IGN Review of Armored Core 4
The easiest way for me to sum up playing Armored Core 4 - if you'll allow me to blow the dust off of an old clich¿ - is to call it an emotional rollercoaster ride.
And that's not in a good way.
You boot up the SEGA title and get an awesome intro movie featuring gorgeous visuals and start the game with some super-high expectations, but instead of mind-blowing mech combat, you're treated to missions involving limited movement and boring objectives. If you can outlast the bucketfuls of lame missions - shoot those things out of the air as they whiz by! - you'll get a few cool seek-and-destroy outings, but then you'll boot up online multiplayer and get a dose of inadequate arenas mixed with fun friend fragging.
It's enough to make you queasy when the ride ends and you turn off your PS3.
Like any game in the Armored Core franchise, this title tosses you into a mech as part of a squadron that's going up against some bad guys with their own batch of tanks and mechs. The story is confusing and never fleshed out, but Armored Core fans probably won't complain.
These games are all about mech customization, and Armored Core 4 doesn't disappoint.
More than five schematics are available from the game's get go for pilots to jump into and customize with guns, missiles, heads and stabilizers. Pimp one out with your alma mater's colors or do your best to replicate Optimus Prime - with seemingly unlimited numbers of possible combinations, it's easy to make your own beast and run it against your buddy, and that's the point of Armored Core 4.
Rocking your machine against other mech-heads is the bread and butter of this title, and SEGA offers a handful of ways to do that - system link, split screen and online. From the multiplayer menu, players can challenge their buddies in matches such as one-versus-one, two-versus-two, four-versus-four, four-player battle royal and eight-player battle royal.
The multiplayer gameplay is fun - seeing how other folks retooled their mechs, trading schematics and learning new tactics - but the mode highlights one of the game's biggest drawbacks - visually, Armored Core 4 is a failure.
Environments are bland and barren, the draw distance is extremely limited and the colors are a complete wash. To an extent, you could chalk these shortcomings up to story elements - "That town's supposed to be empty because it's abandoned in the wake of these battles" and "It's nighttime, you shouldn't be able to see that far" - but in the end there's just no excuse for craters in the ground disappearing as I approach them and levels that have me operating blindly in a sandstorm. Developers worked with what they had, and what they had didn't work.
Beyond the visual shortcomings, my other main complaint is that the majority of the game's 30 missions are boring. I expected early chapters of the game to ease me into using my mech, but the tedious, simple missions continue throughout the game. In fact, chapters two and three featured nearly identical missions where I was forced to stand guard and blast enemies as they flew by me. If I gave chase to a baddie that got through, I'd be reprimanded for nearing the edge of the combat area, and if I left the relatively small area, the mission would end in failure.
I'm in a huge mech. If I want to fly after self-destructing enemies, I should be able to do it. Worse yet were the times I'd be flanking an enemy, hit my boosters and suddenly find myself outside the combat area. By the time I could cut back to the safe zone, I'd have lost.
I can honestly say I didn't have fun in single-player mode until I was about 15 missions into the game - a chapter three outing that had me on a mission to blow up some invading mechs. The reason I liked the task, which was similar on paper to many of the tasks that came before it, was that the mission was the first time I had felt challenged - with limited ammo I needed to destroy primary objectives while keeping my mech in working order as the handful of lower-level bad guys stood in my way.
You'll cruise through a majority of the jobs you're assigned.
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