|System: X360, PS3||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: From Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Ubisoft||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sep. 16, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-8 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
From Software has gotten carried away. Its Armored Core series - much like Koei's Dynasty Warriors franchise - just keeps on plugging along. In fact, there have been so many Armored Core games on so many different platforms (dating all the way back to the original PlayStation) that the developer has dropped numbering all together. Armored Core: For Answer (what does that even mean?) is the thirteenth (yes, you read that right - thirteenth) entry in the series. So, it should be no surprise - as is often the case with franchises that reach such a high number - that For Answer is a subpar title.
The plot in For Answer is paper thin and generic: it's the future and there's so much pollution that the surface of the Earth has become uninhabitable. The population escapes to the sky to live in Cradles - large floating cities suspended in pollution-free pockets of the atmosphere. All this is funded by mega corporations, who, of course, own everything. Since there are corporations, that means there's resistance to them, and it comes from groups stranded on the surface.
Four factions make up the world of For Answer, and you align yourself with one at the start of the game. The side you choose affects what kind of default battle suit you get, so your choice of allegiance is cosmetic more than anything else. Diplomacy really doesn't matter. You can fight for every side in the game with little-to-no consequences, and you have to - as you make your way through the game, you'll realize that the only way to get enough money to upgrade parts on your NEXT (that's your Armored Core) is to fight for more than just your faction.
Missions are an incredibly short and lackluster affair. Most have a straightforward objective of eliminating a series of targets and reward you with some money. A lot of the missions are so short you can beat them in the same amount of time it takes to listen to the briefing and sit through the load screen. Perhaps what makes the missions so unsatisfying - besides their brevity - is the uninspired level design. The majority of levels are just vast expanses of space littered with enemies. Whether you're hovering over water or fighting in a desert, you'll be struck at how minimalist everything really is. For example, one level has you fighting in a desert, so, naturally there's a lot of sand. That's the only problem: all there is, is a bunch of sand and some enemies. There's nothing remotely interesting about the locale.
Being a mech game, one would assume that the combat can save the bland nature of the level design and generic mission structure, but it doesn't. The most rudimentary part of any third person shooter - proper targeting - was somehow lost on the developers. For Answer features a semi lock-on system. Once you get close enough to other mechs, the targeting reticule will turn red, signaling a good-to-go shot. However, it's hard to switch between targets once in this mode, so awkward things - like your NEXT targeting a far away enemy instead of the one right in front of it - happen on a frequent basis. You do have the option to free aim, but once you encounter enemies that boost around the screen, you'll absolutely need homing weapons, so you just have to hope the lock-in system functions as it should.
The need to constantly upgrade your weapons becomes tedious and reflects badly on the nature of the game's combat. Since most fights boil down to haphazardly boosting and strafing around an opponent, strategy - at least in a maneuvering sense - goes out the window. Instead, what you have is a continual arms race with the computer. If you don't go back to the shop before each new mission and purchase the most powerful weapon, chances are you're not going to beat that next level. However, you'll run into a cash problem from time-to-time. At the end of each mission, the game automatically deducts money to fix your NEXT from your contract, so it may eat up half your cash in repairs, leaving very little leftover to actually upgrade your behemoth. Oh, and don't assume that having the best weapons guarantees a win. On quite a few missions you may run out of ammo for all your weapons and the game doesn't have a melee attack, so you have no option other than to restart the level.
It's easy to tell that developers and fans of the series care more about customizing their NEXT than the actual combat. The first time you step into the customization screen you'll be overwhelmed. There are hundreds of parts and tons of sliders that will take you quite some time to understand. You can outfit your NEXT with huge grenade launchers or spend time pasting tiny decals all over it. Die-hard tweakers could probably spend hours creating custom paint jobs and finding the just-right stabilizers to slap on their NEXT. What's odd is that while there is a general tutorial to teach you the ropes in the game, there's no explanation anywhere of the customization screen. Your best bet to is to either be a fan of the series already or consult the manual to try and decrypt what's on-screen.