SONY PSP REVIEW: ARMORED CORE: FORMULA FRONT
Armored Core: Formula Front
Giant robots are kick @ss
Great graphics
Wireless multiplayer (ad hoc)
Steep learning curve
long load times

A slightly new spin on a slightly old series. by StewXX

December 19, 2005 - Armored Core: Formula Front is not your regular run-of-the-mill shooter. It may feature giant mechs engaged in viscous battles but that's only one part of the gameplay. The other part is constructing and tweaking these behemoths choosing from among hundreds of parts. You'll spend a large part of your time in the garage perfecting your creations before you send them into battle so you had better enjoy playing mechanic as much as you enjoying shooting. It's the redneck equivalent of fixing up the 77 Pontiac so you can do some rabbit hunting from the passenger seat. Anyone familiar with the previous Armored Cored games will know exactly what to expect.

To be more than honest, this game is even less about shooting than customizing. This is due to the sloppy manual control system that makes manual combat more difficult than need be. To solve this all you have to do is put your bot on automatic and let it flail away. You can issue commands much like a turn-based combat system but the animations are intense enough to compensate for the lack of hands-on control.

In the future, where games such as this always seem to take place, mechs battle it out head-to-head in various arenas. This sport is called Formula Front and can be very lucrative for the winner - and very destructive and costly for the loser. With no real storyline you fight your way through the ranks earning more money to upgrade your bots so as to tackle more powerful classes.

These mechs are called Armored Cores (hence the title). You have five of them in your stable. Not only are they heavily armored, but they can be outfitted with a variety of weapons and mobility systems to make them walk, jump, roll and fly. You add and subtract different parts from your Armored Core in an effort to destroy your opponent's Armored Core.

Much of the customizing will be trial and error. The interface is easy enough to work with but there is nothing that will really tell you what you really need to make your machine more efficient. That's why you have five of them. Make each one different so that you can choose the right one when going into battle. You can research each enemy AC (Armored Core) before you fight it and try to make the appropriate adjustments. There is no one-fits-all AC. What is interesting to note is that each change can dramatically affect your performance. Sometimes all you need to do is change your weapon from ranged to melee. It's rare you'll get that lucky but it's nice to see the gameplay mechanics are so sensitive to seemingly minor adjustments but that's what makes this game so interesting.

There are literally hundreds of parts of choose from including arms, legs, tracks, jump jets, plasma canons, machine guns, rocket launchers, radiators, generators and of course armor. The key principal is balance. You can't have an AC that's too heavy in any one area. If you want to outfit your AC with tons of weapons you have to make sure it's capable of carrying the load. It also has to be cooled down with a radiator system as it will tend to heat up if it's too heavy or constantly firing. This radiator system takes up real estate on the AC automatically limiting weapon space. On the other hand if you want a light, fast and flexible bot you will want to outfit it with melee weapons since it can get into tight places. If you want to play it safe, build a tank with a rocket launcher on it and travel the perimeter of the arena.

When in battle, the manual control system is slow and unresponsive. It's a total bummer since it can actually cost you the match. Each bout is three minutes long unless one of the ACs is totally destroyed before that time. It's best to let the battles run automatically. The CPU will take into account the various weapon systems and capabilities of your AC. You can also use operating chips which are awarded at the end of a successful battle. These chips give you 30-seconds of commands. If you do the math that means you can have up to six of them in a match, each giving different commands such as telling your AC to strafe or jump out of the line of fire, or try to jump behind the enemy and take it by surprise. There are more op chips with different commands that will give you a reasonable amount of flexibility. It's not the same as doing it manually but considering that you stand a better chance with the automatic battle system, it's a necessity.

The battles are more balanced in the ad hock, wireless, two-player mode. Since you're both at the CPU's mercy it's possible to play manually with both sides being equally affected by the sloppy control system. In this case it doesn't seem too sloppy as you can attribute it to the ponderous nature of these huge ACs. The two-player mode is fun for a while but unlike the single-player mode it lacks depth. You'll end up getting most of your replay value from the single-player mode as you experiment with different AC configurations.

Formula Front is very nicely detailed. The various legs, wheels, gears, arms and weapons all animate individually to reveal a complete and complex creation. The AC move about very fluidly and rival what some games offer as their human animation. The environments are a mix of indoor and outdoor arenas with some fighting taking place in urban locations. The load times are pain in the ass. Not only do they occur frequently, but it seems to take forever to get into the next fight.

The weapons are crisp and the explosions are deep enough to rattle the little speakers - or your headbones if you're wearing headphones. The techno music is more fitting than the generic wrestling rock tunes of Mech Assault.

Formula Front requires a blend of staunch nerdism and overactive testosterone. It's not for everyone but it just might be right for you.

Features:

  • Stunning Visual Quality
  • Combines Strategy and Action Like Never Before
  • Multiple Arenas and Ranking System
  • Customizable Robots with Hundreds of Parts to Choose From
  • Head-to-Head Wireless Multi-Player

By StewXX
CCC Staff Writer

Rating out of 5
Armored Core: Formula Front (PSP)
4.4
Graphics
Great attention to detail. Smooth and fluid animation for mechs.
4.2
Control
The auto combat control is good but only because the manual control is so poor.
3.9
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Good sound effects. Loud and proud. No story mode means no voiceacting which can sometimes be a good thing.
4.0
Online / Wi Fi
Find an Armored Core fanatic with a PSP and go at it head to head.
3.2
Play Value
You'll get most of your replay value out of the single-player mode as there are thousands of combinations to experiment with.
3.8
Overall Rating - Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PSP
Dev: From Software
Pub: Agetec
Release: Dec 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by StewXX

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best