Everyone loves giant robots! It’s a near universal truth; there’s just something about taking control of a towering mobile powerhouse of welded metal and gun placements in order to lay waste to your enemies that’s just so damned satisfying. Funny thing is, there are so many different flavors of giant robot action to take part in. There’s the bipedal elegance of a good Gundam duel, the robot on bug action of a decent Lost Planet title, or the vehicular manslaughter of a Transformers bout. From Software’s latest offering is drenched in the muddy, grit riddled realism of a global conflict where most of the combatants command what are basically tanks with cool bits strapped on. Armored Core V is apparently a surprisingly deep affair full of explosive action, countless loadout combinations, multiplayer modes and enough customization to make your head spin. Trouble is, I was too bored to find most of it.
Here are the facts: This is a game that takes place in a future where one bunch of mechs doesn’t really like another bunch of mechs and they all shoot at each other to great explosive effect. This series (which I’ve never touched before) is all about freedom of customization in order to optimize a player’s capabilities so they can kick copious amounts of ass on the battlefield. There are over 500 customizable parts at one’s disposal, giving players a real sense of control (and pride) when designing their dream killing machine. Detail oriented statistics and values ensure that pilots get what they paid for, forcing you to always weigh the pro’s and con’s of a particular mod in relation to your missions and enemies. Single player offers 10 story missions and over 80 Order Missions ( independent side quests I think), but all of these support co-op. The plot is almost non-existent, tacked on more to provide an excuse for you to get from point A to point B as opposed to delivering any sort of theme or character development. The world is surprisingly well realized though. It’s got that grimy, bombed out WWIII feel down to a tee.
Multiplayer, though, is where things really start cooking. Offline, Armored Core V isn’t really anything to write home about unless you are really into mech based customization/combat. Multiplayer is the same way, but the big difference is that if you give the game some time it becomes apparent that the title is really trying to do something special with its online modes of warfare. It’s almost like an MMO with giant robots, dumping you into a world where you team up with up to twenty other players and battle it out to secure territory. Fights can be fast and strategic, with all of those different mech combinations coming together to create some really unique experiences. Secure more territory, earn more points. Spend those points buying new upgrades, install said upgrades to create mechs with entirely different focuses. Small, nimble designs made for hit-and-runs, heavy tanks with long range missiles to dish out solid cover fire, low-key snipers with stealth capabilities and more.
From Software has a penchant for creating tough titles that seem to punish players who lack the commitment to really dig into their games and learn over time. Armored Core V shares this sentiment, as the only way to really learn the ropes is to jump in and keep trying over and over until the repetition ingrains even the basics into your brain. There aren’t any real tutorials, the amount of data they throw at you is monumental, and the interfaces don’t make a lick of sense unless you just keep plugging away at them. Down the road, I guess you reach a point where it all comes together in a sort of eureka moment, but I didn’t have the patience to find out. Kudos for making a mech game with such unflinching depth and realism, but you won’t see my popping this one in the 360 on a regular basis. It’s a little like survival of the fittest; if you do manage to find some enjoyment out the game, to really take the time to understand and make it your own, then you’ve earned the right to battle alongside your equally worthy armored brethren.