|System: Xbox 360, PS3|
|Dev: From Software|
|Pub: NAMCO Bandai|
|Release: April 1, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
Mech lovers, take note: The Armored Core series is returning in 2012 to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and it's looking bigger and badder than ever. Armored Core V—that's the letter V, not the Roman numeral for five, according to some reports—promises players not only a brand-new campaign, but also a persistent online world in which teams can fight over territories. Think Risk, only with huge robots blasting the hell out of each other instead of tiny soldiers controlled by dice rolls.
So far, Armored Core V looks incredible—not only does it feature high-quality graphics for such a niche title, but it offers fast-paced, violent action and awesomely powerful machines. If the idea of piloting a highly mobile tank and blowing up everything in sight appeals to you, Armored Core V should be on your radar for the coming year.
Up until now, the Armored Core franchise has focused on increasing speed; each entry has featured machines that are faster and more mobile than the ones that preceded them. Armored Core V certainly won't slow things down, but it will shift the focus more to tactics. For starters, the mechs will be about half the size they used to be—about five meters tall instead of ten—and the levels will be far more three-dimensional, with carefully crafted terrain offering cover and tactical options. Instead of moving through a field hoping to see enemies before they see you, you'll be able to plan your moves carefully and choose the best positions from which to attack.
What's more, the online battles will feature teams of five mechs each facing off, and one mech on each team will be an "Operator." This means that instead of joining in the fighting, this player will help his teammates strategize from a special map screen. For example, he can set waypoints for his allies, as well as scout enemy positions.
And there are plenty more new features in the online world. Developer From Software is apparently taking some of its experience from Chromehounds—a mech game whose servers were shut down much to the chagrin of its dedicated fan base—and applying it to this franchise. If the sheer existence of a Risk-style world to conquer with mechs doesn't whet your appetite, consider this: Each team can have a total of 20 players on it (though only five can take part in each battle), and the territory you conquer is yours until it's taken from you. Because you probably won't be able to stay logged in 24/7, the developers are also adding an element of tower defense; you can use your spoils from conquering territory to buy turrets and other obstacles that will make your land harder to occupy while you're gone.
Also, in the event that your team loses a battle, you don't forfeit the territory right away; instead, you have a set amount of time to face the other team in a "conquest mission." Yet another feature will be the option to design missions for other players, though it's not yet clear exactly how much creative control you'll have.
There will be other changes to the basic gameplay as well. As I've already mentioned, the developers are keeping the sense of speed from the series' other recent entries, but they are promising a far more violent and visceral experience. So, plan on hearing the frightening noises of metal on metal a lot. They also plan to expand the customization options—mech-loving gamers are used to being able to craft robots to their liking, but Armored Core V will feature about 500 different items you can use to personalize your machine.
Another tweak will be the addition of the "Over Weapons" system. These will be powerful weapons that are capable of killing an enemy in a single hit—though a one-hit kill will be incredibly difficult to pull off. According to the developers, one problem with the older games is that once a mech had a head start in inflicting damage, it was hard for another mech to catch up. The Over Weapons system will give players a high-risk, high-reward option when they find themselves facing long odds. In Armored Core V, fights won't be over until one mech is dead; you'll always have at least some small prayer of winning.
Armored Core V seems like an amazing game, though we won't know for sure until we get our hands on it. But fast-moving mechs, great graphics, violent action, tactical gameplay, and a persistent online world to conquer and defend? That sounds like it's at least worth a shot.
CCC Contributing Writer