|System: PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: FromSoftware||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SEGA||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 20, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by D'Marcus Beatty
Armored Core 4 is a somewhat difficult game to judge. There probably won't be a universal consensus on the gameplay, as the player will either love the game or hate it depending on their mech preference. Armored Core 4 brings the AC series to the next-gen in a great way visually, but some of the gameplay choices are questionable, making a hit-or-miss game for fans of the genre.
Armored Core 4 puts the player in the cockpit of a hulking mech, called NEXTs in the game, in various missions, ranging from protection to seek and destroy missions. The storyline is confusing, forgettable, and pretty much unnecessary, becoming a flimsy (and unneeded) excuse to put the player into a mech and send him into battle.
The actual battles are both fun and somewhat disappointing. The player's mech is very maneuverable, with a revamped boost system that allows for easy flight and dashing. The weapons are mapped to the face buttons and the shoulder buttons initiate either weapon switches or boost moves. This setup is fairly intuitive, and after the tutorial the player won't have much difficulty moving their mech and defeating enemies. However, this is where one of the game's major flaws comes into play. Most of the missions are simply too simple and over too swiftly. While the gameplay is fun, the missions seem to only give the player a taste of battle before announcing that the mission is complete. In addition to this, some of the battles are limited to a specific area, confining the player in movement. This is especially frustrating on certain missions, such as intercepting self-destruct missiles while restricted to a small area. If the environments were more open and expansive, allowing for grand-scale battles, the game would be more enjoyable.
It isn't a stretch to say that some players will spend more time customizing their mechs than actually playing the game. Although simplified, the mech customization options are deep and almost intimidating. Although fans of the genre will probably rejoice, a person new to the genre could easily get lost in attempting to alter their mech's appearance and performance. Early on in my experience, I shifted around some of my mech's parts and actually became stuck in the garage because I didn't have enough funds to recreate my mech or create a battle-worthy replacement. Because of its depth, the mech customization can take up a lot of time and can appear very daunting to someone seeking simple, straightforward action. Fortunately, there are schematics that assemble mechs automatically so that the player doesn't have to build a mech from scratch if they aren't inclined to do so.
The visuals in Armored Core 4 are also a mixed bag. The game looks incredible, with awesome lighting effects and nicely detailed environments. This is undoubtedly the best-looking iteration of Armored Core yet. However, the lack of color variety makes the visuals seem drab and uninteresting. Although the grainy graphics are probably intentional, they add an uninspired feeling to the backgrounds. The draw distance also isn't as good as it should be, and there is occasional slowdown when there are a high number of missiles on-screen at once, which can be a fairly regular occurrence depending on your mech setup.
Armored Core 4 does have multiplayer to add to the replay value. The online versus includes versus modes that have options for one on one versus, two on two versus, and four on four versus. There are also battle royals for four and eight players, which quickly degenerates into incredibly fun pandemonium. It's a lot of fun to evaluate other people's mechs, and there is even the ability to trade schematics so that gamers can try out their friends' and rivals' mech designs. In addition to the online, there is also the offline ability to unlock data packs which allows the player to defeat mechs to earn their schematics.
The voice acting is pretty good in the game and the soundtrack also does a good job of adding to the atmosphere of the game. The background music comes in and out appropriately with low music to emphasize the war setting.
Overall, Armored Core 4 is a pretty fun game for fans of the genre and anyone looking to get into the genre with the patience to learn their way around the customization, which is the core of the game. The short missions, limited battle area, and muted visuals may turn some people off, but most will be satisfied with the swift, intuitive gameplay, the online versus, and the simple fact that they are controlling a giant mechanized robot. It's hard to go wrong or be dissatisfied for long when driving a multi-ton robot killing machine.
CCC Co-Site Director