Armored Core 3: Silent Line Review
The Armored Core series has been From Software's hallmark in videogaming. The original Armored Core was like Gran Turismo except with mechs instead of vehicles. This concept of building your very own mech quickly caught with many people as Armored Core became on of the most original Playstation games on the market. Following Armored Core's success, From Software decided to do another AC, but this one will be more of an add-on rather than a whole new game. Fans of the original loved every second of Armored Cored: Project Phantasma, the game got decent reviews but sales were all that mattered. Following Phatasma we got Master of the Arena just this March of 2000. Though the game ran on the same engine, it was still a great mech builder game with lots of options and a great two player mode. Notice how none of these games had the number "2" in any of them, that's because neither of these two games were sequels, until now. From Software and ASCII have returned but this time on the mother of all consoles, that's right folks the PS2! Armored Core series finally gets a sequel, but is it any good?
Jaggies and flickering aside, Armored Core 2 is a work of art. Robots have never looked so good before, the detail in all of them is truly a giant leap over the Playstation's. Robot models are nicely designed with a slew sweet looking structures such as the core, head, legs, and the arms. Everything about the robots seems so real that you feel as if you are directing the next Terminator movie... okay so it's not that realistic but you know what I mean. The environments are also great looking if not a bit too small for exploration. Compared to the enormously large environments in Capcom's Gun Griffon Blaze, Armored Core 2 is pretty lacking in that area, although I still love the great detail that From Software put into the scenarios. Some examples of an extremely good looking mission is the lava stage, where all hell broke loose, the bridges have been destoryed and below all of the ruined bridges is an ocean of wonderful lava just waiting for you. Mech on a stick anyone? The graphics aren't all sassy and perfect though, the infamous jaggies and flickering are present but aren't as noticeable as the PS2's previous titles, say Ridge Racer V. With robots of course comes what? Lots and lots of eye candy explosions, and that is exactly what Armored Core 2 delivers, lovely eye-candy effects. Every explosion, gun shot, laser beam, and the turbo boost lights up the screen with vibrant colors that are sure to please the viewers eye. I'm not expecting AC2's visuals to be improved in any way for its US release, but that would be nice though.
Like I said earlier, the Armored Core series is truly Gran Turismo with bots, and there is no denying that. Armored Core 2 sets you off with a default mech that has a slow rifle and a pack of missiles. You start out on the games training level where you are running around on a linear highway path getting the hang of the game's basics. After completing that the games Nerves of Concord menu will open up letting you access the Arena mode, Mission mode, Garage, Shop, System and Mail. The Arena mode is 50% of the games beef, this where you pick your mech strives to make it to the top by edging out 49 different mechs that are above your rank. You start out as Rank 50, your goal is to beat every other mech that is in-front of you until you make it to Rank 1. Doing that will have you completed 50% of the game. The next 50% is probably the hardest to do, which is the Mission mode. You select a mission, agree to its terms and if you are successful in carrying out your orders you are rewarded with some hefty credit. Those who are new to the Armored Core franchise it will take quite awhile for you to get the hang of the games basics and somewhat difficult yet patient mandatory gameplay. The shop is where you sell and buy mech parts, when starting out it's best to sell your old rifle weapon and laser beam sword, and trade that for something that has more fire power as well as no reload times, machine guns are key elements to success. After you make some money purchase your laser sword back again and the rest of the customization is up to you. There are literally hundreds of parts to buy and thousands of different bots to assemble. If you think your mech is dull and boring, then why not snazz it up a little by decorating it with all sorts of different color combinations. You have the ability to perk up almost every structure on your mech's body, arms, legs, torso, head, if your bot has it you can modify it.
Also just like the previous Armored Core games, you have the decal edit where you can design your very own logo. To add to the one-player goodies, you also have a pretty exciting two-player mode, especially if both gamers load up their custom mechs and duke 'em out. Two-player mode features a good variety of stages to pick from, such as an Abyss, Deserted Highway, Battle Dome and a few others. Armored Core 2's AI shouldn't be taken lightly either, they pack a fierce punch and won't hold back on triple teaming you or even quadruple teaming on you, as long as your carcass is toast the enemy is satisfied. Armored Core 2 is a great sequel to all the Playsation versions, fans of the series will be familiar with the game in an instant, while newbies may take time to accept the games simulation like gameplay.
Those who have an imported PS2 may want to pick up Armored Core 2 because the spoken dialogue can be changed to English. Since the Armored Core 2 is a DVD-Rom that sound quality is a real bang, but the voice acting is a drag. Your mission instructor has an accent so thick that he can barely pronounce the letter "R". The timing is good and all but the lousy accent is a real distraction and almost forces you to skip his whole speech. The sound effects on the other hand sound very good, almost as if you were watching an "A" class movie. Great sound and sound effects, but hurt by the thick accent.
Chances are you are probably thinking why is the control score been given a 5.0? That's an easy question, and if you were me you'd probably give the control the same score. The reason for scoring the control a 5.0 was because there is absolutely no analog support. Some may not mind but other will have to play the game with the digital pad, the last game I remember playing with the digital pad was Mega Man Legends. I'm a freak when it comes down to analog support, I need my games to feature analog sensitivity, good camera rotation, and most of all the support for analog. Correct me if I'm wrong but I think that AC2 is the only PS2 action/adventure game that doesn't support analog. I was really disappointed with that, I hate playing games with lack of analog support but I had to get used to AC2, luckily the game was a lot of fun.
Overall Armored Core fans will surely be pleased with Armored Core 2. The new game may not be overflowing with new features, but that just makes it easier to get a hold on the game's sim-mech building gameplay. The visuals are a plus, the gameplay is still a breath of fresh air, the sound although hampered by the accent is still decent, but the controls are a bit annoying with the lack of analog support. Keep in mind fellow readers that this was an import review of Armored Core 2, and the US version may still have a chance of receiving a few changes, so don't go crazy just yet.
8/19/2000 Arnold Katayev