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.
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.
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.