|The Armored Core games are either a love it or hate it affair with gamers. If you are a mech fan AC is easy to love, but if you are one of those people that dont know the difference between a Gundam and a garden hose then you probably dont like AC as much. Likewise, the fact that this is the fourth Armored Core game to look and play pretty much the same on PS2 either irritates you because they are taking up valuable shelf space or thrills you because you get to blow more stuff up. Silent Line is the latest entry into the series, and while it doesnt play that much differently from Armored Core 3, fans of the series will find a lot to like. If you arent already an Armored Core fan, you can leave now because Silent Line isnt going to change your mind.
Silent Line is an expansion on Armored Core 3, but you dont have to own AC3 to enjoy Silent Line. You can, however, load your AC3 data and continue on from where you left off. This is nothing new to the Armored Core series. The first AC on PSone had two expansions, AC2 on PS2 had an expansion and now Armored Core 3 gets the expansion treatment. The only problem with this kind of quick turnaround is that it leaves little time to innovate or refine the graphics and gameplay. As such, Silent Line plays just like the very first game on PSone and even looks quite a bit like it. Lame? You bet, but at least you get to blow more stuff up.
Silent Line takes place shortly after Armored Core 3. You are once again an armored-core (mech) pilot known as a Raven that takes missions from whoever can afford your services. After the defeat of the tyrannical computer known as the Controller in AC3, the world has begun to rebuild. However, a new evil has surfaced in a region of the world known as the Silent Line. No one can get in to start developing the land and it is up to you to head in and investigate and eventually destroy the threat.
There are a couple of different modes in Silent Line, but they are all connected and play a role in the main game. You can play through the missions and earn money to buy parts, make repairs, and even buy new mechs for your squad. You can fight through a tournament in the arena mode to earn more money as well. Also, you can train an AI mech and have it fight in the arena mode.
Money plays a big role in Silent Line. All of your earnings from the missions and the arena mode will be poured into making your mech bigger, stronger, faster, and more heavily armed. You also have to pay for repairs after each mission, which can get expensive if you arent careful. The main draw of the game is customizing your core, and Silent Line offers more options than any other AC game. You can upgrade literally everything on your mech. Head, torso, arms, legs, rocket boost, secondary items and, of course, weapons. There are hundreds of parts that you can combine to create thousands of unique cores, which means that by the end of the game you should have a mech that is exactly the way you want it. You can also buy jets and tanks to help you assault enemy targets.
The gameplay in Silent Line is your typical giant robot explosion-fest. The environments are fairly large and vary from city streets, inside of buildings, and open outdoor areas and there is usually plenty of room to move around and find cover. Most missions involve simply destroying all of the enemies, but since you are always upgrading your mech in between missions the game doesnt really feel repetitive because it is always fun to try out your new toys.
The controls in the Armored Core series always get a lot of complaints, but I kind of like them. You use your left and right arms, and whatever weapons are attached to them, with the Circle and Square buttons. Triangle lets you cycle through your weapons and X is your boost. You can move around with the D-pad or left analog stick and the shoulder buttons let you strafe and look up and down. Combinations of buttons let you drop off damaged parts, among other things. The main complaints people have with the controls is that you cant use the right analog stick to control the camera and also that everything seems slow and clunky. Those things are true and a bit annoying, but this is a giant robot game. You never hear people complain about Steel Battalion having a giant unwieldy controller because it is a mech sim, and it is supposed to be complicated. I tend to think of Armored Core in the same way. These are giant machines that are heavy and slow, and if they actually did exist, they would most likely be more difficult to pilot than just grabbing a joystick and slamming on the gas. Yeah, the controls in Armored Core are a bit clunky, but they fit in with the theme of the game and actually immerse you into it a little more, so I think that if you are a fan of the genre you gladly put up with them and let the noobs whine all they want.
The graphics and sound effects are rather disappointing. The Armored Core series has only had minimal graphics improvement from AC2 on, so Silent Line looks rather dated. The mechs are nice looking, but some more detail would have been appreciated. The environments are gritty and not very detailed, but the effects for weaponry and explosions look good. New to Silent Line is a first person cockpit view, which looks good and is very fun to use. The sound effects are also reused from previous AC games and while they arent that bad, we have heard all of this before. The music is typical of the series, which means dramatic orchestral scores that really do a good job of setting the mood. The graphics and sound get the job done, but dont expect to be blown away by them.
Overall, Silent Line is a nice addition to the Armored Core series. The only problem with it is that it feels like the same game we have been playing for the past three years since Armored Core 2 launched with the PS2. The graphics and sounds have improved about as much as the gameplay, which is very little, and that makes it hard to recommend for a purchase to anyone other than die hard fans. It is a solid game that is a lot of fun to play, but it is hard to shake the feeling that this is just a rehash. Fans of the series will eat it up and it is also as good of a game as any for new mech fans to start with, but I would recommend renting it first before you lay down $40 for it.