Armored Core 4, the first next-gen entry in From Software's prolific mech combat series, was expected to be a major advancement. Not only is it a disappointment next to its action kin, but an unfortunate step back for the franchise. For those who aren't familiar with Armored Core, know that it stands as one of the longest-running series in gaming. Though the games don't follow a single storyline, there are 19 installments when you include all of the offshoots and Japanese mobile versions. This isn't one of the better ones.
After deciding on what settings you want in the Game Options page, you are whisked away to a training mode. Unfortunately, no amount of training will prepare you for how utterly boring the game can be. Go kill this guy, or go kill this group of guys. There's really not much actual story or motivation, just mission after mission of you matching up against various mech terrorist groups. Every once in a while you'll get to stop a volley of missiles from hitting a base, but that's about the extent of it.
Combat itself ranges from very easy to extremely hard. During the missions that send you to fight against a select enemy you had better be quick on your controls to dodge the heavy onslaught of firepower. If you're having an especially tough time the game will send out another mech to assist you in battle, and sometimes it's better to let your assistant do the leg work while you just jump in for an easy finishing blow.
Unfortunately, failing at the end of a mission could mean having to battle against the same groups of cannon fodder yet again, or being forced to tackle the same difficult enemy again. Hard-fought victories against the better mechs are definitely rewarding though, despite the clunky controls; launching close-ranged assaults with your sword and light machine guns then thrusting away while launching wave after wave of rockets feels great.
Still, there are several major flaws that ultimately sour the experience. The mechs feel clunky, and don't respond as quickly as some of the early AC iterations; when you're supposed to be known for your "fast-paced mech combat", that's a problem. On the visual front, it doesn't look much better than the best original Xbox games, and the frame rate is horrid - rarely will you see a game with so many drops.
The lone bright side lies in the fully customizable mechs that the series is known for, and online play (good luck finding a match). Each mech is completely customizable, from its head to the fuel cells that power them, similar to the previous games. You can load up your mech with weapons, causing you to fly at a snails pace, or keep it light and glide like a bird. Both ways have their distinct strategic advantages and disadvantages.
In the end, Armored Core 4 is simply not worth picking up. It’s not offensively bad by any means, but it should have been much, much better - it’s just an average game from top to bottom, and a disappointing next-gen start for an otherwise solid franchise.
-The Final Word-
Armored Core 4 is a disappointing entry in the Armored Core series.
|Platforms reviewed : PlayStation 3|