Review

Armored Core 4

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-06-09

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Developer: From Software Publisher: Sega
Release Date: March 20, 2007 Also On: PS3 & Xbox 360

From Software’s Armored Core series has deteriorated since its first few PlayStation entries. In 2005 we saw two entries to the series; the PlayStation 2's Armored Core: Nine Breaker was met with harsh reviews, and the PlayStation Portable’s Armored Core: Formula Front was a beautiful and aurally-pleasing game that didn’t come to the table with interesting gameplay. Does Armored Core 4, the first next-generation entry in the series, inject some much-needed excitement into the franchise?

The story might not draw in the casual gamer. Mega-corporations rule the world, which has fallen into quite the state of disrepair. A small group of liberators plan to knock out these corporations through mecha warfare, and a majority of the missions will put you up against such resistance as “Normals,” or standard mechs; “Nexts,” or typical Armored Core units; and other enemies like self-guided missiles, submarines, and helicopters. The missions generally ask you to attack a certain target or defend one, so they aren’t too complicated and don’t require any overthinking. This doesn’t mean that Armored Core 4 loses that traditional element of strategy, which comes into play any time you create a mech for combat.

The fun in Armored Core lies in its creative element. The mech creation has become much easier thanks to a cleaner interface and fewer uses of acronyms and confusing terms. In other words, you could possibly call this the dumb man’s Armored Core. While you’ll still customize your robot with arms, legs, core units, heads, and various weapons, a few of the other parts have been taken out. For example, since combat rules no longer restrict the amount of boost you can use, coolant units are no longer involved in mech creation. It’s this simplification that could draw in more people to the series, and I find this to be a very beneficial thing for From Software’s game.

Combat is also a lot easier and quite a lot of fun. It’s the polar opposite of From Software’s 2006 effort, Chromehounds. Chromehounds was slow-paced, while Armored Core 4 features some white-knuckle action. There are missions where you will die if you remove your finger from the boost button simply because the enemy Next that you’re fighting is so quick. At least pummeling opponents is made simple with intuitive controls. You’ll use your left and right arm weapons with L1/Left Bumper and R1/Right Bumper or the face buttons, and you can easily switch between left and right arm and back weapons with the press of L2/Left Trigger and R2/Right Trigger. There’s a quick boost function that will instantly propel you in any direction at the expense of some energy, and this quick boost can become quite useful for evasive maneuvers. Basically, Armored Core is finally easy to play. Since it’s easy and fast, it’s fun. Home run, From Software.

I'd say the only single-player flaws are the short missions and the trial-and-error missions. Even early on, you’ll come face-to-face with missions that last 45 seconds, or missions that simply require you to get your ass kicked before you can have a clue of what to do. There are a few times where you’ll feel sucked into the fast-paced combat only to be ripped out because you very quickly destroyed the single mission target–that’s lame. There are other missions, like ones against Nexts, where you’ll have to face a beating before you know what weapons to equip or what battle strategy to have. Still these complaints don’t really hurt the overall experience, which is a fun and exciting one.

Visually, Armored Core 4 doesn’t put Gears of War or MotorStorm to shame, but it most certainly dazzles in some spots with fancy lighting effects and the occasional use of a grainy visual filter. AC units animate very well, though there is some clipping from time to time whenever you pass by a hill or a building. Explosions could have been a bit more...well, explosive, and I would have liked to see the after effects of my destruction a bit more. Since a lot of rubble (and destroyed enemies) disappear quickly from the battlefield, an all-out attack will most likely look barren after the fact. It’s a little disappointing. The sound effects and music are pretty standard, although I will say that I liked the delivery of most of the dialogue. Except for a few lines (mostly the “Come home” lines at the end of a mission), the voice actors do a fantastic job of handling the proper emotion or authoritative tone for whatever situation is at hand.

Finally, with an online multiplayer mode, Armored Core 4 is the fully-featured entry into the series. Devoted mech creators can take their camouflaged, speedy Gundam-inspired bots online and blast the crap out of a friend’s massive, bright pink Mechassault-style brute. This is what AC fans have been wanting, and From Software delivers.

Overall, Armored Core 4 is a huge step forward in every way. It might have been simplified a lot, and a lot of long-time fans might find that to be disappointing, but I think it was a much-needed shot of juice. You’ve got some pretty good graphics, fast-paced destructive mech combat, and online multiplayer. What more could you ask from a mech game? And for heavens’ sake, mech fans, buy this before you even consider touching Gundam or Chromehounds–but you didn’t need me to tell you that.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 5.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 7.5
Final: 7.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn

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