Front Mission Evolved – hands-on

Can these wanzers pull off a complete genre change?

The Front Mission series is known for its tactical, turn-based SRPG gameplay, but as the title suggests, Front Mission Evolved is changing things up with a new genre – Evolved is the series' debut third-person shooter. Of course since FME is still a mech game, it's all about creating and customizing your mech to your heart's content. Each mech can equip four weapons at once – left arm, right arm, left shoulder and right shoulder. You can also equip a backpack to your mech with any number of effects, like an agility pack to help you move quickly, a regeneration pack to heal you, or a shockwave pack you can use as an additional weapon. You can make your mech quite nimble and fast with less defense, or you can go heavy and slow but be able to take a beating, or anywhere in between. Different classes of mechs also let you specialize your talents, like tough brawler mechs or healing specialist engineer mechs.

In both single and multiplayer, your mech (called a wanzer in the game) has three health gauges: arms, legs, and torso. When your arms are damaged your firepower decreases, and when your legs are damaged you move more slowly, and either gauge can be completely depleted without killing you, but your arm and leg health won't regenerate unless you find a health pack. Your torso, however, does regenerate health over time, but if your torso gauge runs out you're dead. You can use this strategically against various enemies to cripple them selectively as needed.

In a first for the series, you play parts of the solo campaign outside of your wanzer, in a regular third-person shooter mode. It makes sense in the story, since occasionally protagonist Dylan Ramsey has to infiltrate enemy bases a little more discreetly than walking around in a giant mech suit allows.

For fans of the Front Mission series, we're told that despite the genre change of Evolved, the events of the story all take place in the same world as the previous tactical entries in the series, so you'll recognize the political factions and settings. The story begins with an attack on New York, and Dylan Ramsey takes a prototype mech to pursue the culprits and get to the bottom of who's involved, and he suspects his father may play a role. The locations he travels throughout the story are varied, from Manhattan to deserts and jungles to Antarctica.


Above: We only got to watch this boss fight in the solo campaign - it was huge

While the story missions we saw were strictly hands-off, wedid getto try a few rounds of online multiplayer for ourselveswith the developers. It's definitely fast-paced for a mech game, and since there's often not a lot of cover in areas (and some cover is destructible as well), quickly dodging enemy attacks, especially homing missile attacks, is key. We played a few four on four rounds, first in a domination mode where teams had to capture turrets on the map and hold them for as long as possible. Melee attacks become critical here too, and the metal-on-metal crunch of one mech slugging another is quite satisfying.

We also played a round of supremacy mode, in which you similarly fight for locations on the map. In this mode, once we secured a location, we were told to retreat to cover behind some buildings and try to pick off members of the opposing team as they approached the location to secure it, which was out in the open. There are also two other modes, a deathmatch and a team deathmatch, that we didn't get to play in our session.

Front Mission Evolved comes out later this month on September 28th, so look for our full review then.

Sep 7, 2010

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Life is nature's way of keeping meat fresh.
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