Right, Armored Core V. In theory, a mech game should be very simple. Just add some giant robots, some guns, and places to rampage. Shake for a few minutes and serve.
Sadly, ACV has the same issues as AC4A did. Namely, it isn’t very fun.
I could harp on the practically non-existant characters or the story that seems to require you to have played all the previous games in order to understand it. You seem to be a member of a rebellion fighting against a figure creatively entitled ‘Father.’ Except some side missions seem to have you fighting mechs piloted by other rebels, so perhaps you are just a mercenary hired to support just one rebellious faction?
There are several characters including you, but you never see their faces, much less their shadow. At one point, one seems to die, but without any real experience or characterization, the death rings hollow, meaningless, and emotionless. We aren’t invested in the characters or story.
Unlike other games, ACV has one difficulty setting, with a difficulty curve like running into a wall. The first few missions are a breeze, then it throws a 7/10 mission at you. Naturally, the mission requires mastery of controls you haven’t really had to use as much or at all, and techniques that you haven’t yet ingrained. As such, you will fail that mission multiple times, even with the help of a buddy.
ACV is supposed to be more tactical and less action oriented, but that really doesn’t happen. Not only is rushing in guns blazing an effective plan, it works, and usually works much faster. Couple that with the fact that you can give orders to the other player if you started the mission, but the fact that they can’t respond or suggest something eliminates planning as an effective method.
I could harp on the weapons, so I will. Kinetic weapons use ammo. Chemical weapons use ammo. Thermal weapons use ammo and your generator charge. To fire the sniper cannon, you aim, lock on, and shoot for usually a one-hit kill, and some ammo used. For the laser cannon, you find an enemy that doesn’t have laser resistance, aim, charge the gun wiht your entire generator charge, and hit them for about 6k damage, using some ammo and your entire generator charge, forcing you to be essentially a sitting duck. It is amazing that even at the max distance you can lock on at, the kinetic weapon which causes less damage over distance is the better choice than the weapon that does not degrade over distance and destroys things by turning them into rapidly expanding balls of plasma and shrapnel (thanks to Atomic Rockets for the information on what a laser does to things.) Even an enemy with kinetic resistant armor can usually be killed in one hit from a sniper cannon. Even modern lasers have the kinds of power to burn through armor, and a game set in the future would likely have even more powerful lasers.
Naturally, it is at least fun to rampage around the city smashing things to bits, except it is also un-fulfilling. Somehow, From Software managed to make a mech game where you can stomp on things, but there is no sense of something actually getting destroyed. It feels like you may as well be walking around on plastic cars in those plastic city play sets.
Even better, the menus are willful obtuse. To equip an item you bought requires going through several load zones and multiple menus to attach just one part. Because of that, you will spend most of your time just adding parts to your mech. Even better, most of the time, your loadout will not be quite right for a mission, so you need to experiment through failure as to what works and what doesn’t.
Luckily, there are lots of varied places to stomp around. There is an ice area, a desert area, a city area, and an outland area. When areas aren’t obviously repeated, they still feel recycled and uninteresting.
Couple that with a $60 price tag from Amazon, but usually goes on sale for a mere $50, and you have a game that is less fun than running into a brick wall.
Luckily, there is an alternative. A game called Hawken is coming out later this year, and not only does it look fun, but as it uses a service called Gaikai, it can play the game on ay device with a screen that can accept a controller. The Gaikai cloud gaming service means your game can be played on a to with internet, a powerful gaming computer, or even your little tablet computer.
Gaikai is free, and luckily, Hawken is also free to play. Purchase items are aesthetic bits, not bits that affect the game.
So, a free game that can be played essentially anywhere without a gaming computer? Let’s just put it kindly: there is no reason to bother with ACV.
ACV score: 1/5 bad
Pros: giant robots shoot each other
Cons: tactical gameplay isn’t there. no immersion. no investment in the story or characters. horrible difficulty curve. boring gameplay. obviously recycled areas. menu functions are willfully obtuse. Very high price tag, especially considering what you get.
You can buy ACV from Amazon if you want. It is available for both xbox 360 and ps3.
You can register for Hawken here, as it is yet to be released. That means you may get into the closed beta, or could even help shape the final version of the game by being in the forums. At this time, they are just taking player registration, so you can claim your name before someone else does.
Oh, and Hawken can be played on pc with mouse+keyboard, on most anything that has a screen with a gamepad, and they seem to be planning a Steel Battalion style simulation controller that a tablet can plug into.