Robot fighting fans rejoice, for the Armored Core series has finally made its way to the PSP in the name of Armored Core: Formula Front - Extreme Battle. Extreme may not be the most appropriate descriptor however as you'd think the series may have taken things to the next level, which isn't necessarily the case.
What Formula Front - Extreme Battle really ends up offering fans is more of the same Armored Core action that they know and love, though there really isn't a whole lot else. Sure, AC nuts will dig this like a grave, but anyone who's been turned off by the series' tedious trial and error Armored Core design and test elements of the past won't find anything new here to turn them onto the series.
One of the problems that the series has had is that its Core configuration mechanics have had a rather elusive learning curve. That is, until you've figured out exactly what every single piece does (which can take quite a long time), then you'll find that building the Cores is simply a matter of selecting a piece, heading out to a test battle and see if it suits you. If not, pick from one of the other numerous parts and try again.
Part of the problem is that while some of the attributes have reasonable enough descriptors that you can bring up, some other aspects, like exactly how certain missiles acquire a target and seek them out, are things you'll have to find out on your own. Again, it's a whole trial and error routine that takes place over and over and over again. It can be frustrating, for sure.
On the bright side though, if you're really into what's going on here then there's plenty of customizability to be done. You'll find anywhere between 30+ to 70+ parts for any section of your Armored Core, and with the number of sections you'll have access to configuring, this leaves room for a lot of unique designs. Really, where the series has shined for its fans is in how much control they have over building their unique creations with which to do battle, and though it's a rather steep learning curve to get everything down, there's a whole lot here for fans to dig into.
Once your Armored Cores are built (you can keep a number in your garage of sorts), you'll set out to take down a series of other ACs in various leagues. There really isn't much in the way of any sort of story or anything here, it's simply you choosing the next battle and then fighting it out. It would have at least been nice to see background info and images, if not a movie, of each of the other architects you fight.
Without the customizations you can wrangle off the battlefield, the on-field action really wouldn't hold up very well. Once you step into the arena the battles become somewhat slow from an action standpoint, though it does offer a fair bit of strategic play. For example, if you've designed an AC that's best used from behind cover and at a distance, then you'll need to play that way. If you've designed your unit for speed and vertical movement, flying about in a more action-heavy manner is what you'll want to focus on. Like the other games in the series, AC: Formula Front - Extreme Battle does pretty well in this regard.
As mentioned however, were this game to rely strictly on its battle elements it would fall flat. Battles typically come down to who can target who fastest, time strategic missile shots and make most use of the various additions to their Armored Cores, like RADAR jammers and such. Again, the strategic stuff here is decent, but simply locking onto another unit and pressing Square isn't really all that engaging.
One thing that's disappointing is that though you can choose to have your Armored Core's AI fight for you - which you can tune a bit, though maybe not as much as we'd have liked - you're unable to provide any sort of commands whatsoever during battle. It would be cool to play more of a managerial role here, letting your unit take care of all of the action elements while you issue various high-level commands, like to play defensively for now, focus on long-range weapons or such.
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