A real gun for hire.
I’m sure that more than one kid (besides myself) who grew up on Robotech has
dreamt of stepping into Rick Hunter’s boots, strapping themselves into a
Veritech fighter, and taking on the scum of the universe. Armored Core, a
mech-simulation/action game from From Studios (no pun intended), offers that
tiny Rick Hunter deep down inside all of us the opportunity to fulfill this
The story behind Armored Core is built upon the same premise as that of
Battletech. It is the distant future and a catastrophic war has wiped out
most of mankind. Giant corporations have come to the forefront to battle
for control of the remnants of civilization and their weapons of choice are
giant war machines (ACs). The player takes the role of a mercenary who
receives money for completing various missions for the different
corporations. This money is put towards purchasing numerous AC upgrades
necessary to complete the more difficult missions.
Although Armored Core is not based on Robotech, its robots
(called Armored Cores or ACs), bear a striking resemblance to the ones seen
in the epic series. This is mainly because Shoji Kawamori, famed designer
of the Robotech mecha, was the brains behind the AC design. I can honestly
say that this was one of the main factors that drew me to this game.
While the designers don’t get an award for plot originality, they do
deserve commendation for their attention to detail and game depth. You have the privilege of designing your AC down to the logo emblazoned
upon its arm. There are a staggering amount of possible combinations for an
AC that seems overwhelming at first glance. For example, you can choose
from four different styles of legs: humanoid legs, reverse jointed legs,
caterpillar treads, and four-leg hovers. Each of these styles has several
different models to choose from. Then imagine about the same amount of
choices for arms, power generators, heads, cores (bodies), right-arm
weapons, left-arm weapons, back weapons, etc; not to mention special
equipment found in the battlefield. A ballpark figure for possible
combinations is in the very high millions. Not only can players design the
structure of their AC, but they can also choose the paint job for that
personal touch. In addition, there is a paint program just for the logo
design. Of course the designers have generously provided several paint jobs
and logos for the artistically challenged and color uncoordinated.
The variety of weapons is also a definite plus. The available arsenal
includes laser swords, missiles, rockets, machine guns, energy weapons, and
Most of the missions are straightforward – solo, search and destroy in
various locations. There are only about 50 missions but they vary depending
on the player’s choices, so there is reason to play through the game more
than once. Another great feature is the two player, head-to-head mode,
which supports a Playstation link (two Playstations hooked up on two
televisions) or a simple split screen for the less privileged. What makes
the two-player mode special is the fact that each player can bring his/her
personalized AC to the battlefield via memory cards. This is a sure-fire
recipe for intense death matches for the fate of the universe.
The graphics are excellent with a high attention to detail. One noteworthy effect is the vapor trails left behind by missiles, a la Robotech. The controls take some getting used to because the game utilizes
all PSX buttons, but overall they are tight and responsive.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to Armored Core. For one, there is
little to no background music in the game; so mostly all you hear is the
sound of gunfire and metallic footsteps. Another problem is the slowdown
that occurs in intense firefights. Although it isn’t exactly Nintendo-esque
in irritation factor, it does take away a little from the overall game play.
I also had a problem with the length of the game. 50 missions may sound
like a lot, but they can go by pretty quickly if you know what you’re doing.
Finally, for those players who are nauseated by first person perspective
games: invest in seasickness pills. Armored Core is definitely not for the
weak of stomach because of the constant looking up and down, jumping around,
flying, and strafing left and right while looking up and down. It made me
realize that perhaps I wasn’t cut out to be a mech pilot.
Overall, Armored Core has a lot to offer. Players who have enjoyed games such as Mech
Warrior, Virtual On, or Earth Siege will probably get a kick out of Armored
Core. The mind-boggling amount of possibilities for AC design and the prospect for epic dogfights all contribute to a great game. There are some rough edges, but all in all I believe Armored Core to be one of the best mech-simulation games out there.