|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: From Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Agetech||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 2006||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 - 4||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|Review by Cole||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
The developers of Armored Core: Last Raven are demonstrating an example of life imitating art, or is it art imitating life? Like the giant bots featured in the game that use interchangeable and recycled parts, so too have the developers used various interchangeable and recycled gameplay elements from the last 10 years of the Armored Core series.
But don't get to thinking that Last Raven is a "Best of," it's more of a "More of," in that it does offer some new elements but it really doesn't take the series to a new plateau. It treads heavily through its old stomping grounds. You will have to be familiar with the series, at least the last couple of titles because there is absolutely no instructions for beginners - and yet this is one of the most accessible version of Armored Core in years.
If you're a lover of giant fighting robots then you probably already know about Armored Core. If you haven't played it before it's probably because you've heard how difficulty it can be. Yes, it can get pretty involved but don't let that scare you. The level of involvement can be as deep as you want it to be. Most of the depth can be attributed to the customization of your AC. There are tons of different parts and countless combinations and configurations. That's not meant to scare you, that's meant to entice you. AC can be played with varying levels of depth. You can skim over the customizing aspects and go at it like an arcade game, or you can really get into it and assemble your fighting mech piece by piece, taking into consideration all of the stats, measurements, weight ratios and so on. The lack of a simple tutorial is inexcusable considering that the game is within reach of novices. I would recommend accessing some online info or find a few nerds that will show you the ropes. I admit that it can be daunting learning the initial process of customizing, reading the HUD and understanding all of the dynamics of the controls and limitations of your creation, but it can be done quite easily if you find the right teacher. At the very worst, you can commit to a lot of trial and error and figure things out for yourself.
As you might guess, events take place in the future -where anything is possible and nothing need be questioned. In a bid for supremacy of the planet, giant mechs called Armored Cores are the main weapons of choice. Piloted by humans, the Armored Cores come in a variety of flavors that include walking-style mechs, tank-like vehicles and giant flying machines. They are capable of incredible destruction as they can be armed with lasers, energy blasters, machineguns, missiles and rockets. They can also be well protected, hence the word "Armored" in the title, but you can't have everything at once. You will have some important decisions to make regarding the customizing of your AC.
As a mercenary, you choose a side and accept your missions as you see fit. Your loyalty is typically to the almighty dollar which you can use to upgrade your AC in preparation for more difficult missions and the potential to earn more money.
Last Raven is a more intense AC experience. Overall the pace is quicker, both in terms of combat, upgrading and micromanagement. There are more decisions to be made, most of which will be based on your upcoming missions as you prepare to outfit your AC with the most appropriate weaponry, technology and accessories. A lot of the missions are very basic in structure, but they can be quite challenging. You may have to shoot down enemy aircraft, blow up an installation or even find your way out of a maze of buildings. The missions that provide the most fun are the one-on-one battles in which you take on a similarly-equipped AC. You may get your metal ass kicked a few times but by going back to the drawing board a few times you'll soon find out what doesn't work and what should work. If you're stuck I'm sure your newly befriended nerds will give you some hints.
You AC can opt to be more agile at the expense of durability. Tank-like Cores can withstand a lot of damage but at the expense of speed. You might prefer to keep your distance and choose weaponry that allows you to hit your target from long distances, while you remain out of range of its weapon system. Things can get fairly complex just with the weapons system alone. You have your main weapons to choose from but you also choose the firing style (large, small, micro, burst) as well as the dispersion (shallow, wide, narrow, deep). Unlike past games you won't have to worry about some of the more annoying micromanagement issues such as overheating - at least not to such a great extent. Radiators will help cool you down, generators will give you access to more power and boosters will get you to where you want to go much faster. But all of these additions come at a price, both figuratively and literally. Not only do the really good upgrades cost a lot of coin, but you can only add so many items to your mech before you run out of room or overload it. You will also have to use some strategy when upgrading your mech. For instance, if you weight it down with too many weapons it will have to work really hard just to move around, which may cause it to overheat especially when the weapons are engaged. The solution would be to scale back on a few weapons and add a more efficient cooling system. There are so many different ways to go. You can have up to five variations of your AC in the garage, ready to take on a variety of missions instantly.
If you're new to this game you're going to have to play the single-player mode in order to obtain your upgrades which will be needed for the multi-player mode. The multi-player mode is where you'll find most of the fun in any Armored Core game but there is no online mode. You can only play against one other person on the split screen, two-player mode. The multi-player mode will accommodate four players but you'll need a few copies of the game and another TV set. It's a hassle to be sure but if you're really into the game then I'm sure nothing is going to stop your nerd fest. Veterans will be pleased to note that they can skip the single-player mode if they have saved data from the previous games Nine Breaker or Nexus, which will allow them to bring in their previous AC creations.
Not much has changed graphically, and that couldn't be more evident than when you import your old AC in this game and it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. It looks like it was made to be there. Even the sound effects have been recycled from previous games. The storyline in the single-player mode includes only a few cutscenes, which are good I will admit, but most of the time you'll receive e-mails from in-game characters in an attempt to further the plot. The story is old hat, the telling of it is pretty lame but overall it serves as a good enough excuse to get into a giant robot and blow things up.
A branching storyline with 6 multiple endings;
active mission system with each decision affecting
unlimited variety of options, parts, and weapons;
- Improved game play effects, including for the first time mechs that continue in battle even after losing an arm, leg or head.
CCC Senior Writer