PS3 Review – Armored Core V

From Software’s Armored Core series has been a console mainstay since the original game was released back in 1997 for the PS1. But don’t worry if you haven’t been keeping up to date, From Software decided that rather than continuing the story from AC4 that they would reboot the series and take the mecha franchise back to its roots.

The narrative in Armored Core V is a forgettable affair involving The Resistance, The Corporation, The Chief, Father and The City Police along with a lot of other generic nouns that are capitalized for dramatic effect. Making the plot even more nonsensical is the abysmal voice acting. In fact, I was convinced that the voices for Rosary and Fran, two characters from the story campaign, were both performed by the same actor. The tonal similarities in the voices of these two characters make the game’s opening cinematic so confusing that until about half-way through the game I had no idea which side I was fighting on (it’s The Resistance by the way). The only standout performance in this game comes from actor Wally Wingert, who is perhaps better known as The Riddler in the Batman Arkham franchise. With the narrative being as weak as it is, the attention of most players will be focused squarely on the gameplay. In this case, primarily the combat and mech customization.

Looking at the latter first, there are a plethora of different options available with any given AC within ACV. This time around, the legs are the most important part of the mech as they allow for larger weight parts or weapons, more mobility, and a higher armor statistic. Of course, there are different heads, cores, generators, and other pieces as well that can be found within the story missions or bought from the store. There are also numerous weapon types with damage that falls within one of three distinct categories Kinetic Energy, Chemical Energy or Thermal Energy which further break down into physical damage, long distance damage, and energy damage respectively. Some of the weapons have a discrete ammo capacity like the Gatling Gun, while some require energy from your AC to be used like the Pulse Machine Gun.

Unfortunately, new players will find the customization options available rather overwhelming due to the amount of information displayed. Further complicating matters is that there isn’t a good primer or explanation of the systems that are at work. While I have no doubt that seasoned AC veterans will have no problem, the lack of any tutorial to really explain things makes customizing a mech a crap shoot for beginners. Things get worse still as finding the right weapons and mech loadouts for a mission is a matter of trial and error. So it’s not surprising to play through some missions whilst dying repeatedly until a proper loadout is used, and even then starting a level completely from scratch may be the only option. This added layer of depth to the strategy would be a blessing if the combat didn’t feel as tedious and repetitive as it does. So, while the combat and shooter aspects of the game feel competent they unfortunately do nothing new or innovative insofar as the mech genre is concerned.

Perhaps the most innovative thing that Armored Core V does do is the multiplayer offering. However, within the context of this particular title, talking about multiplayer as a separate aspect is a bizarre concept as the multiplayer suite is available from the same menus as the story missions. Story missions can be done in single player or with a partner that can either be a member of your team or a mercenary. Mercenaries are players selected from other teams. Anyone can be a mercenary by registering a mech and once registered they are given a grade signifying how good they are as a hire. Of course, hiring a merc to help you out means that you have to share your after mission spoils, and that you won’t get cash for kills your teammate takes.

A team is basically a guild which has to be joined as soon as the game starts up. Anyone can join any public team, but private teams are password protected. Indeed, playing through the game’s single player offerings with a partner makes the proceedings more interesting, and also makes harder missions significantly easier. The multiplayer suite also features a Conquest mode where rival teams compete for territories in order to raise a team’s overall reputation. There’s also standard team deathmatch mode and the online action supports up to a max of 10 players in a 5 vs. 5 game setup. Lastly, there are also Order missions which are very short missions designed to be done quickly for grinding money or parts. Generally, Order missions are one off segments borrowed from the longer story missions.

If you’re thinking of buying Armored Core V it’s important to realize that the true value of the game comes from playing it as a multiplayer experience. Attempting to play through the game as a single, offline player is an uphill struggle during the more difficult missions, and diminishes much of the value found here. But while the multiplayer component provides an interesting platform for interacting with other like-minded mech enthusiasts it only works to mask the otherwise competent core experience beneath it. As a result, Armored Core V will probably only really appeal to the masses hungry to tear into yet another Armored Core game. But considering that ACV is the fifteenth installment in a franchise that shows no signs of stopping or slowing down, it stands to reason that there will be a sixteenth entry. So it will be interesting to see how the AC series continues to evolve using some of the foundations that have been laid down here.

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score

+ The online components provide some interesting variety and make up the bulk of the game’s value.

+/- Plethora of customization options to suit the needs of any combat situation, but figuring out the best loadout for a given situation boils down to a matter of trial and error.

– Narrative is utterly forgettable, has terrible voice acting, and can be pretty tough when playing alone.

6.5 out of 10