|Recently, Ive been getting
back into this robotslashexoskeleton 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 its one thing
to play your standard mech game and its another to play one as cool as the Armored
For those who havent been following this cult favorite, you play the role of a Ravenbasically a mercand sell your skills out to the highest bidder, be them a corporate or a private individual with their own agenda. You dont care, youre 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, theres 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 youre 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.
If youre used to the Armored Core series, then you wont 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 dont 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 dont know it yet, its easy to learn.
In AC its important to figure in which order you should do your missions. Once youve 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 theres a steep curve from basic to advanced missions. Its 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 ACs equipment and how youll approach certain contracts rewards you more than progressing in the game. The replayability of this game is noticeable from the onset.
Lets not discount the other half of this game: arena battles. Yep, theyre still around; it is called Master of Arena. If you want to take on a friend you can enter arena mode, but youre also given the chance at different during the story mode of Armored Core. Dont worry, youll get your practice in one way or another.
If youre a fan of the series, you wont be disappointed with Master of Arena. If youve 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 isnt for everyone, but if its your into insanely tough strategy, incredibly complex and deep customization, killer multiplayer brain-brawls, and a huge amount of variety, then you wont be disappointed.