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Armored Core: Formula Front Review

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Developer: From Software Publisher: Agetec
Release Date: December 13, 2005 Also On: None

The Armored Core series has had a rusty life the last few years. Despite a cult following, the mech customization video game has lost its touch time and time again. With the PSP version, Armored Core: Formula Front, this trend continues. Formula Front isn’t as bad as the recent PS2 outing, Nine Breaker (reviewed and scored a 5.3 by our very own Matt Evangelista), but arguably so. I wouldn’t consider this an action game as much as I’d consider it a big game of chess, where the pawns and bishops are replaced with guns and different body parts of each robot.

In Armored Core: Formula Front, you are the engineer and leader of a team in the mech league known as the FFA. You customize and alter five of your very own mechs, each of which you try to differentiate in order to formulate strategic game plans and strategies. Through winning matches, you progress the ranks of FFA and eventually become the top AC team. Throughout the experience, you’ll be informed of all the latest FFA and team rules, you’ll be challenged by beaten opponents, and more. This stuff kept me into the experience more than I expected.

Customizing your mechs is the name of the game here, and you could spend hours on each of your hulking robots. Each of the dozens and dozens of parts have different parameters that alter the performance of your AC. You can equip your mech with the strongest weaponry around, but those big guns will bog you down and overheat your mech faster than you’d ever believe. Of course, smaller guns make way for better agility and terrain movement as well as decreased energy use and better cooling.

Equipping parts isn’t the only thing you’ll do. In fact, you’ll tune those parts, replace them, set the AC’s personal artificial intelligence, and more. It’s all about your personal preferences, and of course the competition ahead. If you’re about to go up against a defensively weak but speedy AC, you will want to plan accordingly and try to counter the AC with a speedy but powerful mech. If you’re about to face a beefy pile of steel, you’ll want to slow down the pace and have enough power to outlast your opponent, perhaps from long range. If you’re into this kind of customization, you’re going to absolutely love Formula Front. It’s like a slower, virtual game of chess that involves robots and guns. If you don’t, to put it bluntly, you’re going to hate this game.

In the Japanese version of this game, you couldn’t actually PLAY as your mechs–you could make them, coordinate their AI, and watch them fight. In the American version, you can actually control your ACs on the battlefield but the controls are so broken and the computer AI is so good that playing the game is a worthless effort. I eventually gave up and decided to watch the mechs fight instead. Fortunately the graphics are very attractive, and the mech action is fast-paced and exciting to watch. After playing a few matches I decided to stick to watching my mechs after tuning the AI, and I had a much better time. I’m very upset, though, that it’s not as fun to play Formula Front.

As I said, the visuals are top-notch. This is a very attractive PSP game. You’ll scope out individual parts and intricate details on your mechs. Explosion effects and particles look fantastic. Overall Formula Front looks like a second- or third-year PlayStation 2 game. The music isn’t bad, either–and when paired with the explosive sound effects, realistic warning sounds, and gunfire, this title is a nicely-presented game. Of course, it doesn’t have an excuse to be anything otherwise. If a game’s actual gameplay is intended to be observed rather than played, the game in mind should look and sound fantastic. This is Forumla Front’s saving grace, and if you’re one of the people I said would love the game earlier, these factors will only improve the experience to you.

I regret to report the rest of the PSP crowd that Armored Core: Formula Front isn’t the action game you’re looking for. Armored Core fans might enjoy it for its customization and impressive superficial qualities, but almost anyone else will immediately regret a purchase because there isn’t much gameplay involved. From Software, I know you’re capable of making an Armored Core that is more fun to play than watch. Please do it next time.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 3
Creativity: 6
Replay Value/Game Length: 5
Final: 5.9
Written by Cliff Review Guide