Armored Core V review
I will outright admit that I'm not a seasoned Armored Core player. I dabbled a bit with the PSP iterations of AC, and despite finding those quite entertaining, they never really initiated me into the world of mechs. So here I hoped that maybe, just maybe, Armored Core V would be that entry point for me to finally understand the awesomeness behind these giant, hulking pieces of heavily weaponized metal. Boy was I wrong.
Not to confuse that last statement with my enjoyment of the game. On the contrary, Armored Core V can be a very fun game, but From Software pulls no punches with the barrier of entry for this game. Aside from the initial mission, which somewhat lets you familiarize yourself with your mech, or AC, you don't get much guidance afterwards.
It all starts with a login screen. Armored Core V surprisingly has more in common with a MMO than your standard console game. Once your profile is all set up, you can then join an existing online team, consisting of up to 20 other players that are in your region, or start your own. Whether you know the people on your team or not, doesn't really make a difference; your goal is all the same: territory domination.
The game is then similarly set up like the game of RISK. There are multiple territories to take over, story missions to partake in, or side missions called Sorties to take part of. The grand scheme of things is that everything you do helps your overall team level, grants your team points, and so on. It's a neat set up that makes the game way more interesting than it would be without it.
The single-player portion, or the story missions, which can also be tackled with another player, are another thing entirely. Since the game doesn't rely at all on showing any of the characters, you're left with listening to audio clips and radio messages from your squad, teammates, captain, etc, all of which try their hardest to deliver lines in a way to make the story seem interesting. Instead, it makes the entire thing seem bland and unrelatable. If a character dies, what do I care? The only memory I have of them is their voice from my communication radio.
Where things pick up, however, is the action. There is no denying that From Software knows their stuff when it comes to mech combat. Gamers coming in and expecting to play this like your standard third-person shooter will probably find themselves confused and struggling with how the game operates. Your AC and its unnerving amount of customization options are what you'll spend most of your time tweaking and upgrading in between missions. Trust me when I say that you can make your AC look truly unique from anyone elses. Not only do you have the staggering amount of parts to outfit it with, but you can separately color each one and design emblems to make your AC stand out from the crowd.
Each choice of part does have its consequences, however. You can't simply outfit your AC in all super powered and high defense parts and expect it to nimbly dash around your enemies. Each part is associated with weight and energy. Trying to mount huge, heavy turrets on both your right and left arms while using the lightest and speediest bipedal legs is not possible. Even with these limitations, you can still give your AC some sweet reverse jointed legs, or even a tank base, and outfit it with crazy amounts of firepower.
There are vast amounts of weapons, like quick firing rifles, slower but way more powerful sniper guns, inaccurate but rapid firing gatling guns, pulse guns, laser rifles, and even a devastating laser blade, which can be used up close for some devastating damage.
This is the part of the game that's not always self explanatory. Certain weapons work better against certain enemies. Take the wrong weapon into a mission and you can find yourself fighting an unwinnable battle. There are garages that you can access in levels, which not only replenish your health, but let you switch out weapons that you currently own, but again, getting to that point with the wrong weapons can be equally as challenging.
This is a hard game people. From Software is not one to ease up on difficulty in favor of appealing to a mass market — look at Dark Souls. This is definitely a game that requires time in order to learn all the ins and outs. On the other hand, if you have good players on your team that are willing to share their knowledge, you'll find yourself accustomed to the game much quicker. Even playing missions with other people is a blast, not to mention it makes completing them way more manageable, such as those damned timed missions! Curse you timed missions...
The game certainly doesn't push the graphical capabilities of the console to the max, but it is worth noting that the ACs look pretty great. The amount of detail, when you actually take the time to view your AC in its entirety, is quite staggering. It really looks like a machine that could actually work if built to scale. The environments are fairly repetitive, however, with post-apocalyptic looking cities, broken down buildings, and tons of vehicles just scattered across the city streets. And that damn lens flare — it's almost as if J.J. Abrams himself had a say in the game's art direction. With that said, the explosions are awesome! I'm sorry but I'm an explosion fiend, and there is something so utterly satisfying with blowing up all your enemies around you.
Strip away the online functionality, and you're looking at a mediocre game at best; it's the robust MMO-like nature of the game that make it more enjoyable. With that said, those looking to come get their quick mech fix won't find the game appealing, as there is a lot to learn and grasp before you actually start kicking ass. Those who invest their time and grasp all of the intricacies involved in building, piloting and managing your AC, will definitely find a satisfying experience and some long lasting appeal.
[Reviewed on Xbox 360]