Full Review: A certain habitual pattern exists in all ravens. These Ravens are something else.
You can't love a machine. Or can you? At least I know of one company that does. From Software, the makers and nurturers of the longest running and best ever mecha making series, have deeply been committed to Armored Core these last seven years. Year after year, sequel after sequel, expansion after expansion, the Armored Core series has led a long and lustrous life as From Software has fine-tuned and enhanced its game again and again. Here we are, seven years and eight sequels later, and we're at a major turning point for the franchise. Never before has a developer been so bold as to remake portions of its series' history coupled with an entirely fresh phase, but now From Software has. In the two-disc, two-game-type set, Agetec presents From Software's biggest "evolution" and "revolution" for the largest mech-customizing and brutalizing series ever...Armored Core: Nexus.
Humanity has an enormous power: the ability to share. They can accept each other's generosity, or doom all of man kind in their never-ending search for more control. People of the present have come out of hiding, in a future that robbed itself when affected by all its corruption and the war that tore it to pieces. The Organization of Controlling Companies (OCC), whose purpose was to dominantly reinvent the way in which society lived, has crumbled after the rise of people's hopes returns to their senses. However, even if evil may disappear from sight, that doesn't mean it's gone in spirit. When the OCC comes to the realization that there is fortune and a future in seizing control over Earth's primary resources, they remerge with people once more under their thumb in hand. Destroyer of lives. Taker of riches. Raven, your new assignment starts now.
It's hard to tell really who out there amongst the millions of video game players is actually a fan of Armored Core. This mech-building and clobbering action series never reached one of those hierarchy statuses like in the style of Halo or Mario. Keeping that in mind, it's harder to weed out who still plays these games: because there have been so many of them. From Software has provided hardcore mecha nuts with new missions, new parts, and new ways to experience the glory of Armored Core each year. That's why Armored Core games have lived this long, because it has fans you might not be able to recognize, but you know they're around. They're out there picking up the new game and tweaking their killing machines every year, with the vast expanses of parts available -- some new some old. They're pitting their creations up against the mission challenges and arena opponents. They're tinkering with the new gameplay types, like the four-player deathmatch options that have been added in the last few years, and now this year's first attempt over LAN.
Fan or not though, you don't have to live off the series from the starting point to cherish it. All you need is one game in the series (preferably one of the better ones...even though they're all fairly well made), and you'll become addicted to its route of mechanized symmetry. This year's edition especially is one to pay attention to, as From Software has thrown away lots, kept spots, and tied up some loose knots. First of all, there is no more rotating interface from the game's main hub. You want to spin your way from mission all the way to the garage and back, and forth, and back, and forth? Too bad, you can't. Instead, From Software has opted to manufacture a mouse-like computer window. Scrolling the left analog stick around starts to move a cursor across a flattened map interface for selecting missions, where hovering over to the left or right most side of the screen brings up additional user options (i.e., the mail you'll receive now to the left side, and the garage, save info, and ranking stats are over at the right). This setup not only looks nice, but it's easier to manage since there isn't as much extra baggage to work around now. The next and possibly most important transition for Armored Core is: Nexus utilizes dual analog play.
Almost every Armored Core you may or may not have experienced thus far has had a singular control scheme for which to measure the mission play by. Embracing the fact that the only possible way to endure most of Armored Core was with its slow-mo robotic directional-pad (or last year's modest tweak with left analog control) hasn't been a terrible loss of course, as this method just became the standard for the games. Once aware of how to pilot your hulking AC robot, you were in the club. But room for improvement has always been evident. Never has the Armored Core system been perfect. Rather, it's more of a manageable arrangement. And even though players could stick by their guns while attached to the d-pad maneuvering forever, From Software has finally lifted the spirits of those feeling dual analog was the way to go. And feeling the outcome of this newly integrated venture, it truly is. Armored Core veterans will surely find a few surprises in Nexus. Those traditional buttons you've always used to strafe, shoot, or turbo boosting your way upward are no longer where you think they might be. The left analog stick now takes care of any strafing or moving issues, where the right stick handles the camera just like in any third-person game (but in essence, your towering robot masterpiece is now scaled down a lot smaller since you'll view their full body, as opposed to being behind the shoulder from before). Replacing the back buttons as the more "primary" centerpiece, you'll now be able to select weapons (R2) and fire them (R1), turbo boost (L2) or open doors and slice enemies (L1) all with a cleanlier interface for memorizing every action. Naturally, those who've been used to Armored Core for a long time will feel a little uneasy in adjusting to the tweaked commands. All it takes is about half an hour at best to find your way there. But if you're one who's more comfortable with the original design, the default can still be set for that way or this new way.
Shock value. The surprise of being original, of doing what no one else thought of. It's a trait which when used as a gimmick rightly can earn the publisher extra kudos from gamers and game makers alike. Agetec's greatest influence in showboating their newest Armored Core project this year doesn't hold strongest at the tip of gameplay tweaks, but instead in its two-disc, two game package. You're not just getting a brand-new Armored Core game here. You're getting two. Well, at least part of that sentence is true. Armored Core: Nexus contains two games for the price of one in an unlike offer. The first of the two DVDs you'll see upon opening the game case is titled Evolution. On this disc is the new game, the one you've never played before...the one you've been reading about, and the one you definitely will want to play. Though, you can't have an "evolution" without a "revolution" first. This brings us to the second disc hiding behind the first, which is titled Revolution. And on this disc is a compilation in part of past Armored Core games, stretching from the very first Armored Core to its two following PlayStation expansions: Project Phantasma and Master of Arena. Firing up the Revolution disc has players dipping into a bevy of remade and refurnished Armored Core missions from these three past titles. That means they've been given the next-gen PlayStation 2 makeover. But what's that you say? You want MORE? I'm not sure there is any...oh wait, actually there is some other content to talk about. Unlockables, and plenty of them. Completing any of the various missions opens up promotional art, movies, and even music found in each of the previous Armored Core titles. This hefty package is any Armored Core nut's dream, and it should welcome newcomers just the same.
But enough about the new hotness for now. Let's get down to the basics. Armored Core, as you already know or have estimated by now, is Agetec's mech fighting and mech building game. You have at your command as always a mech or an AC or Raven (as it's called) to adjust. Your number one priority throughout the game, like in previous Armored Core games, is to keep refining your robot. Completing missions earns you money. That money can then be spent on new parts that can be added to or dismantled from your bot's body. And in this sense, again you must figure out a way to balance out your mech's mechanics. ACs are provided with differentiating limitations. You may want to equip your Raven with an extremely powerful grenade launcher for its hand weapon. You may want to give it dual missile launchers or a gattling gun on the backside. You may want a certain head part, a core (a torso), an inside (i.e., pods to deploy and deflect incoming missiles), or anything you can think of amongst many part types and many, many parts with which can further augment or at times weaken the mech's abilities. But you also must pay attention to the numbers in weight and cooling supply. For example, you can't carry more weight than you think you can. If you want to carry a bunch of heavy stuff, you need fatter, slower moving legs with which to apply to the package. If you go overboard with the energy limit by assigning parts that push too much energy too far, your generator's capacity won't be able to output that amount. Obviously, you've got lots of details to figure out as there are a lot of parts to choose from (more than 400), and with that derives ample methods with which you can spend hours finalizing your desired creation for the death and destruction of those who oppose you.
Being able to make yourself the maker of part piecing, you must first enter into the domain of mission completions. Missions, a bit different but generally the same, now enable a special feature from time-to-time. Called the "active mission" feature, this optional aspect relies on your direction in battle. As always from any of the current missions open at any point, you can hop in and lock into combat whether you're out to safeguard the continuity of a facility, destroy other robotic forces, or even meet your maker or toast in victory to a win against an arena opponent (in which case, the AC arena opponents have been integrated into mission sets interestingly enough). But getting back to the active mission dealie -- in one mission there is a group of MT (robot) units desecrating a city. They've got some kind of electronic device setup, which weakens your AC's overall status (jamming your radar, making you more susceptible to energy-based attacks). If you can destroy these robots, the story will move to their retreat once you've polished them off. If you fail, you'll be defeated, but another AC robot will fly in and destroy the surrounding MTs for you. Either way though, you'll win the mission. Whichever path you choose to walk on will personify your Raven's course, and will affect your progress throughout the rest of the game based on a "cause and effect" status -- whether this spells tougher opponents, more money, or what have you.
For years now we've been seeing pretty much the same Armored Core on the graphic's end. From Software has noticed this too, but now has taken a step toward reformatting the game. At least in some sense of the word. It's not exactly noticeable what has been taken out and what has been implemented in, but From's claim is that the graphics engine for Nexus is now new and improved. In some cases this seems to be true, as in one evidentiary element players will find a blinding sun glinting in the distance. Past Armored Core titles didn't have this. Another new surprise is obviously the body of your Raven robot. It's been shrunk. However, it's possible now to envision more of it. Detailed. Built. Working. Acting. A Raven, yours, can glide around with the glare of a flare firing up from its backside and letting you careen your way upward, downward, or thrust erratically all around metallic foes with a beautiful glow of flaming colors. The Raven body is mechanized, and it's in this state that it can be customized. Change into something with tank legs, spider legs, or backward legs, and it'll reflect these alterations in an articulate framework. You can put on back parts, arm parts, shoulder parts, inside and outside parts. You can paint your Raven multiple colors, and mark it up with an emblem of your choosing. The AC models, as always, are gritty and glorious in their craftsmanship. Thumbs up.
On the other angle, Armored Core: Nexus still looks very much the same game as before. There's a lot of space in the game, and there isn't much to fill it with. Effort isn't in mind when composing level eye-candy you have to figure. What's there is good, but what's there is also plain and just not all that exciting. Once more, players will venture through factory insides, mountainous outsides, and even nighttime settings around and atop buildings. The thing here is that the levels only offer few sights to see, if any (such as crates or racks), as for the most part you'll be concentrating on the robot combatants within. And like I said, the stages aren't bad to look at. All From needs to do is pretty up the levels with more stuff to glaze our eyes over, rather than reinstating that feeling you get when strolling through a near-empty warehouse. At least there are those other traditional attractions to see, like the demolitions in exploding robots, to laser blasts, to the sparking and smoking of your Raven's body as it bruises and breaks.
Electronic, finger tapping music has always been the rhythm system for Agetec's Armored Core series. Though not as prominent as in its use for the abundantly rich FMV intro movie (both graphically and audibly intensifying), the good even if subtle techno tracks of Nexus fits in well with the action when noticeable. But more attention worthy is all of the various fighting noises you'll be hearing. Many weapons means many sounds. You've got old stuff like soaring missiles and rickety machine guns, and you've got some new stuff like four-way laser-beam fire that sends a stinging zap to the receiving opponent whose response is nothing but a shattering and fiery collapse. Rumbling foot stomps and jet-propulsion engines scurrying is also presented here. As are some decently voiced scenarios of the game. Used for the most part in mission briefings before an operation begins, and at times during story windows, the acting done moves the game along in a sense that you know what's happening. Though like in past Armored Core games, the acting (of both male and female American roles) isn't the greatest in the world since it's of a very serious nature...and doesn't expand into a more emotional plot either. But it's tolerable, and you get used to this type of talky talk being there.
Yes. That should answer your question. What question? Why, the question you were about to ask.... "Should I buy Armored Core: Nexus?" It's a great game for the Armored Core fan that's hidden in all of us (even if you're not already one, you will be once you enlist into the series). Because, I think Armored Core is really the best type of game when you want your mech combat and mech customization all served on a steaming platter of cool kick assery. Just so you know, Armored Core, while great, isn't the best game ever in the world sort of thing. If you like building robots, you're going to like this. If you like killing robots with that robot you've prettied up with powerful functions galore, you're definitely going to like this.