Japanese publishers have been singing the “I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song)” song from The Jungle Book for the past few years and it’s no longer flattering. Instead of borrowing elements and making them their own, the publishers have opted to assimilate and attempt to hide within the Western crowd. Herein lies the problem with Front Mission Evolved: It wants to be so much more than it has been in the past and ends up stalling at the starting line.
As somewhat of an experiment, Front Mission has left its tactical-RPG roots and, instead, Double Helix Games opted to take it down the route of an arcade third-person shooter, which is flawed in almost every area that doesn’t involve the 5-6 minute opening cinematic.
Let’s go ahead and tackle the few elements that stand out above the piles upon piles of garbage that litter Front Mission Evolved. If cardboard medals were handed out to development teams for at least attempting something different, then Double Helix deserves one since it’s refreshing to see a break away from the strategic roots of Front Mission, even if it’s terrible in the long run. So there: Double Helix, rejoice as you have a paper title that doesn’t mean much outside of its “thanks for trying” mantra.
Now, the main problem that plagued Front Mission Evolved was its over the top and ridiculous storytelling that was only outdone by its one-note characters. If the team was attempting to provide the video game equivalent of a shoddy Saturday morning cartoon, then mission accomplished. The dialogue and voice acting are among the worst I have experienced in 2010. What’s even worse is how every boss through the first half escapes with an “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” speech. It’s cliche. It’s monotonous. It’s downright embarrassing!
Beyond the stereotypical storyline of a world power desperate for control, Front Mission Evolved involves standard controls, tedious gameplay, unwelcoming multiplayer, and ugly visuals.
The standard controls are at least a facet that players can work with. The mechs are light on their feet — or should I call them joints? — and have the ability to speed around maps with a boost or hover with a jet pack. Generally, the mechs are the highlight of the title, although Double Helix thought it was important to include combat from the perspective of a human, which serves to be the worst combat within the game. Both the mechs and human portions control differently, as they should, but switching from one to the other is often foreign and raises the question: Whose bright idea was it to include foot combat?
The trite gameplay is one of amazement. It’s obvious that the concept behind Front Mission Evolved had potential, but the illusion of quality dissipates in a very short time. The skating ability (boost function) does aid in running through the levels at high speeds and potentially skipping the repetitive firefights, but it’s not enough to overlook the straightforward customization options that are limited based by the weight and power of the mech. If one wants to advance through Front MIssion Evolved in record time, I suggest skating through the levels and, if stopped for combat, use the melee weapon to dispose of the pesky enemies.
Competitive multiplayer is definitely not the strong suit of Front Mission Evolved. It features the typical deathmatch and capture the flag modes, so don’t enter hoping for innovation. Instead, expect the bare minimum as Double Helix hardly went to any lengths to keep players wrapped up beyond the single-player experience.
One look at the game in motion and it’s painfully obvious that Front Mission Evolved couldn’t be more outdated if it tried. The textures are atrocious and loading screens will test the patience of the most stalwart gamers. It ultimately asks: “How long are you willing wade through the garbage to hopefully stumble upon a gem?” The answer to the question doesn’t matter since it serves as a ploy. The truth of the matter is that there’s not a single redeeming factor to Front Mission Evolved.