The Armored Core series of mech-combat games has been around since 1997, originally launching on the PlayStation One. It has delivered a consistent experience for fans of the genre, which is admittedly a niche one. Armored Core: Verdict Day is the next iteration, and serves as the twentieth entry. We got our hands on a playable demo at Namco-Bandai’s E3 booth, and have some impressions ready for you.
Let’s face it – as the twentieth entry in any series, games in this situation tend to end up in one of two camps: In the first, you have an entry that plays it safe, by catering to fans who very well may have bought every single game in the series up to this point, and who will loyally purchase the next iteration so long as there aren’t many drastic changes. On the other hand, you have entries that are a radical departure from games past, which may upset longtime fans, but can entice people who otherwise may not have considered the game in the first place. After spending some time with Verdict Day, it can be safely assumed that From Software has gone with the former camp.
If you’re looking for a mech combat game that really changes things up, this is not your game. The mechs shown here are the traditional kind when we think of Armored Core – big hulking giants, some slightly more nimble than others. However, that isn’t to say there aren’t improvements and new ideas being tried here. There is a traditional story mode, which supports online co-op. But this mode should be considered training for the main course – online multiplayer. Here, you choose from one of three factions to fight for in a seasonal tournament of sorts. This is a continuous faction war, so although you can pick a new faction each season, the world is constantly in flux between the three factions.
Levels are essentially big rectangular arenas, and you can tell just how large your mechs are when you see how small cars appear below you. Control-wise, Verdict Day is relatively simple – you use the analog sticks for maneuvering and aiming, R2 & L2 for firing, R3 to switch aiming and scanning modes, Square to boost, Cross to jump, and more that you would expect in a third-person shooter. It’s a refreshingly simple control scheme for a genre that has traditionally been very convoluted.
Make no mistake – this is still a complex game, tailor-made for the fans of the series. Newcomers to the site may want to give it a shot if they want to try a persistently-online mech combat game with in-depth customization options, but so far it looks like From Software is playing it safe this time around.
Armored Core: Verdict Day is now due this fall for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.