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October 10, 2003
Armored Core 3 - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
16/6/2003THQFrom Software1-4 (iLink)MMedium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
124KBDolby Pro Logic IIYesNoSmallNo

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The mech designs are impressive.
What is it that Transformers, Voltron, Gundam and Armored Core have in common? Even if you’re not exactly certain about what each one is, chances are you would have placed a bet that it has something to do with big robots, 'mechs' or 'mecha'. There's something about several-hundred ton mechs stomping around Neo-Tokyo that really hits the spot for some people; there’s nothing quite like a giant robot fight, casually knocking down buildings like houses of cards. The Armored Core series features the big, heavily-armored killing machine mechs, rather than the smaller nimble ones from other Japanese series that seem to gracefully bounce and zoom around the place. But after all, who needs bounce and zoom when you're able to let several dozen missiles go flying at your foe in an instant?

Armored Core 3 puts you in the pilot's seat of an Armored Core (AC), which is initially a large, robotic humanoid robot. Aside from blowing things up and having a threatening presence, your role in the game is that of a 'Raven', a mercenary for hire who goes around doing odd eliminate-the-enemy and protect-the-base missions for money. Money buys bigger weapons and AC components. Bigger weapons and components mean more kick-ass factor for your AC. More kick-ass factor means you can do more missions. Misson, money, kick-ass… it sounds like an enjoyable cycle for a game; but how does it play?

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Better hope that's a friend there.
The game puts a big emphasis on AC development; the number parts available for upgrades and enhancements is significantly up from the previous Armored Core games, which really is saying something. Given the hundreds upon hundreds of different components, ranging from arms and legs to boosters and weapons, there is literally thousands of different ACs to be created. They can then be further customized on an aesthetic level, with various colors and logos to stick on your AC to make it stand out from the crowd (or blend in with the scenery, if camouflage is what you desire).

The gameplay in Armored Core 3 sticks with the same style that has been used since the original Armored Core on the Playstation. It plays from a 3rd-person perspective, with a strange analog control scheme; instead of using both analog sticks in a FPS-style control scheme (ala Timesplitters), it is a strange analog-digital hybrid, with strafing and zoom controlled via the shoulder buttons. It feels quite awkward at first, and takes a fair while to become adjusted to (although it still doesn’t quite feel ‘right’ to me after playing the game for many hours…).

The mission structure is semi-linear, presenting you with branching mission options which eventually wind up at the same point. Given that you play out the game as a Raven for hire, you receive mission notifications in an email-format and get to browse the mission summary and reward before proceeding. The learning curve is quite adequate (with the odd easy and hard missions), and the ability to choose from multiple missions at once gives you the chance to further improve your AC before attempting a mission again (which is a pleasant addition if you have a habit of spending money on AC additions for show rather than functionality).

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The effects look nice enough.
My main dislike about the game is that for the non-Armored-Core fan, it gets very monotonous after the first few missions. Although missions are structured with different aims and purposes, they normally all end up having you kill everything that moves. The AC customization features help add some variety to the game though, and testing out new weapons and features helps detract from the monotony. Another quibble I have is that there isn't really a sense of 'immenseness' about the game; for a several-storey-tall giant robot, it doesn't quite seem to scale with all the scenery, and doesn't have quite the relevant sounds to match. While more processing power could be set aside to draw more ground clutter and scenery (to help make the ACs seem bigger), chances are it would detract from effects elsewhere in the game which wouldn't exactly be a good thing.

Visually Armored Core 3 doesn't look too special, and admittedly many of the levels are quite bland and chunky. Weapon effects, particularly the smoke trails from multiple missiles add some eye candy to the game, which doesn't seem to suffer from slowdown much at all. Again the size of the ACs relative to the scenery is a bit questionable, and hopefully can be tweaked ready for the next game in the Armored Core series.

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Enhancing your mech is imperitive.
The game is backed with a fast-paced Japanese-rock soundtrack, which fits the feel of the game perfectly. Sound effects are backed up with Dolby Pro Logic II, which adds the extra feeling of depth to the game, even though some sound effects aren't quite 'beefy' enough for an AC being the destructive beast that it is. There is great variety among the explosions and weapon range though, and when coupled with Dolby PL II you can't help but duck the rockets zooming around your head.

Armored Core 3 is a fun game, but is also quite in-depth given the many AC customisation possibilities, and may not seem like the most appealing game if hired overnight or played for a short period. Strange controls may scare some people off too, especially seeing that they take a very long time to feel natural... if at all. However, if being a mercenary for hire in a 3-storey high AC sounds like your cup of tea, this game would make a worthy investment to you game collection, especially if you're already a fan of the Armored Core series (otherwise now's a good time to become one!).

Review By: Chris Gobbett

GRAPHICSAbove average visuals, and solid with a steady frame rate.
SOUNDFitting Jap-rock backing, with rich-bass Raven effects.
GAMEPLAYSimplistic, but it’ll take ages to get your AC perfect.
VALUELoads of missions, and iLink opens up a 4-player mode.
OVERALLWhile Armored Core games are normally for the fans alone, Armored Core 3 opens up the game for new and old fans alike with near-limitless ACs, branching storyline and action-packed fun. Definitely worth a look if mechs float your boat.

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