Showing signs of rust.
Reviewers tend to favor certain words. Ben loves the word "wily"; Duke is partial to ""flimshaw." I have two favorites myself: "ubiquity" and "entropy."
A ubiquitous game is entirely familiar, offering more of the same old thing. While it doesn't always mean that something sucks, throw too many ubiquitous games together and they inexorably lead to entropy, which is the inevitable nature for all orderly things to deteriorate to a disorderly state. In other words, sh*t happens.
But in the case of Silent Line: Armored Core, sh*t hasn't quite happened like it should. Fans of the AC games have been clamoring for simple evolutionary advancements such as online play, a graphic overhaul and a definitive sense of scale. On all three fronts, Silent Line strikes out. However, many welcome additions and the classic AC depth and customization keep this armored giant at the top of the list for PS2 mech titles, though that isn't saying much.
Silent Line is more of an expansion than an actual sequel, hence the conveniently omitted "4" from the title. An Earth controlled by machines has finally become a horrible clich" of the past and humans happily return to a charred, battle-scarred surface. Terraforming and new agriculture are big business, and the discovery of a new industrial metropolis sparks the interest of all rivaling corporations. But attempts to gain access are met with brutal opposition, so inevitably the line goes silent. And who do the corporations call when they don't want to get their affluent hands dirty? You, your fellow Ravens and your giant mechs for hire, that's who.
The story may have changed, but the gameplay hasn't. The aforementioned corporations hire you out for various jobs which include anything from escorts to eliminations. The money you earn can be used to buy much needed parts and upgrades. There are 34 new missions, which again vary from 5 minute simplistic yawns to long, drawn-out impossibilities. All of them are pretty boring and only serve as money-making ventures. More missions do take place outside since the new story has taken us topside, which is nice. For a more in-depth rundown of gameplay, check out our previous AC reviews.
One brand new inclusion is the first-person view option. What was a code or hint in the PSX version has turned into a full-fledged cockpit view with customizable displays and system meters. This is very cool and offers a more immersive take on robotic warfare.
Two-hundred new parts have been added to the ever-growing shop, and yes, you can load up your mech from AC 3 and continue building in Silent Line. This has always been one of AC's strong points. Many of the new parts are cool and actually alter some of the gameplay.
For instance, AC 2 introduced the radiator, which keeps your system cool and helps prevent overheating. But eventually you would find yourself prey to consecutive shots, flamethrower blasts and/or explosions. Coupled with your own system's natural heat expenditures, this would sometimes cause an internal fire, which in turn causes a perpetual loss of armor points. But in Silent Line you now have the option to buy an Inside "forced-cooling" part, which will instantly cool down your system so you won't continue to lose hit points. There's also a part that forces energy replenishment to quickly power up your system after you've accidentally exhausted your energy supply. Of course, you can only have one or the other and both are limited to a certain number of uses.
There are also some great new machine guns, missiles, countermeasures, flaming rockets and more. Those looking for quiet mechs will love the hovercraft legs. Pesky aerial combatants will enjoy the new high-capacity generators and top-end booster combinations to extend the amount of time one can remain airborne. There is even a new Extension part which when activated will allow a mech to hover in one place like a helicopter. You'll find improved Exceed Orbit cores, more powerful left hand weapons and shields...the list just goes on and on.
Customizing your core has always been fun, but it has never been this interesting. Silent Line also comes with a new AI mode, which allows you to train your creations to act differently in battle. So if you've gone through all the Arena opposition and you don't have a friend to play multiplayer, you can train another mech to be the ultimate thorn in your metallic backside. The system is easy to use and a great addition to keep things new and exciting. Silent Line has a lot love to give.
Yet if you aren't already an AC convert, this title does little to sway you to our mechanized congregation. The control remains the same, which is to say impossible. Every single button is used, all the way down to the L3 and R3 buttons. This is easily the game's biggest hurdle. A toggle to switch looking and aiming over to the right thumbstick would have been nice for those used to playing first-person shooters, but no such luck.
The aesthetics need some fine tuning as well. The game looks good by first-generation PS2 standards, but that's a little late. The environments are still bland and the textures are still a bit flat. The graphics don't really put across a sense of scale and depth. You don't get the idea you're a 40-foot tall steel death machine. Smaller moving cars or humans to trample underfoot would help with this; the AC folks should take a hint from the Xbox's MechAssault.
The multiplayer is perhaps the biggest thorn in this game's side. You can play with friends via split-screen or with the Sony Firewire cable, which allows up to four PS2s to be linked together. Great fun if you can get it all working, but most of us won't bother. Amazingly, Silent Line completely forgoes the fact that the PS2 is online. I complained about this last year and will complain about it again. There is no online component at all, which is a big letdown.
Silent Line is a solid addition to the Armored Core series with its bevy of cool new options and upgrades, but it still only caters to those well-versed in the esoteric world of AC geekdom. Perhaps better control, graphics and online play will grace AC 4, but I think I said that when I wrote the review for AC: Another Age. Thanks to ubiquitous design decisions, the once stellar series is suffering an entropic fall from grace. I sincerely hope someone will save this giant robot.