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Armored Core V review

Solid
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AT A GLANCE
  • Assembling badass mecha
  • Raiding with comrades in arms
  • Impractical machine combat
  • Wishing friends were online
  • Being in-game rich with nothing to buy
  • The PS3 version’s framerate

Playing Armored Core V, the latest in From Software’s cultish series of rock ‘em, sock ‘em giant AC (mecha) simulators, was something of an emotional journey. After the dust cleared, our therapist (a former Nintendo gameplay counselor, now in private practice) helped us identify four distinct phases: confusion, excitement, disillusionment, and acceptance.

Series veterans will mostly sidestep that first one, but a little confusion is pretty much inevitable for everyone. Armored Core V is a complex game that introduces some refreshingly original ideas, but its so-called instruction manual is all of six pages (12 if you count the French section). Some of the confusion is due to complexity, but a lot of it just stems from suboptimal interface design.

 

The clunky AC-customizing UI is adequate, but early on we spent a good three hours in the in-game store just paging through dozens of screens full of five-digit numbers trying to ascertain which parts would best suit our initial AC-building needs. Not gonna lie: At a few points, eyes did glaze over. It felt like a small victory when we finally settled on which generator to buy, not to mention which legs or head or arms or rifles or targeting system.

AC5’s main really cool yet poorly documented idea is its approach to online play. It does away with the usual separation between online and off, so if your console is plugged into the net, you’ll always be online in AC5. You can take on the 10 story and 70+ side missions by yourself or with members of your online team, and either choice will earn experience points for the team. Leveling up your team unlocks new parts in the store and lets you try to wrest areas of the world map away from other teams in Conquest mode, which you’ll then add to your growing territory to defend from similar player-led incursions. 

This Conquest mode is intriguing, a direct evolution of the territory capture in From’s early yet warmly remembered 360 mecha game Chromehounds. It’s just kind of unorthodox and strange, and without decent documentation you’ll have to fake it till you make it before you understand everything. Truth be told, we’re still unclear on some of Conquest mode’s specifics.

In any case, once past the hump we hit phase two: excitement. Possibilities felt endless. We redoubled our efforts to level up both our team (a ragtag crew of fellow game journos, called Sign of Zeta) and our mech (a bipedal green gatling-gun affair known as Vile Breakfast) in order to take the post-apocalyptic world of AC5 by storm. Soon we had enough cash (and shop items unlocked) to put together Vile Breakfast Mk.2, and thus entered what we expected to be the game’s primary gameplay/pleasure feedback loop.

It’s a lot of fun to run missions with your teammates, particularly in Conquest mode. In Conquest and other team-based modes up to four ACs can sortie, with one person hanging back to be your operator. The operator views the action from an overhead map, and can direct your squad to objectives and warn them of incoming threats. They’re not omniscient, but you can give ‘em a more complete view by launching your AC’s own recon drones.

For our money, though, it’s more fun to be in the thick of it. The action’s much more ground-focused than in AC4, as ACs can no longer fly indefinitely. They’re also smaller in scale, so the topography of the battlefield environments is a lot more important - expect a lot of zipping between buildings as you try to get the jump on foes. The action is fast and gritty; ACs dash around like mad and fill the screen with artillery. AC5 is also legitimately atmospheric. You’re fighting in the ruins of a post-apocalyptic world, and everything looks the part. The AC are particularly attractive - these are very badass mecha.

Alas, the euphoria could not last, and after our teammates logged off the fun began to wane. Enter disillusionment. The store stopped getting new parts, a situation which persisted for hours. We finally checked online to learn that the store caps out at level 50. (Any new team will reach 50 within a few days.) It’s surprising that AC5 doesn’t have more mecha parts to offer. Forgoing the typical item progression from terrible junk to super-powered god parts is interesting from a balance/realism standpoint, but really left our number-crunching power fantasy jones hanging.

The half-baked storytelling and short side missions of single-player just weren’t cutting it, either. Sure, slogging through this stuff was earning points for our team, but team experience seemed less compelling since all the parts were unlocked and our team had a basic pool of points to work with in Conquest mode. And without the continual allure of more parts with which to tweak up our AC - leading to the consequential uselessness of the mountains of cash we were earning - single-player quickly lost its juice. The grind had no point. 

Ultimately we made a key realization that finally let us come to acceptance: AC5 is not a fantastic single-player game, but it can be a great multiplayer one. When you’re running missions with your pals, taking over new territory and defending the old, you’ll feel on top of its charmingly desolate, ash-strewn world. That’s the reason you’ll want to keep playing, so if you don’t have access to online play, then consider this game with much more caution. AC5 might confound your expectations a bit, but if you can get past that, it’ll deliver no-frills, gritty, online mech combat. Sound good to you?

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360 as the lead platform. We also played through sections of the PS3 version to see if there were any distinct differences. We found that the PS3 version had more framerate choppiness, but was otherwise very similar.

More Info

Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3
Genre: Strategy
Published by: Namco Bandai
Developed by: From Software
Franchise: Armored Core
ESRB Rating:
Rating Pending
PEGI Rating:
Rating Pending

We Recommend

16 comments

  • valredfield - September 12, 2012 1:09 p.m.

    I picked this game last week along with Dragon's Dogma, and I do not regret it. I never had played any Mech Game before, but I went for this one because it was done by From Software and I really liked Dark Souls, I did not really know what I was going into but I must say the ''Build your own robot from A to Z'' part is pure enjoyment. The gameplay in itself is great also, responsive controls and the ACs are just a joy to move and shoot around. That being said, I am in a team level 70 as of now, I have all the parts I want but no one is on the servers so online play is very limited for me. I don't know if the servers are region locked, if yes, this is an issue as it seems no one likes ACV in Ireland....I just assisted one guy once or twice as a mercenary, but whenever I try a free battle or anything like that the servers are just empty. I would say if you have a friend that has the live and is up for it, grab it and put on your team! The complexity of mechs customisation allows for in depths tactics and strategies when you tackle this game in co-op.
  • Kuro - May 7, 2012 10:54 a.m.

    My friend and I picked this up a few days ago and have been playing it together as a two-man team (until our other friends can get it through some means). It's really fun to play with someone else but does lose its appeal once someone leaves.. Not unplayable if you have a goal in mind, such as slowly piecing together the perfect death-dealing robot of destruction to show off to your friend when he gets online next. It's fun. I like it. And I hope for DLC.. It's pretty anti-climactic though.. I loved Armored Core: For Answer.. Zipping around in my own version of White Glint was amazing and fighting those giant bases whose names escape me at the moment was simply amazing.. And the storyline? Three separate endings. Replayed it over and over. Compared to the story of that game.. this falls through.
  • Ravenbom - March 21, 2012 5:38 p.m.

    I'm glad they stop putting out Armored Core games every year. It's been a while since I've had some mecha action so I might pick this up down the road.
  • Shadow Of Death - March 20, 2012 7:12 p.m.

    Sounds like this game is DLC baiting. It stops getting upgrades past level 50? You have mountains of money after only playing the game a few days and have nothing to spend it on? Watch for future DLC to rectify that. I remember ages ago (I think on the PS1) making a badass tank type AC. Not fast, but could obliterate everything. Haven't played since then, except maybe renting a PS2 AC game? I PC game mostly these days, and wish AC would be ported to PC. There is Mechwarrior Online. No idea how customizable those mechs are going to be though (nor is it fast paced).
  • OsPez88 - March 20, 2012 2:58 p.m.

    Ahh how i hated the fact that Sign Of Zeta was no longer on their servers. I started to play again today after i realized that the game had finally gone public only to see that there wasnt a single team i could join online. at least i got to keep some of the money and the few parts i bought when i played with you.
  • OsPez88 - March 20, 2012 3:06 p.m.

    sorry for double post but i just realized its been kicking me to offline mode and i cant do anything online.
  • Alexandra Hall - March 21, 2012 11:27 p.m.

    Hey, thanks for playing with us. In case you haven't figured it out yet (it took me a while) your pre-release online data seems to be invalidated now. You can play online again if you delete your save file and create a new one. (You could also try writing Namco Bandai tech support, but I wouldn't hold my breath on getting them to reinstate a pre-release account.)
  • FoxdenRacing - March 20, 2012 12:32 p.m.

    My one concern, and if someone could get back to me I'd be greatly appreciative: Is it a full-bodied singleplayer game ala AC4/AC4A, or is this effectively Chromehounds 2, where singleplayer is a fleeting afterthought and the game is useless without a connection to the servers? If the latter, I may skip it...especially if the online mode is limited to 'random matchmaking', 'random matchmaking', and 'random matchmaking'.
  • chriszewski - March 20, 2012 1:41 p.m.

    From the sound of the last paragraph of the review it sounds like SP/MP is more Chromehounds than AC. Although, judging solely from the review, it doesn't sound like SP serves simply as a tutorial like chromehounds SP side. It'd be nice if we could get a demo.
  • ParagonT - March 20, 2012 11:40 a.m.

    Last time I played a AC game online, I got a welcome mat slapped on my ass and defeated within seconds. Glad to see that something is improving.
  • UnrisingMuffin - March 20, 2012 10:19 a.m.

    Anyone else getting tired of getting great games badly ported to PS3?
  • NanoElite666 - March 20, 2012 9:35 a.m.

    Sounds like it's quite a different experience from past AC games, what with the whole online teams and Conquest stuff and whatnot. Still going to get it regardless, as I've been in love with this series since I first picked up AC2 when I bought my PS2 over a decade ago.
  • CrashmanX - March 20, 2012 9:30 a.m.

    It's really unfortunate to read that playing Single Player doesn't unlock any special parts or anything along those lines. It's also rather unfortunate to read that you unlock everything rather quickly. I mean I really like the prospect of an Online team based AC game, but when I've got nothing to strive for really, no new parts to aim for I kinda lose interest. Once I have everything, what do I have to gain?
  • ObliqueZombie - March 20, 2012 9:26 a.m.

    From what I'm seeing (as I'll read it later, for now I must go to classes), the negative parts of the review aren't as bad as, say, a negative mark for shite controls. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one and see what the collective reviews are.
  • Moondoggie1157 - March 20, 2012 9:09 a.m.

    Looks interesting, haven't played an Armor Core in a very, very long time. I'l rent before I buy though. This is one of the VERY few trailers that actually made Dub step work. I guess anything with fast moving mechs does though...
  • Moondoggie1157 - March 20, 2012 9:09 a.m.

    Looks interesting, haven't played an Armor Core is a very, very long time. I'l rent before I buy though. This is one of the VERY few trailers that actually made Dub step work. I guess anything with fast moving mechs does though...

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