Robot Jox – a low budget, B-grade movie released in 1990. A movie so lame that if watched it your eyes would bleed. However, if you are a Battle-mechophile (apparently a mechophile is a transport loving hippy – thank you urbandictionary.com) then its a movie that has to be close to your heart.
Fast forward about 7 years and finally your battle-mechophile fantasy had come to life with the arrival of Armored Core. Through the raw 32-bit power of the PlayStation we were finally able to step into our metal Jimmy Choo’s. Personally I prefer the metal insect exoskeletons of Ghost in the Shell – however, Armored Core seemed interesting.
Fast forward another 15 years and we arrive at Armored Core’s grand MMO offering, which is a sad affair for South African gamers. I have been playing this game for almost a month and I have had 1 online game – a two player mission which was over in 45 seconds. The guy that joined up with me knew exactly what to do, flew off and blew something up, and left me with a 9gag styled “whaaaat” look on my face.
One word sums up the first month of your Armored Core V gaming experience: confusion.
FromSoftware are establishing quite a notorious reputation for developing games that have ridiculously steep learning curves and stories that can only be uncovered by wading through hours of frustration. Any one who has played Demon Souls or Dark Souls for more than three minutes will know exactly what I am on about. This approach might be very appealing to the Super Nintendo generation, as this is how many games of old treated players.
Armored Core V promises a full-scale mech-based war experience and delivers nothing more than a glorified pixelated family feud.
Players start off with one of the most detailed and visually mind-blowing intro sequences that I have seen. You are then taken into the loading screen with a computer voice companion and from here you either choose or create a team. A team is a very important aspect as the more members you have, the higher your overall income will be – this game is all about money, power and controlling areas.
As the server syncs up you can check what’s happening on the global stage and decide into which area you’d like to deploy. Once an area is chosen you can move on to edit your Armored Core’s assembly by altering the mechs arsenal. This is where customisability comes into the game – here’s a list of what you can tweak:
- R Arm Unit
- L Arm Unit
- Shoulder Unit
- Ultimate Weapon
- R Bay Unit
- L Bay Unit
- Recon Unit
Each of these can be drilled down and customised with various upgrades that are unlocked and purchased with credits that you earn on the battlefield. So you can kit out your Armored Core as you see fit but you have to decide if you want to be light and fast or heavily armored and slow. You can’t go in too heavy as your arms and legs might not be able to handle the weight for the full length of your mission. There are also a four pre-set Armored Cores that you can choose from as well as 12 additional slots to which you can save your own builds.
Once you’re fully customised you head off to sortie and start the mission – this is where the game rears its ugly head. The blistering pimple that first smacks you in the face are the graphics; having been blown away by an intro sequence that looks worthy of next-gen console visuals, the in-game graphics look like they’re running on a slightly suped-up PS2.
The intro has you preparing for Michael Bay’s Transformers, but once the game loads up, you’re stuck with Duncan McNeillie’s Jock of the Bushveld. The models are poorly rendered, lack detail and appear blurred and pixelated. The visuals are, quite simply, ugly.
To make matters worse, the poor draw distance is a detriment to the gameplay – if you don’t scan the area for incoming enemies you wont see them until they are right on top of you. Later on in the game when the enemies are more powerful this is a rather big problem.
Getting used to the controls requires at least 15 to 20 missions worth of practice. They aren’t very intuitive and the game’s tutorial does little to effectively explain how to walk and shoot, let alone play.
The in-game physics are mostly pathetic, but I do like that fact that wherever you walk it looks as though the ground is cracking up. The sounds effects are pretty good too.
A story is present, but it’s vague. This game is more about dominating the multiplayer landscape with a bitchin’ team – however, I don’t foresee that happening in South Africa due to the poor online matchmaking and lack of local community. If you are planning on playing this game make sure that at least four of your mates take the plunge with you so that you wont be flying solo.
However, once you get past all these gripes and play for more than 20 hours, you may start to enjoy Armored Core V.