Armored Core 4 Xbox 360
Published by: 505 Games
Developed by: From Software
Release Date: Out Now
Whilst the last generation of consoles seemed to have plenty of quality mech-based action games (mechs being those giant bipedal, piloted, robot-like war machines that you usually see in science fiction games and films) the current generation (PS3, 360 and Wii) have been found wanting. Still if any series can rectify this sorry state of affairs, it's the Armored Core series which has been a favourite with mech fans for years now. The series where mechs are known as AC's has always had a loyal following and for the most part has delivered quality games. Here's hoping that Armored Core 4 can come up with the goods.
Armored Core 4 offers a single-player game that's filled with fairly short missions in addition to Xbox Live (2-8 players), System Link (2-8 players) and Split-Screen (2 players) multiplayer modes. The single-player game begins with a short tutorial that will show you how to control your AC. Once you're done with the tutorial you'll enter your name, pick an AC to begin with and then head on to the first chapter of the campaign. In each chapter (aside from the first which simply consists of a single mission), you'll have a collection of missions to complete. These missions usually involve killing all enemies, killing a specific enemy or protecting certain locations against waves of enemies. For the most part these missions are fine although the game is more suited to being played in short bursts rather than long sessions as the missions can get repetitive.
The highlight of Armored Core 4 is the sheer amount of customisation you can do. For completing missions you'll earn money. The amount of money you earn is dependent on the size of reward offered for the mission and how you are penalised (for taking too much damage, using excessive amounts of ammo and for going over the ideal time for the mission) or rewarded (for taking minimal damage, using a small amount of ammo and for taking as little time as possible) for completing a mission. The AC's are modular in design and every part can be replaced to improve their efficiency. You can effectively create your own AC's or simply chose a predefined schematic. The ability to customise an AC with the weapons and various armour and other parts is very impressive. You'll get to tune your AC too and for those who want their AC to have that custom paint job you'll be able to change the colour of every part of your AC and even apply decals. You can spend hours just customising your AC with all of the options at your disposal.
Whilst Armored Core 4 is generally fun there are some minor disappointments here. Whilst many will find the short missions refreshing others will find them a little shallow and would have preferred missions with more depth and length to them. During a mission it's possible to cross over an invisible boundary, this boundary is known as the limit of the combat area, and if you happen to completely come out of the combat area you'll fail the mission. In some missions this is really easy to do, particularly if you're airborne, and it can be very irritating to fail a mission for this. You do receive text warnings when you are close to the invisible boundary and when you have crossed the boundary but it's still very easy, in the heat of battle, to pass out of the combat area and fail the mission. Finally, it has to be said that the game's story is about as uninteresting as it gets and, as the summary on the back of the box, is basically about six corporations wanting to 'overthrow the establishment with their superior breed of Armored Core mechs.' Sure Armored Core 4 is essentially an action title, so having a quality storyline isn't essential but it still would be nice to have had a story that was interesting.
Graphically, Armored Core looks quite. The AC's in particular look very nice and animate quite impressively. There are some nice lighting and blurring effects on display too. What is disappointing though are the rather barren environments you'll battle in. Aside from your enemies there isn't a living soul. This doesn't matter so much when you're in enclosed environments but when you get out in the open, in a city for example, it just doesn't look right and kind of gives the impression that you're fighting in a ghost town. It would have been great to have seen people running around scared out of their wits with these giant AC's causing destruction on a massive scale. Actually that's another disappointment as you don't really see the AC's causing mass destruction as firing at a skyscraper for instance doesn't seem to do any damage to it, which is a little disappointing seeing as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are far more capable games machines.
Armored Core 4 is fine for deaf gamers. The tutorial that you'll encounter when beginning a new game is exclusively in text. As well as using text to explain how to control your AC, an onscreen representation of the 360 controller is shown and the relevant controls highlighted. The game's cutscenes are simply subtitled using white text with no character portraits or names placed alongside the text. Communications during missions are subtitled in a similar fashion. Prior to the start of a mission you're given your mission objectives in text and you're also shown what your reward will be for successful completion of the mission along with the amount of ammo you'll have and the time that the mission should be cleared within (you can exceed this time limit however). Should you hit one of those invisible boundaries during a mission you're given a Limit of Area text notification. When a mission has been completed you're given a text rundown of how well you performed which includes a ranking for your performance amongst other things.
Where Armored Core 4 succeeds is that it's both pleasing for veterans of the series and very accessible to those who have never played an Armored Core game before. The brevity of the missions is a bit of a mixed blessing as it makes the game great to pick up and play when you don't have much time but also makes the missions feel a little shallow. The invisible boundaries that you have in missions are a real pain and at times can be frustrating. Despite the disappointments however, Armored Core 4 does have its moments. A good amount of the missions are fairly enjoyable and the customisation options are quite impressive. An interesting storyline for the single-player campaign wouldn't have gone amiss however and would certainly have added appeal to the single-player game. Whilst Armored Core is probably the best mech-based game there is on the Xbox 360 at the moment, it certainly isn't the most impressive game in the series so far. That said however, I'm sure it's a game that will keep fans of the Armored Core series, and those looking for good mech-based game, happy until From Software give us a game that really pushes the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Armored Core 4 isn't the finest game in the series to date but it is enjoyable and is the best mech-based game on the 360 to date although that isn't really saying much.