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Armored Core: Formula Front
Reviewed October 2005 by Corbie Dillard
Developer: From Software
Release Date: November, 2005
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
When Armored Core was released in Japan, it left a lot of
gamers wondering what happened to the normally high action
content found in previous installments of the Armored Core
series. The developers had taken the game in a more strategic
direction, all but eliminating the action style combat of the
previous releases. This time the game allowed the player to
build and customize their mechs, but instead of allowing the
player to control the mech in battle, the AI takes over and
carries out the battle itself. Knowing that US gamers weren't
going to stand for this elimination, Agetec took it upon themselves
to rework the game's battle system, adding in the much loved
manual battle controls, and once again putting the player back
in charge of piloting the AC mechs during the arena battles.
The end result is a game that still retains the extremely deep
strategy of the original Japanese release, while also giving
the player the choice of using the original AI battle mode
or the new and improved manual controls. So whether you prefer
strategy or arcade action, AC Formula Front Extreme Battle
has something to offer.
The story in AC Formula Front Extreme Battle is fairly straightforward.
Armored Core battles have become the era's most prolific form
of entertainment. These highly modified AC mechs battle it
out in many different arenas to the ultimate enjoyment of the
fans. Architects who build and customize these mechanical wonders
pit their creations against other AC mechs in competitions
that reward them with more powerful parts that can be used
to make their AC mechs even more effective in battle.
The sheer level of depth and customization in this game is
staggering, to say the least. The game basically gives you
the power to customize just about every aspect of the game,
from the AC mechs that you create, to the AI control of the
game's battle system. You must first choose a mech to customize.
Everything from the individual parts of the AC mech's body,
to the color of paint is almost infinitely customizable. You
can switch out different body parts, add different types of
firepower, all of which have different power and weight characteristics,
and even tweak the AI system to determine exactly how you want
your AC to behave in combat. As you win arena battles, you'll
acquire newer, more powerful parts, as well as more AI control
options that will continually add more strategy to the game.
How much time you put into these modifications will greatly
influence how well your AC will perform in battle, which makes
this customizing a vital part of the game.
Once you've put your AC together and
customized it to your liking, you get to take it out into
battle and evaluate its performance. Here you're given two
options. You can choose the "AI" control option and allow the game's AI to
control the mech for you in battle, or you can choose the newly
added "Manual" control option and take the reigns
of the mech yourself. Using the AI option is a nice feature
for gamers looking to play the game more as a strategic challenge,
putting more emphasis on the actual building and customizing
of the AC mechs themselves. Those looking for a little more
arcade style action can jump directly to the manual controls,
which put you in charge of piloting the AC mech around the
arena with arcade type controls. The manual controls allow
you to move your AC around the arena using the analog stick.
You're also given a button to fire your primary weapon, a button
to cycle between different available weapons, as well as a
button to use your AC's energy boost, which if used correctly
can give your AC a noticeable speed boost as well as allow
your mech to jump up and fly in the air for a short amount
of time, depending on which direction you're pressing the analog
stick. The shoulder buttons also give you the ability to perform
a sidestep move, that comes in handy when you need to move
from side to side without taking your aim off of your target.
The controls in the game are fairly easy to pick up, although
some players may feel a bit overwhelmed at first with the speed
and agility with which your opponent ACs tend to move in battle.
It won't take long for you to get a grip on how to use the
different functions of your AC to efficiently carry out attacks
on your opponents. While the manual controls offer a very arcade-like
action experience during the arena battles, you still have
to keep an eye on your AC gauges which monitor your energy
and heat situations, and have a direct effect on how your AC
behaves and reacts during these fights. It may seem like a
lot to have to stay on top of, but after a few arena battles
it will become almost second nature. Overall the manual control
system has a very intuitive and playable feel to it that definitely
adds a nice twist to the strategy side of the game that action
gamers will surely appreciate. It's just nice to finally have
the choice of what type of battle you want to take part in,
instead of being forced into watching the battles from the
The game features a wireless battle
mode which allows players to create and customize their AC
mechs on their own PSP system and then connect wirelessly
via the PSP's ad-hoc function to pit their mechs against
each other in one of the game's many combat arenas. As in
the normal game, this can also be done using either the "AI" or "Manual" control
Graphically, Armored Core Formula Front sports some pretty
impressive visuals. You'll get a taste of the eye candy the
moment the opening cinema begins playing, but the good looks
don't end there. All of the AC mechs in the game are extremely
detailed and move quite fluidly, even when the action in the
battle arena becomes intense. The arena themselves will look
a little flat and plain at times, but this isn't really due
to any limitations in the game's graphic engine itself, just
more to the fact that most of the arenas are typically wide
open spaces in themselves. There are a few minor instances
of polygon clipping when the camera zooms in a little too close
to the action taking place, but it's really nothing to complain
about. Normally everything onscreen moves at a brisk and constant
frame-rate, and has a very crisp and smooth look to it. It's
becoming fairly obvious that developers are gradually becoming
more comfortable and knowledgeable of the PSPs graphical capabilities,
and it shows with this game's presentation.
The music in AC: FF has a nice up-tempo, techno edge to it
that manages to carry the intensity of the game quite well.
All of the musical tracks have a much synthesized sound to
them, complete with some really menacing distorted bass guitar
sound effects, that come together to form a soundtrack that
somehow manages to perfectly keep up with the intense battle
scenes taking place in the game's many arenas. As fitting as
the soundtrack might be, however, it's the game's sound effects
that really take center stage. Every single gunshot in the
game sounds about as realistic as you could possibly expect
from a video game. If you want a real treat, connect your PSP
to a good set of speakers or plug in your headphones to hear
all of the deep bass of the gunfire and explosions. It may
not be quite up to motion picture standards, but the game's
audio effects easily get the job done in more ways than one.
It's nice to know that video game fans still have a voice in what
they want in a video game. When game fans began voicing their displeasure
of having the control of the AC mechs taken out of their hands in
the PSP release of Armored Core: Formula Front, Agetec listened and
reworked a large part of the game in order to place the control back
into the player's hands. The end result of all of this hard work
is a game that will not only appeal to the strategy crowds, but also
action gamers across the country as well. Most players will never
be able to fully reach the sheer depth of the gameplay in this game,
but many will have a lot of fun trying. Now Armored Core fans can
finally have a game that they can take on the go without having to
sacrifice the quality of the console versions. The bottom line is,
AC fans got exactly what they asked for, and then some.
Playing Hints and Tips
- Keep an eye on your AC gauges during arena battles, as it can
be easy to lose track of them and overheat or damage your AC.
- If you find yourself losing battles in the arena, remember to go
back in and make changes to your AC, as well as adjusting the AI
controls. These small details can make a big difference in arena
battles no matter how skillful you are at the manual combat controls.
- Stay moving as often as possible, even if it means using the PSP
shoulder buttons to use your sidestep move. If you become a stationary
target, your opponents will take advantage of it by hitting you with
everything they've got.
When choosing your AC, make sure you try to get a good balance of
offensive and defensive capabilities, not to mention using customized
parts that aren't too powerful or too heavy for your AC to handle.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
While the style of AC: Formula Front
doesn't lend itself to graphical prowess, there's still a lot
to love with the sights in the game. The mechs themselves all
display a good amount of detail and move quite fluidly in action.
Some of the arenas could have used a tad more detail, but it's
hard to complain given the variety in all of them. Steady frame-rate,
and a "knock-your-socks-off" opening cinema highlight
the quality of the visuals.
Musically, the game's upbeat musical
score carries the weight of the intensity found in the arena
battles perfectly, but it's the sound effects that seem to
stick out the most. Great use of variety and authenticity in
all of the gunfire and explosions bring a level of realism
to the game that exceeds most sound effects found in many of
today's action titles. Don't forget to bring the headphones
with you when you play this one.
You'd be hard pressed to not have fun
playing this game. Not only does it cater to the strategic
gamers it was originally created for, now it also offers the
shoot em' up action arcade gamers crave. Tons of variety and
depth in the gameplay system make for a game that will take
up many hours of your time, and yet manages to offer up enough
action to keep things feeling fresh. One of the better action
titles released for the PSP so far.
With all of the different customizations
in the game, not to mention the many different arenas to
unlock, there's a lot of reasons to keep gamers coming back
to this game time and time again. You could play this game
for a long time and still not even crack the surface of all
of the different gameplay options it has to offer. Suffice
it to say, if you love a deeply strategic game, this one
will keep you busy for a long time to come, and if you like
action, you'll find your fair share of that as well. Put
simply, Armored Core: Formula Front Extreme Battle offers
the best of both worlds.