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.