe One Hamsa is onto something special with UNDERDOGS and an eye-catching reveal during June's Quest Gaming Showcase quickly placed it on my radar. Set in the 22nd-century underground fighting pits of New Brakka, the roguelike mech brawler finds two brothers fighting their way into the city.
The full release features 100+ equippable items for your Gorilla Mech, like chainsaws and wrecking balls. This build didn't include the entire range, though three pre-set mech builds gave me a glimpse at the pleasing customization here. The heavy-hitting tank, quick and agile 'Ninja' with a shock damage grapple hook, and the 'smart but lethal' build with crowd control each cater well to different playstyles. I chose the tank.
Alongside throwing physical punches, UNDERDOGS also uses arm-based locomotion in a swinging motion. Even after the tutorial, the combination of movement and punching while watching my 360° surroundings took some acclimatization. It wasn't long before I began working up a sweat with everything handling nicely.
What immediately stood out was the satisfying combat. You can't just lightly tap enemies – the physics-based system means faster punches with wider swings deal increased damage. Punting enemies lunging at me to the arena's opposite side feels good, as does grabbing and hard-slamming them to the ground. Swinging myself forward to charge through foes works nicely against crowds too. Armored enemies require weakening for effective strikes by overheating them with your weapons, adding strategy beyond bare scrapping.
So far, UNDERDOGS isn't brutally tough but instead punishes carelessness. Audio warnings are helpful when backed up against a wall, but no advice can save you after mindlessly running into an enemy group. Your mech has three separate health bars for the cockpit, plus your left and right arms – watching them quickly deplete in a swarm hurts.
Losing either arm reduces combat functionality, and cockpit screens gradually crack upon taking damage for greater environmental immersion. When the glass shatters, one more cockpit hit kills you. It can be challenging, yet winning the fights feels suitably rewarding, and I eventually beat the skirmish on my fifth attempt.
For an early build, UNDERDOGS mostly ran well and uses a cel-shaded art style nicely. Some brief exposition before jumping into the arena didn't give me enough to judge the story yet, though a fitting soundtrack with comic book-style cutscenes makes for a great presentation. I'm also taken by the urban sci-fi setting of New Brakka – a rarity in mech-focused fiction.
While I played using my Quest 3, One Hamsa told me this particular build isn't optimized for Meta's latest headset. That said, the studio informed me that Quest 3 enhancements are planned at launch. Regarding performance, I'm told both Quest versions will run at 45/90 using Spacewarp, while the PC VR version targets 90fps.
UNDERDOGS is not the game I expected from One Hamsa following Racket: Nx, but the swap from racket sports to a roguelike mech-brawler feels like it's paying off. Though the build only offered a limited look at what's to come, I'm leaving this preview pleasantly surprised.