Giant robots. Everyone loves them. From the anime-inspired Gundams to the more realistic military mechs, no one can resist them. When you mention mech games on consoles, one series comes to everyone’s mind: Armored Core. Developed by From Software, AC’s claim to fame are its highly customizable mechs. After going through three console generations and four publishers, From Software is back with Armored Core V. After such a long time away from the spotlight, is Armored Core still relevant?
DOMO ARIGATO, MR. ROBOTO
Extensive AC Customization - The Armored Core series is best known for its highly customizable mechs. There are so many part combinations and load out selections that the majority of the game time will be spent in will be in the hanger bay trying out different setups. AC5 continues the tradition by having the largest selection of parts ever in the series. Each part has its own weight, durability, energy type, function, and much more. Once the look of the AC has been set, pilots can customize the mech’s loadout with two primary weapons and two secondary weapons. The weapons also have their individual attributes as well,affecting their performance.
Unique Multiplayer - AC5’s multiplayer has been given an overhaul from the last two games in the series. While the standard MP modes are intact for those who want to jump into the action right away, the team based modes have a different set up. When starting up the game for the first time, the game will ask you how often you play online and your skill level. It will either cue up a list of teams that you can join based on time online and skill level or you can create a whole new team. Regardless of which one you pick, you and three other players will make up that team. AC5 standard team battle will usually have a set number of players. What is different is that AC5’s team battle has four players piloting mechs while the fifth player acts as an operator. The operator acts as the “eyes and ears” of the team. They set up beacon point for pilots to follow, track enemy movements and relay those positions to the four pilots. This is a really great non-combative mechanic that hasn’t been seen in any game (at least that I know of) that has multiplayer. Multiplayer isn’t just confined to its competitive modes, but is also integrated into the main campaign.
Multiplayer Integrated into Campaign - As mentioned above, the multiplayer is integrated into the main campaign. The team that you chose at the start of the game will be the same team you play with in both the multiplayer and the campaign missions. In the campaign missions, you have the option to tackle them by yourself, but the chances for survival and the payout increases when you have your whole team join you on the mission.
Constant Domination Match Type - A separate mode from the standard multiplayer matches is a domination-style mode. Here, teams can takeover different territories on the map and claim them for themselves. The battles are constant and the base can be attacked at any time by any team looking to take over the territory. Attack enough times and your team take over that territory. But be wary, just because the team occupying the base isn’t there doesn’t mean that it will be easy to run in and take over. The occupying team can lay out automatic turrets that can help defend the base.
Be a Mercenary - You’re up late at night, ready to take on the next mission to advance the story, or about to launch an assault on an opposing team, ready to take back the territory they took from you earlier in the week. None of your team members are online, so what do you do? For most people, the answer would be to wait for their friends, but in AC5, you can hire mercenaries to take the place of your teammates. Players whose teammates are not online can hire mercenaries from a group called Men of Honor. This pool of pilots consists of real players looking to make extra money by hiring out their services when their own teammates are not online. If you want to make a little extra cash, you can register to be a merc. This is a pretty cool concept. And before you say, “Well lower level teams could cheat by hiring high level pilots.” This is balanced out by higher level pilots beingmore expensive to hire.
Steep Learning Curve - AC5 is not a game that you can just pick up and play. Every single customizable part has their own weight, function and so on. You can’t just put on all the most powerful looking weapons on a pair of mech legs that are built for speed. You have to balance each part in order to bring out the most of the mech. Just because you equip a weapon that looks cool and does a lot damage, doesn’t mean you will be powerful. You have to take into consideration weight, ammo type, energy consumption, and combine all this information with the rest of the parts, which also have the same considerations. So you’ll end up spending lots of time in the garage checking out the specs of your mech and testing out if your current set up is what you want. Once this is done, you’ll have to consider tactics and what role will you play in the team as you take on a mission. It’s a lot of planning ahead of time. While those elements are a staple of the series, to newcomersthey will be intimidating.
Not the Prettiest Robots - While graphics are like the icing on a cake, the graphics of AC5 are for a lack of a better phrase, blah. The mechs do look awesome, but they stick out like a sore thumb next to bland backgrounds and battlefields. In urban areas, buildings look like if they were pulled from last gen and the textures for said buildings sometimes take a while to load up. The HUD for the mech is also a bit cluttered. I understand the devs are trying to get us to believe that we are inside of a mech, but if they wanted to do that they should have had other POVs available such as a cockpit view.
Must Always be Connected to Experience Multiplayer - The strength of AC5 lies in the customization of mechs and in its multiplayer. The big downside is that you must be online in order to experience multiplayer, because there are no bots or split screen co-op. Sure, you can always take on missions solo, but as the game progresses, the enemies will get harder and will require group tactics.
Weak Story -The Armored Core series are not known for their story, instead its all about blowing up enemy mechs and having fun doing it. In AC5, From Software tried to put in a story about being a merc hiring and taking in jobs for two opposing factions. After switching back and forth between the two factions, you don’t really care who is hiring you, you just want to blow things up. This is a shame,because the ‘playing both sides’mechanic could have been used to tell a story of a merc who starts to question his motivationsand choose a side after seeing both sides of the conflict.
Armored Core V will please diehard fans that love the series and wanted a return to the sim-style of AC2. With a deep customizing system, innovative multiplayer and the integration of multiplayer into the campaign makes this one of the best AC games to date. The AC series are known to have a steep learning curve that might be intimating for new players. That, coupled with a weak story, bland graphics and online-only multiplayer bring this game down for most players, but if you are a hardcore mech fan or a fan of the Armored Core series, then this game is for you.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review copy provided by the publisher.*