One can only hope that in five years, people still remember Chromehounds. Back in 2006, Chromehounds was the Xbox Live experience. It required teamwork, friendship, and strategy.
Chromehounds was far from mainstream, sadly the likely reason why the servers became barren. You did not start a match, mindlessly run forward, get shot, and restart. Developer From Software’s intricate, beautiful, and complex mech shooter was an impeccable blending of PC-styled planning and console gaming shooter.
It is undoubtedly the PC side that scared many away, lost in a sea of complexity that required a time commitment to comprehend. Thousands of available parts could be purchased, configured within set parameters, and taken onto the battlefield. You are not a faceless, nameless soldier in Chromehounds. You were your own person, each shot fired a success of virtual work. Tinkering to find that blend of killing machine and defensive powerhouse was as enjoyable as entering the battlefield.
Fighting served a purpose, waged against the backdrop of the Neroimus War. While you were part of a squad, you were also part of a cause, fighting for control. You felt like a member of fictional nations Tarakia, Sal Kar, or Morskoj.
Each squad member had a job to do, critical as Chromehounds was about more than selfish leveling. Mech combat was plodding, forcing players to gain access to communication towers to talk with each other. Knowing how your Hound moved, weapon range, and if any kickback occurred forced you to think about each shot. Nothing in Chromehounds was luck.
Unfortunately, Chromehounds is now gone. Sega has taken the servers offline, Chromehounds now a single player game that is nothing more than a training ground for the fight that will never happen.
What the game leaves behind is a small legacy for those that dedicated countless hours of their lives defending their virtual homeland. Undoubtedly, like myself, you met a diverse range of Xbox Live friends during the early days of Chromehounds, one of the few games that forced you to work together as a true squad to win.
When was the last time someone could say that for Halo or Call of Duty?
I am not saddened by the loss of my own personal statistics or inventory now that the plug has been pulled. The hundred hours of my life devoted to this mech-based shooter were not wasted. I’m saddened that memories will begin to fade, the lack of new ones, and the inferiority of other games to provide that same potential with friends, both in real life and online.
My final memories of Chromehounds were in Free Battle. There, my squad fought a mech designed as a Domino’s Pizza delivery man, more or less because the engine allowed for it. How effective or absurd that particular mech was does not matter. What mattered was the fun of it all, making the most of the final hours and the possibilities the engine provided, possibilities few people truly understood.