Thursday, November 5, 2009
Review: Armored Core 3 Portable
Having never played an Armored Core game in the past, I had mixed feelings going into playing this new PSP Store game based off of the PS2 original. For one, I was skeptical if the controls of charging a mecha forward and backwards, strafing, lunging with a sword, and blasting with a gun could be manipulated on the PSP’s itsy bitsy controls. Sure, God of War: Chains of Olympus pulled off a rather tricky control scheme effectively, but would this game be able to? Secondly, mecha games typically bore the hell out of me (too much customization for my taste), and I was worried that I would be dozing off within the first few seconds of turning it on.
Well, after extensive playtime with the game, I’m happy to say that it’s much better than I anticipated it to be. It’s a pretty fun experience that’s only hampered by a few damning factors. But why dwell on those right now when there are so many positive things to say about the game?
First off, I want to talk about the storyline as it really makes this game shine. If you’ve read some of my articles in the past, then you’ll know that story is very important to me when it comes to gaming, and if a great game has a miserable storyline (Outside of fighting games, of course, which are usually better off without one at all), then I probably won’t be that immersed or interested in the game in the long run.
Armored Core 3, though, has a great storyline that only improves the further you get along in the game. The story takes place below the earth after an apocalyptic event. The society that lives down there is simply called, “Layered,” and they’re ruled by a computer called “The Controller.” Your character is part of a group of mecha pilots group called Ravens who are paid to maintain the peace. However, there's doubt as to whether they're really maintaining the peace creating even more problems with their actions.
Even better than the story, though, are the actual missions themselves, as they offer enough variety to keep you interested throughout the entirety of the game. In one mission, you’re shutting off gas leak valves to prevent a city-wide disaster, and in the next, you’re protecting a stopped train that has lost power while rebel “enemies” try to swarm and kill the passengers on board of it. It’s events like these that get me pumped up every time I turn the game on.
The controls are pretty easy to pick up, too. In a very short amount of time, I mastered all of the skills I needed to progress through in the game. Strafing, shooting, and boosting don’t take much effort at all. After only 30 minutes, I had the hang of it and was blasting away at enemies like nobody’s business.
But not everything is hunky dory in the world of Layered. One of my biggest complaints with the game is that it’s SO dark. This may not have been a problem on the PS2 where you could easily change the contrast, but on the PSP’s tiny, glare hampered screen, many times, I couldn’t see what the heck was going on. I constantly had to tilt my PSP at an angle where the sun wouldn’t hit it and create a visibility problem. Play this game in a well-lit room only, because there’s no way you could play this game outside in the sun and hope to see anything at all.
Another problem I have with the game is the rather slow pacing. It's meant to be methodical but winds up being a little dull, keeping me from being fully immersed in the game as a whole. As I said before, the story's premise is good but unfortunately it’s told in a very robotic manner. This is intentional as the AI is what’s in charge here, and you’re meant to believe that it’s the soulless entity that it truly is. But Portal had a computer guiding you through the game as well, and that computer had nothing BUT personality. I know I shouldn’t compare apples to rutabagas here in regards to the tone of the computer, but this A.I. was putting me to sleep in Armored Core half the time, whereas it was one of the best parts of Portal. Again, it’s an unfair comparison, but it’s one that hampered the experience for me.
Finally, I found that the difficulty ramps up a little too quickly for my tastes. You start off blasting pint-sized, little nuisances in the beginning, but quickly move on to very challenging missions that will require a lot of deaths and replays. You’ll have to really buckle down to plow through them.
Overall, though, Armored Core 3 is an excellent game on the PSP that is hampered mostly by the glare adverse screen. There’s an online mode to play against others, but I was having a hard time finding a connection. Other than that though, you could definitely do much worse than Armored Core 3 for the PSP.
Developer: From Software
Rating: Three out of four stars