Let me start the review by talking about Armored Core 2. AC2 was the first game I bought for my PS2, and following my fondness of this game, I was actually a bit disappointed. Your robot no longer moves with the same frantic speed, nor are the levels and customisation as fun. And it was only then I realised that Armored Core 1 really was ahead of its time with the level of options available.
The game's graphics are about average for its time; neither good nor bad. There's an occasional bit of poor graphics on a piece of scenery, but the different body parts seamlessly fit together with no glitches, which is actually quite surprising given the number of them.
In two player mode, the split screen is further reduced by an oversized HUD. You can play the game on two TVs and PSs with a PlayStation connector cable, but I've never tried this.
The game takes place in the future; a great war has ravaged the earth and now power is owned by large companies, and anything goes. You are a member of Raven's Nest and are a mercenary for hire. You are tasked by whoever hires you, which may mean performing a sortie for a company you previously sabotaged. You even fight fellow Ravens at some points.
After the amazing intro, there's not much story, which unveils through emails you receive, notifying you of consequences of your mission and the rise and fall of certain companies. Sadly, the remaining FMVs are pretty pathetic.
Armored Core is probably one of the best third person shooters I've ever played for several reasons. Firstly, you can fly. Boosting at high speeds on the ground or leaping into the air is simply huge fun and the increased mobility you get really does make a difference.
Armored Core's biggest selling point is the customisability. You make your own robot, and you may use whatever combination of heads, arms, legs and weapons work best for you. You can make a heavily armored juggernaught, or a speedy roadrunner and anything in between. There are literally hundreds of body parts, most of which you buy in the shop with earned credit but some you can find in missions.
And there's bonuses and penalties for everything. Heavily armored arms may be incompatibile with some shoulder weapons. Solid weapons don't drain energy but need reloading after a mission. Fast legs may not support the weight of the body and so on. You may spend anything up to an hour in between missions getting the balance right, which may sound a pain, but it's actually very fun.
But wait, there's more! The two player mode which, although it suffers from the smaller split screen, is one of the favourite multiplayer games of my friends - some have bought the game after playing it at my house. You can pit your own customised robot against your friends' and have many a fun evening indeed.
Despite what was said in GR's article, I don't think this is a short game at all. There are 46 missions, each taking on average 20 minutes to complete. You don't need to complete them all in order to get to the end of the game, but certain levels only open up after you do, giving you the chance to keep playing missions even when the game is technically over.
There's a whole shop full of body parts to buy and secret ones to be found in missions. There's a ranking to reach the top of (only achieved when all rival Ravens are killed in all the missions), plus the two player mode makes the game indispensable.
Armored Core is a massively entertaining game for both single and multi-player, so good that even its own sequels can't match it. If you live in Japan or North America, there are two bonus AC1 games (Project Phantasma and Master of Arena) that only add to one of my favourite PS1 games ever.