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February 5, 2009
Armored Core for Answer - PS3 Review
Release Distributor Publisher Developer Offline Players Online Players
20/11/2008UbisoftUbisoftFrom Software1-22-8
Media HDD Space Resolution Sound Format Tilt Controls OFLC Rating

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In-game AC:FA doesn't look this nice!.
I really like giant robots. As a kid, Robotech was one of my favourite cartoons, and I'm sure that led to me recreating giant robot fights with mates in the schoolyard at one time or another. But as the years went by, it got less and less appropriate having a 6'3" bloke playing make-believe… which is where the first Armored Core game on the PSOne came along to help me out. The series has had a strong following, with over a dozen games across all three Playstation systems (and more recently the Xbox 360 and others), each time bragging larger environments and seemingly endlessly-tweakable giant mecha. So, averaging at least an Armored Core title each year since '97, you'd be forgiven for thinking this is another EA franchise; but unlike EA titles with their (typically) progressive improvements, Armored Core for Answer sadly seems to be a step backward for the series.

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Now that's a big, ermm, something.
Armored Core for Answer takes off where Armored Core 4 departed; without delving too deeply, it's your typical post-apocalyptic future where humans now live in the clouds and the earth's surface is now a barren wasteland, dotted with buildings and military establishments. Several companies and contractors are at war against each other, and by aligning yourself with one at an early stage in the game will determine your role in the game's missions as well as what type of mech (known as 'AC's) you will pilot to suit your style.

The game plays out piloting your AC from a 3rd person perspective, and your fingers will be well-sprawled across the dual shock to control not only it's ground and flight movements, but also the several primary and secondary weapons mounted on your arms and shoulder. Given that your AC is a multi-squillion-dollar fighting machine, it figures that virtually all of your missions involve causing massive damage with plenty of explosions and missile trails to boot. And like always, in that department, Armored Core for Answer doesn't disappoint.

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Taking to the skies with some mechs.
Missions take place in varying locations, ranging from outdoors desert landscapes, canyons and snow-capped hills to underground military bases. Unfortunately many of the level designs are quite bland – interior levels will have warehouses full of enemies, separated by absurdly long tunnels and shafts. Most (hmm… perhaps all?) of the outdoor levels are extremely sparsely spread out. So much so that you lose the sense of scale that this game relies on, but also it just looks very plain Jane, and no one wants to spend more time flying from A to B rather than wreaking havoc on a rival AC.

By keeping Armored Core for Answer's gameplay virtually identical to the rest of the series, From Software have harmed whatever expectations one may have had for new life for Armored core on the PS3 platform (well, aside from what they achieved with Armored Core 4). The game touts having “twice the customisztion of Armored Core 4) on the game sleeve, but sadly that's just about the only improvement to be found. The lack of big-scale destructible environments, the emptiness of the levels, and the complete waste of a split-screen mode are just a few of the many shortcomings which have been present since the PSOne days. Yes, technology was a limitation back in 1997, but 2 generations of systems later, these are all addressable issues which should have been seen to. It really makes you wonder what motivation the developers had - improving what they already do best (the AC customization features), while leaving the remainder of the game back in the stone age.

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Water is nice, shame it's not an in-game screen.
Prior to the release of Armored Core for Answer, I remember seeing preview screenshots with giant armadas of flying ACs approaching a massive flying enemy of some sort. It had everything you could ask for – dynamic lighting, haze and heat shimmer effects, and about a bajillion things going on at once. While scenes like this do make an appearance, it's sadly only in the FMV storyline of the game, while the gameplay side of things is left with the fat-free version that looks and tastes like cardboard in comparison.

To follow on this theme, it's a shame that with graphics that have come as far as they have today, there exist games like this where there's such a distinction between the FMV sequences and the gameplay. This distinction isn't just about visuals only mind you; it carries on through to the atmosphere and general feelings of the game; which may sound weird, but give Armored Core for Answer a try through just the first few missions and you'll understand what I mean.

While some of the screenshots may appear to boast destructible environments, all is not as peachy as it seems. In motion, many of the craters and destruction effects on the environment are actually just texture changes, which not only look 2-d when in motion but then turn transparent, flicker slightly and disappear when approached. It's almost like an odd texture clipping effect, and one wonders how something so noticeable made it past From Software's quality control. While the game does have some nice visuals at times (destructible buildings for instance), on the whole it looks a lot busier and prettier in screenshots than it does during gameplay.

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Flying towards the helipad!
With missiles flying willy-nilly in Armored Core for Answer, you'd also expect a fair accompaniment of explosion and destruction sound effects, and thankfully here the game doesn't disappoint. All of the missions have well-acted voice-overs (though oddly enough the training is goes without this), and the in-game musical score sets the mood quite nicely. At times the music will even slightly precede upcoming events so you'll know when the tone of the mission is about to change; a nice touch which is definitely appreciated.

Looking at the game as a whole, it's as though From Software designed Armored Core for Answer with Armored Core fans in mind only – the AC customization and gameplay is exactly as you'd expect for an Armored Core game, and little is done to soften the learning curve for newbies to the series. 12 years on from the first title however, the time has come for other aspects of the game to catch up with the times and progress along a bit. Regardless of how much more tweaking we'll be able to do to our ACs in the next Armored Core title, it's going to mean nothing if the series isn't selling because it still plays like a PSOne game. Please From Software, for the sake of the series, breathe some new life into the next Armored Core, because if Armored Core for Answer is anything to go by, the series won't be around for much longer.

Review By: Chris Gobbett

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GRAPHICSACs are well detailed, unlike the remainder of the visuals.
SOUNDSolid sound effects and voice acting, with hearty explosions.
GAMEPLAYThe AC customization is done well, but the rest is getting old hat.
VALUEIf you're an AC fan or like tweaking things, the customization will keep you amused for a long time; otherwise you'll be feeling short changed.
OVERALLIf you're an AC fan, you've probably already got this game already and are loving more of what you're used to. If you're new to the series, definitely give Armored Core For Answer a test drive first – while these screenshots may look pretty, there's a steep learning curve under the hood, but there's enjoyment to be had if you're willing to be accepting of essentially a spruced up PSOne game.

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