It looks nicer, it plays faster, and with its lower barrier to entry, Armored Core 4 should appeal to more than just the series' faithful gearheads.
- Heavier emphasis on fast-paced mech combat
- Streamlined assembly interface makes game far more approachable
- Great voice acting and soundtrack
- Robots + Explosions = Win.
- Missions are too short
- Some environments are pretty bland
- Lackluster online multiplayer
- Series vets may be disappointed by reduced complexity.
Mech games come in two varieties. You've got the West's MechWarrior tradition, characterized by hulking, barbaric monstrosities, and the East's Gundam or Macross tradition, characterized by lithe and agile bots. With the release of Chromehounds last year, From Software seems to want to corner the mech market, offering the best of the East and the West. And with Chromehounds accommodating the grognard sect, it seems only natural that Armored Core's already booster-engine-friendly action would transition out of that market in favor of the fast-paced arcade-style experience. In many ways, Armored Core 4 trims the fat from the series, removing or toning down some of the interesting but not particularly well-executed aspects of the game. But to compensate, the developers layered on a heaping helping of butter by ramping up the intensity and action, as well as simplifying the mech-building process. However you cook it, Armored Core 4 offers a delightfully unhealthy amount of mech-busting fun.
For six-and-a-half years and seven games, the Armored Core faithful have been pining for a graphical update. That update has now arrived. From an artistic standpoint, AC4 looks as you'd expect from a world exposed to one ecologically obliterating war after another. The whole game has an overexposed, grainy aesthetic that really immerses you in the foul state the world has deteriorated into. Depth of field is heavily relied upon to blur out distant objects, which further adds a hazy and surreal quality to the game's appearance. AC4 also shines from a technical standpoint. Lighting, in particular, is phenomenally well done, from the way your boosters illuminate your mech in the night to the way billowing clouds of dark, oily smoke blot out the sun and darken the environment. Particle effects look really good, and in a first for the series, the game's environments are fairly destructible, as buildings will partially collapse under heavy fire and certain environments break apart. Further, the frame rate is for the most part rock steady, but it does drop to a crawl if you're given a rocket-barrage sandwich. And this will occasionally happen, as there's definitely a lot more ordnance flying every which way than before.
Armored Core 4's graphics do have a few notable faults, however. Namely, though collision detection is spot-on when it comes to enemies, your mech's lower extremities and weapons will occasionally clip through particularly hilly areas of the environments. Also, destroyed mechs and other debris pretty much disappear as soon as they're destroyed, which means you can't take pride in your wake of carnage after the fact. Lastly, this game is meant to be played in high definition, as it's here that the lighting and detail on the mechs really pop. In standard def, the graphics are still decent, but their impact is greatly diminished. The Xbox 360 version and PS3 version are functionally the same in nearly every respect, but you will find that, surprisingly, the Xbox 360 version will look a tad better, particularly in atmospheric particle effects. Otherwise, the only real difference between the two is the 360's achievement points.
Overall, AC4 is a much faster, more visceral experience than previous games in the series. The foremost reason behind this is the completely redesigned boost mechanic. In the past, you were given a fairly limited amount of energy that quickly drained every time you engaged your boost, and if you weren't careful, it would bottom out and you'd be left to plod along as you waited for it to recharge. In AC4, that design has pretty much been tossed out the window, because now if you aren't boosting, you're either dead or soon will be. Your energy now drops only when you go vertical or when you activate the game's new boost option, the quick boost. Quick boost eats up a chunk of energy in exchange for a burst of speed in whichever direction you indicate, and it acts as an evasive maneuver or as a way to cover a lot of ground quickly. Even better, you no longer need to worry about overheating or bottoming out your energy meter, as the coolant mechanic has been removed.
With those shiny new boosters, you're going to want space to really cut loose, and Armored Core 4 accommodates. In the past, you were limited by a fairly rigid boundary limit, where you could go only so high or so far before warning lights flashed and you were charged with dereliction. While those limits still exist, they're not anywhere near as confining as they were. So you can now fly to the top of towering structures and rain death down below, engage in prolonged aerial combat with helicopters or other zippy mechs, or speed through a sprawling city, pausing only to bust up a cadre of simpletons who have a mind to bring you down--as if.
The logical progression of 'roiding up the graphics and opening up the environments to accommodate for the faster and more furious gameplay is to design missions that speak directly to these assets. The storyline plays out over the course of 37 missions, and these are kept fresh and varied by giving you objectives other than just kill-'em-all, though you'll occasionally do that, too. Whether it's blasting out of the sky waves and waves of self-guided missiles, working your way through pitch-black night to destroy an experimental weapon, or just going one-on-one with a highly skilled enemy merc, the action is intense and satisfying. Strategy is more heavily emphasized, as well, and if you fail on your first attempt, you'll typically have a good idea on which weapons loadout to try on your next attempt. And really, it's often just as fun to fail as it is to succeed. This is because From Software has done a significantly better job of reducing the frustration level of many missions by making failures feel less arbitrary. There's always a sense that when you fail, it is your fault, not that of the game being cheap.
An unfortunate holdover from previous AC games is that missions are still entirely too short, lasting no longer than five minutes and occasionally less than 60 seconds. It can be absurdly unsatisfying to find that you've accomplished your mission just as the action was heating up. What's worse is that you're often still in quite a precarious situation when many missions end, so it seems as though a good many of them could have been quite naturally extended by requiring you to escape after you've infiltrated. As it is, they end with an abrupt invulnerability and an accompanying "Please return to base" message once you complete your objective.
Aside from revamping the boost mechanic and opening up the environments, the other significant alteration to the Armored Core formula is primal armor. Cores now come equipped with PA, which is a force field of sorts and is fueled by that which fuels many an ardent Metal Gear Solid devotee, Kojima. In AC4, Kojima is a recently developed technology that acts essentially like nuclear radiation, as it decimates the environment and kills anyone not insulated from it. But, it is highly effective as a military instrument, so in true-to-life fashion, it's been implemented on a wide scale. The primal armor system works quite well, and it adds an interesting dynamic, especially to fights against enemy Nexts, which are the advanced mech suits that you and the other skilled mercenaries pilot. Weapons now have a PA piercing and PA reduction stat, and these significantly play into your loadout choices when you square off against one of your fellow mechanized killers.
- Player Reviews: 93
- Game Universe:
- Armored Core 4 (X360, PS3),
- Armored Core: Formula Front - Extreme Battle (PSP, PS2),
- Armored Core: For Answer (X360, PS3),
- Armored Core V (PS3, X360),
- Armored Core (PS),
- Armored Core: Last Raven (PS2),
- Armored Core: Nine Breaker (PS2),
- Armored Core: Nexus (PS2),
- Silent Line: Armored Core (PS2),
- Armored Core 3 (PS2)
- Offline Modes:
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Number of Players:
- Number of Online Players:
8 Players Online