Armored Core 4 Review
Giant robots are almost always fun. Sometimes, you get to go into great detail when you build them in a video game, much like the MechWarrior series on the PC. Take every part, fit it into certain slots and make sure you have the right type of armor, not to mention enough heatsinks to keep from overheating when you fire off those 12 lasers at once. Then you have the much more simplistic ones where you donít really upgrade your robot but instead run around and shoot stuff in a more action-styled game Ė you can find this mostly at play in MechAssault.
Most of the former are referred to as mech simulators. Often having complicated controls to varying degrees, they are for the more hardcore audience of players. Ranging from the comparatively simple MechWarrior series to the insane Steel Batallion series on the XBOX (with its own controller that bumped the gameís initial release price to $200!), mech sims are a firm part of the gaming culture. That may be why the first one to appear on next-gen systems, Chromehounds, was met with such a mixed reaction. Sure, the graphics were pretty and there was a lot of customization, but the robots felt entirely too slow, even for the ones that were supposed to be agile. While some did enjoy this even more simmy aspect of the mech game, others wanted more action.
Enter Armored Core 4. Another installment in the highly-popular Armored Core series, AC4 puts you in the shoes of the pilot of a, you guessed it, Armored Core. Outfit about any aspect you can think of, from multiple weapon slots, to body parts and even tweak little things to get a bit more damage or speed out of your mech. The combinations are virtually limitless. More importantly, though, Armored Core 4 brings with it a quicker pace of gameplay Ė more explosions, more mech battles and much quicker movement give the game something that fans have been after since the next-gen systems hit the market.
OK, so Armored Core 4 has a story. Iíll be honest, though Ė I didnít pay much attention to it. Shortly after the start of the game, I was totally lost in regards to the story and just gave up on following it in favor of more giant robot fighting. After pretty much every mission, I found myself retooling my mech. If I failed a mission, I retooled my mech. If I won and got a ton of money, Iíd retool my mech. This is very important because finishing missions fast, with low ammo usage and without taking damage all give you more money. So you might go try this one mission and find out that your low ammo sniper rifle may not work as well because there are a lot of enemies Ė maybe a laser sword will work better. If youíre feeling really daring, you could even try a double laser sword build. The game isnít going to stop you from building whatever your heart desires, even if that means you are nothing more than a slow moving platform filled to the brim with artillery style weapons.
The insane amount of customization is where the Armored Core series has always shown. As already mentioned, I did a lot of customization. Iíd throw on a gun that had more but weaker shots for missions where I was just defending something and had to blow up weak attackers. For missions with a heavy amount of mechs, Iíd often take an energy sword in with me and carve up the enemy mechs after charging at them (and making sure my mech was optimized for speed). Then there was this one mission where my only goal was to defeat this huge flying fortress at the end Ė I took in the most high powered weapons I could since it was more of a hit and get the heck behind a building so I donít get blown up fight. I could have sat there and tweaked so many aspects, from my radar Ė short range but fast refresh or long range with a slow refresh, all the way to the style of legs I used. The options are already known to any Armored Core series fan but to those who havenít played one yet, Iíll just say that it is damn near impossible to exhaust these options.
So, youíve got some options as to what you can do with your finely tuned machine of doom after spending hours tweaking it. You can decide to go through the gameís missions or you can go online and fight. Iíll tell you right now Ė most of the missions can get to be pretty annoying. See, you get this illusion of a free roaming area, until you hit the damned red zone of absolute do not freaking go near this doom. See, the map has a red box around the mission area and, if you step outside of the first part, youíre warned. If you keep going, you instantly fail the mission. Too many times, I was close to finishing a mission, only to fly a bit too high or move a bit too far out and I instantly lost. If that isnít frustrating, I donít know what is. The frustration is compounded by the fact that you canít chase after stuff in some of the protect missions and have to watch helplessly as tons of these little suicide fighters fly by you and towards the base youíre supposed to defend (Red Eye mission, Iím looking right the heck at you). Thankfully, despite some weak online arenas, the actual fighting with customized mechs is really damn fun. Being able to blow up the creation of that guy across the world who spent hours finely tuning every aspect of his mech is so much more satisfying than a typical frag in a shooter.
The gameís graphics are, for the most part, pretty darn nice. Mechs have some insane detail on them Ė try changing to a slight weapon variation and youíll notice it almost immediately. The various options all look awesome and, the best part, is that the mechs all animate well and move at a good speed. However, the environments donít always prove to be the most exciting (though, really, there isnít that much that can be expected from some of the more blandly styled areas when you consider the actual mission that takes place there). Not to mention, some of the better environments, like the cities, make for awesome robot battles.
In the end, Armored Core 4 was a, pardon the pun, blast to play. Despite some boring missions, the customization and online fights were great fun, to say the least. The bland looking graphics in some areas may, sadly, put some mech fans off Ė though hopefully not too many. Armored Core 4 is definitely an enjoyable game and, if youíre on the fence, you need to at least rent it. While it is definitely not without its fair share of flaws, and is far from the best mech game ever made, it is still a worthy pickup for any mech fan out there.