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GF! Archival Version Copyright 1995-2004

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by Agetec

Ups: Great graphics; lots of customizable mechs; serious strategy; great multiplayer. 

Downs:  Really tough missions; no analog stick support.

System Reqs:
Sony PlayStation

slide1-01.jpg (5230 bytes)Recently, I’ve been getting back into this robot—slash—exoskeleton kick: from a re-living of my early Transformers, after school anime youth to a stream of games (Omega Boost, Robotech (import), Front Mission 3) on the PlayStation, the most notable being the one found in front of me care of Agetec, Armored Core: Master of Arena. Now, anthropomorphic robots and mechanical suits of armor have never really dropped away from the whole gaming scene, nor culture for that matter (note the recent request for military grade exoskeletons from the Department of Defense), but it’s one thing to play your standard mech game and it’s another to play one as cool as the Armored Core series.

slide2-01.jpg (4783 bytes)For those who haven’t been following this cult favorite, you play the role of a Raven—basically a merc—and sell your skills out to the highest bidder, be them a corporate or a private individual with their own agenda. You don’t care, you’re after that contract money with which you purchase better and more advanced equipment. The robot you pilot is aptly called an armored core (AC). Yeah, there’s a loose story to the game, but in reality the fun comes from the various missions and the heteroglossia of strategies and equipment modifications you need to come up with in order to proceed through the game. If you’re curious, the story is this: you play the role of a pilot who lost his family to a murderous AC who you search for, hoping you might challenge them in the arena.

slide3-01.jpg (4411 bytes)If you’re used to the Armored Core series, then you won’t be surprised that the interface is still the same, making this game seem to me more like an add-on pack rather than an entirely separate game. As you can imagine, the game allows you to upgrade a variety of parts on your AC: the core, head, arms, legs, generator, boosters, back weapons, right & left arm weapons and FCS. You also have a few optional parts from which to choose. One thing that really bothered me about this game (one of my few complaints) is that Agetec forces you to use the game pad as opposed to the joystick. I don’t know about you, but my ability to move and survive in combat is greatly increased when I have complete Dual Shock control of the game. That aside, the interface and control is simple and, if you don’t know it yet, it’s easy to learn.

slide4-01.jpg (5457 bytes)In AC it’s important to figure in which order you should do your missions. Once you’ve made it past the first few you will begin to get a list of possible jobs you can accept. Each has its own level of difficulty and requirements laid out for you during your briefing. I noticed that there’s a steep curve from basic to advanced missions. It’s like they throw you the first few bones, get you addicted (and trust me this game is really addictive – you're in it for a good hour or two at a time), then make you work hard for those damn bones. Is it worth it you ask? Yes and no. Sometimes I grew frustrated that, for example, I was being knocked continuously with aerial attacks and had a really hard time nailing those damn jets. At other times, the sheer thought you need to put into your AC’s equipment and how you’ll approach certain contracts rewards you more than progressing in the game. The replayability of this game is noticeable from the onset.

slide6-01.jpg (5221 bytes)Let’s not discount the other half of this game: arena battles. Yep, they’re still around; it is called Master of Arena. If you want to take on a friend you can enter arena mode, but you’re also given the chance at different during the story mode of Armored Core. Don’t worry, you’ll get your practice in one way or another.

If you’re a fan of the series, you won’t be disappointed with Master of Arena. If you’ve never played an Armored Core, then I suggest picking one up at the local video store to see if you like it or not. This game isn’t for everyone, but if it’s your into insanely tough strategy, incredibly complex and deep customization, killer multiplayer brain-brawls, and a huge amount of variety, then you won’t be disappointed.

--Matt Baldwin