Transformers; more than meets the eye. Yeah, this has nothing to do with Transformers. This is an action, third person shooter, Mecha simulation developed by From Software in Japan so it's more like every single Anime to ever do with fighting robots.
The game takes place in what we can only assume is some time in the future after a major event simply dubbed “The Great Destruction” (and I thought my titles were bland) wiped out the majority of Earth's population leaving those who survived the event to live underground lives where powerful companies rose to power, the two most noticeable being Murakumo Millennium and Chrome. Wait a minute. Chrome?
All your Mecha are belong to us.
Being the two largest companies they're in a constant battle for supremacy. This of course gives a mercenary organization by the name of “Ravens' Nest” and all its members associated with it the perfect opportunity to cash in on the competition between the two leading companies and this is when we get to you, our hero and pilot who wishes to join the “Ravens' Nest” and becomes a new Raven. Of course they don't just let anyone in so after you choose the name for your pilot get ready to be sucked right into the action because the game starts off with a test to become a Raven by taking on two enemy machines called “Muscle Tracers” (MT) for short. After you complete the test we come to our main menu for Scenario Mode.
The main menu consists of the garage, top ten Raven rankings, email, missions, the shop and system data. In the garage you can modify your current Mecha, assembling different parts you can purchase from the shop, giving it a paint job, make your own symbol to put on it (or just select from samples already in the game) checking performance and naming your Mecha.
Selecting the gun titled “missions” will give you a list of jobs, showing you the award money for each signifying its difficulty, and the missions you perform will advance the story accordingly. Some missions offer bonuses and others threaten deduction if certain terms mentioned in the mission briefing are not met. At the end of each job you do you'll see a screen which lists the award, the costs of the mission, your balance and then the total of money you have remaining. Ammunition and parts, as you would imagine, are expensive so the more ammunition you use up, and the more damage you take, the more cash that is deducted from your pay. It's basically like winning a million dollars on a game show, by the time you're finished paying taxes on it you have half of what you started out with.
Now it is possible to get into debt with this game. Once your cash starts going into the minus points it's a good idea to start selling some parts in the shop to help you get back on your feet and then work on the easiest mission that's available to get out of debt before going on the more challenging jobs again. If you die during a mission you won't get a Game Over right away but you will lose money as a result from the expenses and receiving no award for failing. With each mission you succeed your success rate goes up, points are gathered and you may even find yourself on the top ten Ravens list that you can check from the main menu in-between missions.
Story is mainly told through emails and mission briefings. There are very few FMVs throughout the game and the few that are there aren't anything spectacular. The opening FMV that plays before the title screen is pretty much the only one that's worth watching.
Now that we got that out of the way let take a look at the controls of the game; you move your Mecha around with the directional buttons, jump with the X button and hold down X to use the boosters (using the directional button will allow you to move around while the boosters are activated). The Square button fires your weapon, Triangle changes weapons, Circle performs actions like opening the door and uses your left-handed equipped weapon, select displays your map and the X, Square, Circle and Triangle buttons allows you to move up, down, left and right while on the map screen. L1 moves your Mecha laterally to the left, RI moves it laterally to the right, L2 makes you look up and R2 makes you look down.
On top of Scenario Mode the game gives us a VS Mode for two players play but it isn't anything great. Basically you just set up your Mecha, choose your stage and battle against each other on a split screen unless you're fortunate enough to have a link cable so you don't have to deal with the headache of split screens.
Cons: There's a problem with the graphics on a level which only becomes apparent on missions where there's a secret access. Now the only hints you get to a secrete passage is through cracks on the walls or by seeing it from a side view as you're approaching the secret passage. The problem is with the graphics the way it is there are times where you see lines in walls that leads you to believe there's a secret passage where there isn't. Aside from that though, graphics are what you can expect from 1997.
The game has a tendency to lag during play when you have a lot of enemies on the screen and you're firing back and forth at each other all at once or when there's a big explosion. It's not the worst lag you'll ever experience in your life but it still has a risk of messing you up during a level.
Despite its flaws Armored Core offers an enjoyable gaming experience and the fact that you never see your main character, or any humans at all really when they're not in a Mecha, allows you to really become that character and imagine yourself sitting inside that Mecha. So if you're a fan of third person shooters, giant robots blowing stuff up and/or letting your imagination run wild I would recommend giving Armored Core a go.
Overall score: 6/10.