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March 22, 2006
Armored Core: Formula Front - PSP Review
Release Date Distributor Publisher Developer
16/2/2006Red AntDigital BrothersFrom Software
Save Size Difficulty Players Rating

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That's some nice graphics.
Call it our inner child, but there's something very cool about the idea of controlling a massive 100 foot high battle mech, or AC’s as they’re known, and blasting shit out of everything in sight. Perhaps it's a fantasy that will never happen, but at least it can in video game form, with From Software's Armored Core series being one of the most accomplished to date. The series has seen several releases on PS2 and now it's time for PSP owners to also get in on the thrills with Armored Core: Formula Front.

I can be pretty honest and say there isn't much of a story in this game - in fact I'm still looking for it, but as with most action/shooter based titles it's rarely the story that captures the imagination. I mean does a 2 minute cut scene before a 30 minute action/gameplay sequence really make a massive difference when you're in the heat of battle - not really.

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Battle in the snow.
So this is a mech battle game, and on the major consoles is one of the best around. We rarely see many of these games in PAL territories - especially compared to the number released in Japan - but From Software's series is one of the best. Armored Core: Formula Front take place across 20 large arenas and basically sees you blasting the shit out of other mechs in order to claim victory. It sounds pretty simple, and at it's core it is, but it's the level of customization available in the game which far surpasses that found in any of the previous PS2 titles in the Armored Core series and which allows almost limitless possibilities in this game. There are a total of 440 customizable parts and weapons to choose from, multiple paint options, as well as the part tuning and AI programming features, the number of possible AC design outcomes is almost unlimited.

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Assembly time folks...
As well as playing single player on a single PSP unit the developers have added in 2-player wi-fi gameplay. As we said in the preview it is disappointing that there is not 4 or 8-player support as that would have made these battles super-intense. The game has two different ways to participate in head-to-head battles. For those who prefer to devise combat strategies and then set their creations loose, there is the game’s AI AC play method. Unfortunately this is very much hands off - you can't even issue commands about the style of battle meaning it's a bit pointless in the end. For players wanting a more “hands-on" approach - and that should be everyone - you can manually control the AC's during battles - although learning all the commands and controls will take a bit of effort.

While this is a great game, and it wasn't too hard for us to pick up and play this game it's clear that newcomers to this series will have a hard time getting used to all the controls and mech configurations. Gamers will spend considerable time installing a new component, testing it, and determining if it's worthwhile keeping after seeing the effects. The developers could have avoided this by providing more detail about each upgrade before actually selecting them. This may be off putting to some gamers and possibly even destroy much of the fun factor. If, like us, you've played the home console versions then you'll be able to adapt to the controls (which are very fluid by the way) and enjoy the game pretty quickly.

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Check out the visual effects!
Graphically this game is actually quite accomplished. The game retains a very solid frame rate despite the numerous explosions, rapid movements and large arenas. There could have been a little more detail in the backgrounds, some of the texturing could have been improved, but overall this is a solid title with great presentation through the menus and in-game HUD.

Audio in Armored Core: Formula Front is one of its weakest aspects. The music is fast paced, and generally sets the mood but is largely forgettable and certainly nothing to write home about. The sound effects are, as with most PSP game, a bit tinny, but they do the job.

Armored Core: Formula Front is a good game which fans of the series will probably love to take on the road with them. One of the big problems with the game is that it's very hard to get into and isn't one you can just jump into and start playing without spending some time learning the controls, upgrades and skills. Good for fans, but one which casual gamers would do better off trying before buying.

Review By: Dave Warner

Order your copy now from Gameswarehouse.
GRAPHICSQuite a nice engine which runs fast, but lacks background detail.
SOUNDAverage music but the sound effects are pretty good.
GAMEPLAYThe learning curve is pretty steep, when mastered it's fun.
VALUEPlenty of tables, different game modes, and sharing its good value.
OVERALLArmored Core: Formula Front is a solid game that runs smoothly, and despite taking a while to get into can provide a few thrills. A game which is likely to keep series fans happy, but unlikely to generate new ones.

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