The game's dual focus, and its attempt to be both a bullet-hell shooter and a melee beat-em-up means the combat isn't quite as slick as I wanted. There's plenty of variety here, with each weapon having its own animations and combos and enemies being weak to different things, and it really does feel like a Platinum game, with you executing pixel-perfect dodges and brutal combos to take out enemies. It's just that the controls feel loose, with you occasionally pinwheeling off in a random direction or struggling to aim a special move for some reason, whether that's the endlessly changing camera angles or the fact that I'm used to the razor-sharp melee combat of Platinum's biggest hitters, Metal Gear Revengeance and Bayonetta.
Still, this is a game with a spectacular amount of beatdowns, when you factor in all of the extra play you'll do to achieve each hidden ending and sub-quest the open world throws at you. These quests are often fairly repetitive, someone in one of the game's hub areas needs a set amount of a thing, and you need to go and leather enemies in a certain place until they drop it. It's reminiscent of MMOs, but gets more of a pass because the combat's strong enough, with 2B hopping all over the place while near-constant companion, 9S, dances in and out of battle, a worthy ally that seems to be able to do all that you can, and occasionally will win a fight before you know you're in one. He's essential because this game is hard. Really. I did a whole bunch.
The stylistic touches around the game are fun, too. Tower blocks are covered in vegetation, and wildlife walks the streets. Wildlife that you can ride, if that's your thing, and it'll swiftly become your thing the first time you tear across the street and into a pack of enemies sitting astride a moose. Several of your dome-headed enemies will make no effort to fight you. Instead, it seems they're merely trying to carve out an existence. There is something quite endearing about the way they pathetically stumble around, no doubt aware of your status as a godforsaken killing machine, but unable to do anything about it.
While we're slinging praise, I also enjoyed the music, which often feels like it's lifted some inspiration from Ghost in the Shell's haunting soundtrack and manages to provide an epic background to even the smallest battles. These musical interludes do a wonderful job of papering over the cracks left by the games slightly jagged edges graphically.
I rather like Nier: Automata, although I ummed and ahhed about it for the first twenty hours. There are a lot of small issues here, and they stop it from getting one of our higher awards, but the game Square Enix and Platinum have made here is exciting, difficult, and worth playing, if you're into this sort of thing.