I love a good mech game. I played the hell out of Chromehounds back in the day – probably longer than anyone on my friends list. I played Mechwarrior with friends that I grew up with. Heck I even bought the giant crazy controller for Steel Battalion and Steel Battalion 2. I’m sure this love of giant robot combat comes from my childhood playing pen and paper Robotech and Macross RPGs (yes, while everyone else played D&D, I went the sci-fi route). While some of those game I played may have been technically superior or more fun than Armored Core games, they have always held a special place in my gaming mindset.
The thing that Armored Core games have always done right, is give you more configuration options than one person could ever need. Chromehounds may have borrowed a lot of the parts and ideas in this area, but they never had quite so many choices as the AC series did. There’s no way to explain the feeling of putting something together yourself, adding your own special touches along the way, and then watching it blow up everyone else – you just have to experience it for yourself. My fear though, is that a lot of people won’t get to that point with this game. While with Chromehounds you could just basically pick it up and play without worrying too much about how things worked, Armored Core takes you much deeper, and forces you to learn things that have a level of complexity that will turn off some. Decisions such as “Do I want this part to resist kinetic damage, chemical damage, or heat damage?” have to be asked with every new addition to your mech – and if you don’t understand what the implications of those choices you could screw yourself over pretty badly.
Yes, the learning curve is incredibly high – but for those with the patience to stick with it and the diligence to actually learn what is what, the rewards are immense. I definitely believe that this Armored Core would have benefited greatly from a full on tutorial mode – something that would actually go deep with what you can do – and not the miniscule amount of information that the story tells you. Besides that, there are a lot of people out there who just don’t care about playing a story mode in a game that features online. If you do like to play story mode before jumping into the online pool, it won’t keep you busy for very long, as the story is only ten missions long; you also shouldn’t expect anything too “deep” or meaningful from it, as the story is really just priming you to be ready for online.
What the story missions are however, is increasingly difficult – almost to a fault. I’m not just talking about the ten base story missions though, I’m also speaking of the over eighty “Order” missions that you can embark upon. There are times that you’ll want to throw your controller in frustration because of how hard some section is – thankfully you can tackle any of these missions with a partner, which makes things a LOT easier. In the end you’ll probably end up with enough cash to buy all the best parts for your style of mech, so they are definitely worth doing. If you try solo, you just end up farming the same missions over and over to get money to buy those parts anyways (kinda like an RPG grind). It can become excruciatingly tedious to do – but the reward for time spent will enable you to play with some of the more experienced player online and not look like a total scrub.
Speaking of online, that is where the heart of Armored Core V’s meat really is. As Chromehounds borrowed from the Armored Core series, it is only fitting that in this game, the situations are reversed. No, Armored Core V doesn’t have you running to capture COMBAS or anything like that, but there is a mode called “Operator” that follows the same basic gameplay. One person takes on the role of the Operator, and that person can set waypoints, scan the map for enemy mechs, and direct where each player should be headed. As long as you are on a team that can follow orders (as well as have someone in the Operator role who knows what the hell they are doing), this game mode is more fun than I could have hoped. I tried to play as an Operator once, but found I’m more suited to the grunt work – the interface that the Operator has to work with was quite different, and there was just too much to worry about for me. besides, I like to be in the thick of the battle. Just like in Chromehounds though, if you take out the enemy Operator (or command mech), your opponents will be at a serious disadvantage – so making yourself a stationary target and just watching the map will be a sure way to get picked as the primary target.
Sitting and watching the map isn’t recommended in any of the game modes though – Armored Core is a fast and strategic game at it’s core, requiring you to think on your feet and be able to make adjustments in your play style at a moment’s notice. You might be a slow moving tank expecting to find more of the same, but what do you do when someone is moving fast with a jetpack – or worse, running in between alleys that you can’t fit through. What if you see the tell tale laser sight of an enemy sniper and can’t get out of the way fast enough – do you turn and sacrifice one of your weapons, or hope your armor can take it? All of these and more happen in near every game, and give the online multiplayer more depth than any standard shooter could hope to.
Armored Core V does basically everything right for fans of this genre, but does almost nothing to encourage new people to jump in and try it out. It is unfortunate too, because the five man territory invasion or defense missions are an absolute blast to play with friends, or as a merc if none of your friends are on. It all comes down to the extremely high entry barrier though. Hopefully this game will do better than expected in spite of that, because the Armored Core series has gone through some changes in the past iterations trying to find itself, and not many of them were great until now. This is a huge leap in the right direction (and so much better than “For Answer”) – as long as they use this momentum to keep the game going, Armored Core 6 could end up being GOTY material when it comes out.
The Bottom Line: If you are a fan of giant mech combat, this is the game you have been waiting for since Chromehounds shut down; if not though, this will do very little to get you interested unless you are way big into having tons of customization options and no good explanations of what each part does.
- The online modes are robust, and incredibly fun no matter if you are playing pubs or with friends
- More mech parts than you can shake a stick at
- Playing Operator mode brings back so many good memories
- The single player missions are repetitive, and get insanely hard
- No good instructions on how to properly set up a mech for battle
- The super high bar for entry will deter a lot of potential players
You can get Armored Core V for the PlayStation 3 (reviewed) or XBOX 360 consoles from Amazon, or anywhere video games are sold for $59.99