Armored Core 5 Review (PS3)

Robots are always popular and thanks to the Transformers series are as welcome today in videogames as they ever have been. My earliest memory of a mech-game was MechWarrior on the original PlayStation when the flashy visuals and square giants were my first taste of a game other than that featuring a spiky blue hedgehog.

Armoured Core V is a great place to re-kindle my affair with the mechs and see if anything has changed in my absent years from this genre. The first major change and one that is new to the series is the ever-connected world that you battle in. As soon as you jump into the game, you’ll be asked to join a faction and from then on, it’s you against the world as you pit to control as much territory as possible.

These visuals may look impressive, but in-game they aren't so hot

You aren’t forced into playing online but the ever-present connection when you play through the campaign means you can rack up victories for the faction alongside a wealth of customization options whereby you put your opponents to a challenge. You can assign members to your faction, typically through the use of invites to a friend or you can opt for some random guests instead.

FromSoftware have tried to create a game this time that appeals to the veterans of the series but also allows an easier introduction to new players, but this is somewhat debatable. The buttons are designed to be user-friendly, tapping A will make your robot jump or double jump and X will boost you around the environments. Pressing the triggers and shoulder buttons will allow you to perform attacks and these can be combined to cause some devastating explosions.

This simplicity is evident in the smaller mechs which are now lighter and easier to move around from previous games. Customization is still a key part of pimping your robot out, but the epic bots from previous games are absent. The customization is vast and you can create team emblems and body art for your bot right down to the intricate details of fine-tuning the colour and each individual layer. You can certainly create some great designs if you are artistic but it can be fiddly and you’ll need to invest a fair bit of time to create unique ideas.

The menus however leave a sour taste in this user friendly drive. They are cluttered and difficult to navigate which is off-putting when you want to jump straight into the story mode. The fact you have to set up your faction and customize options without a proper introduction can be confusing for the novice, but crucially is part of the online experience.

The customization options are vast and will appeal to fans of the series

If you click the right stick you can enter scan mode which analyses the surroundings for enemies and information on them as well as give you route details. You can’t attack however which means you need to be quick to switch back and forth if you are trying to follow a certain path. It seems unusual that this could not have been implemented in the main combat screen itself.

The single player consists of ten missions that increase in difficulty which is clearly highlighted on the main map screen where you can select other modes including Invasion or continue the story. Each mission follows a similar pattern of taking down a set number of targets and clearing the mission area before you travel onwards and repeat. At times the navigation is frustrating with the map struggling to highlight where there are enemies still left which can lead to you searching high and low to kill a single enemy. You are given several sub-missions that may include destroying a certain number of helicopters or mech snipers and with fulfilling these you can gain additional rewards including a few achievements.

The difficulty spike is pretty harsh, the first few story missions feel like a breeze, however proceed any further and it suddenly feels that during each level all you’ll be hearing is the constant beeping of your robot about to explode and dump you right back at the start. There are intermittent save points after you have cleared an area, but sometimes just doing that is a chore.

Order missions can divert your attention from the main story to help with building up money to buy additional parts, but the key is that there is no ultimate robot that can destroy enemies in seconds; you’ll need to fiddle about with settings and weaponry to find the perfect mix.

The HUD can be pretty action packed

Disappointingly the story is bland and uninspiring and the graphical capabilities are limited. You could almost look at this as a game from ten years ago were it not for the fairly solid frame rate with no apparent slowdown being the only saving grace. Blocky textures crop up and the lighting leaves a lot to be desired with frequent dark areas that even with high television brightness settings still appear dark.

It was designed to be a good starter for novices to the series, but has turned out to be overly complicated and unforgiving. That said there is no denying that fans of the series can and will appreciate the options available and will spend hours customizing and creating the ultimate robot. With a stronger story and more attention to detail as well as a simplified difficulty level this mech could have been the ultimate warrior.

Top Gaming Moment: Spending hours perfecting an emblem using the intricate layers system.

Platform Played: Xbox 360