Armored Core 4 - first look

For Armored Core vets, most of the series' strengths and weaknesses seem likely to make the move to next gen. There's still a jaw-dropping opening movie clip, and a random story about war. There are still a nearly infinite number of jigger-able mechs - you can choose from tons of different weapons or body parts, or just occupy yourself giving each limb a different custom paint job. And it's still annoying to constantly have to worry about your mech being too weighed down to maneuver or getting overheated because you strapped on a fourth giga-caliber boom cannon instead of updgrading your boring old radiator.

Also, while this certainly looks nice, just as its PS2 predecessors didn't bury the needle on the sexy-looks-ometer, AC4 won't be mistaken for the gorgeous gore of Gears of War anytime soon. But that's not to say we didn't notice some very nice touches in our taste of the game's 37 total missions - a frozen ocean mission features some chillingly recreated ice floes, and in a one-on-one boss battle in the desert, we noticed heat ripples, impact craters where our missiles hit, and trails left in the sand by the mechs' feet.

It's not all the same-old, though. Things do seem faster, both in pacing and during actual gameplay. While the objectives showed the expected variety - blow up this base full of enemies (parts of the levels are destructible as well, though not all), win this one-on-one fight, escort this vehicle through this hostile area - most of the half-dozen missions we saw could be completed in two minutes or less, making this feel like a more briskly-paced game.