Armored Core V review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Namco Bandai
Developer: From Software
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-8
Online: Yes

People have been clamoring for a Chromehounds sequel for years now; especially after CH?s servers went offline a while back, exiling the community that had been strongly supporting it after launch. Armored Core, at least up until now, might not have seemed like the series that would fill that spot for Chromehounds fans, but this is likely as close as we?re ever going to get to a literal Chromehounds sequel.

Armored Core V ditches a lot of the more familiar aspects of the series, revamping From Software’s long running franchise once again. If you?re expecting something akin to Armored Core 4 or Armored Core: For Answer, you?ll be pretty surprised with how Armored Core V turned out.

But that?s not really a bad thing. Gone is the focus on single player content and ridiculous giant mecha flying all over the place with overpowered energy swords in both hands. Instead Armored Core V approaches its combat with a heavier focus on tactics, teamwork, and outfitting your mech for the job at hand.

The mechs are still big, but they?ve been scaled back to fit within the urban environment that populates the majority of the maps you?ll play in. And energy swords are still present, yes, but they?re hardly the ?I Win? button that they used to be. And while there is some single player content to explore, in the form of Order Missions and Story Missions, I find that playing Armored Core V alone is hardly the best way to play.

You?ll see from the start that there?s a pretty heavy emphasis on online play, right after you boot up from the start screen. You?ll get an overworld map, which displays territories currently held by real world teams. You can opt to create your own team, or join the ranks of others. Build up your team enough, by earning team points from taking on various missions, and you can go toe to toe with an opposing team for the territory they control.

Besides battling it out for territory, you can also opt to enter free battle, which allows for one on one duels and eight player Deathmatch style eliminations. Or, you can join up with fellow teammates or those offering themselves up as Mercenaries to tackle the Story Missions and Order Missions.

If you opt to build your own team, you?ve got a variety of options in place that?ll allow you to mold your team as you see fit. You can open up registration for everyone, or opt to create a password to give access to people you know. You can build a team emblem, communicate with other teammates, let them know when you?re about to go on a mission, and so on. It?s nice to see that From Software really went all out when it comes to multiplayer options here, and the game really does a great job of motivating you to work with a team throughout every mission.

I don?t have a lot of complaints to level against the game, other than the learning curve being a little steep for anyone that?s never really set foot in a mech style game before. Armored Core V runs you through a limited tutorial that?s focused on the controls only, but understanding the proper way to build and customize your mech can take a little getting used to. Also, if you do opt to play offline or by yourself, you?ll find that the difficulty of the Story and Order Missions is all over the place, and pretty inconsistent from one mission to the next.

And again, the single player content isn?t really the reason to pick this up. The story is garbage, told through voice overs that depict a few events involving a Resistance and government style faction. There?s little explanation or back story to properly build up the conflict, and the voice over work is disjointed and doesn?t flow particularly well. You?ll have a hard time caring about the plight of any one individual, and you?ll most likely find yourself skipping over the cut scenes halfway through.

The Order Missions are a bit better, featuring quick one-off missions that typically involve wiping out a certain number of enemies, or going one on one with an enemy mech. More of these missions would have been great, there are about 80 here, but they?re so short it doesn?t take much time to get through them all.

Overall, Armored Core V is definitely a game worth checking out, especially if you have any love for mech themed video games. Again, it?s remarkably more similar to Chromehounds than the last couple Armored Core games on consoles, but there?s enough of an Armored Core element here that it won?t completely turn away loyal fans of the series. Even if you?re not at all familiar with the franchise I think it?s worth a look, provided you have the patience to put up with learning the ins and outs of mech building.

Grade: B