Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 10/24/00 | Genre: Action
I have always been a fan of mech combat games. The cockpit style of fighting used in the Mech Warrior series for the PC will always hold a special place in my heart. There is a reason why console mech games cannot adopt the blessed cockpit view, and that is control. You simply don't have enough buttons on a standard console controller to provide a realistic mech cockpit simulation. So the third person perspective typically used in console mech games does lessen the fighting experience. Third person combat is used in so many games, that whether it is a robot standing there or a woman with a rocket launcher, the gaming experience is similar.
The cockpit view of the Mech Warrior PC series will, in my opinion, always be the pinnacle of control and mech simulation. But I was still chomping at the bit to try out Armored Core 2 on my PS2, third person perspective and all. Now, I don't know about you faithful reader, but I really like the analog sticks on the dual shock controller. I can't imagine why any game wouldn't use these wondrous devices, but Armored Core 2 does not. It uses digital control only, a fact that will significantly diminish your gaming experience. This title could have been one of the best titles available for the PS2, if not for this control issue.
The use of the digital pad is absolutely maddening, especially considering that virtually every other game available for the PS2 makes use of the analog stick. Putting your thumb on those little sticks is an instinct, and I cannot tell you how many missions in Armored Core started with me taking a hit form an incoming enemy missile because I had my thumb on the analog stick instead of the d-pad. Control is the Achilles' heel of Armored Core 2. Control issues aside, this game has a lot to offer fans of mech combat. The level of customization if the game is extremely high, and most of it is not optional. You have to reconfigure your Core for each mission. There are no recommended Armored Core configurations (as those of you who play Mech Warrior may be used to).
You are going to have to spend time in the garage every few missions, redesigning your Core to suit your mission. You can paint your Core any color you like, and you can even spend hours creating your own logo to strike fear in the hearts of your opponents. All this customization is good for those that really get into mech games, but for gamers that just want quick fighting action - the customization may be overwhelming. Graphically, Armored Core 2 looks very solid. The way each weapon on the mech is animated to open and close when you select it is very cool. And, the enemy mechs show a nice level of detail. The actual combat zones are not particularly impressive, but it doesn't really matter because most of your surroundings are likely to get blown up or shrouded in a haze of smoke. The mechs are the most important part of this game, and they look good.
The sound in the game...well, it's combat sound. There is music, but it is virtually unnoticeable in the background amid the sounds of machine gun fire and missile blasts. It is not bad or good, it just is. As for the weapon and mech sounds they are very good. There isn't really much in the way of sound placement, but I can't fault Armored Core for this because none of the current PS2 games take advantage of the consoles 5.1 surround capabilities. Which is a shame, because this is the type of game that screams for surround sound. Which direction did that gunfire come from? Anyone that has played Mech Warrior on a PC with 4 point or 5.1 surround knows what I am talking about. The sound in Armored Core is not groundbreaking, but there is certainly nothing wrong with it.
Overall, the gameplay of Armored Core 2 gives me mixed feelings. I am sure much of this comes form my Mech Warrior background, but I can't help it. One of my main complaints with AC2 is the ability to fire only one weapon at a time. This is silly. If I want to fire a sortie of missiles while I am unloading my machine gun, I should be able to do so. I will have to take the customary penalty to my heat level for doing so, but it should still be an option. The reason AC2 does not allow this seems to be due to the use of that damn digital pad. If only they had used the analog sticks for movement and aiming (ala Unreal Tournament), the shoulder buttons could have been used to fire up to four different weapons. How kick ass would that make the control. I get giddy just thinking about how fun that would be. One finger on missiles, another on the machine gun, another finger on the missile decoy system, and another on a shoulder mounted cannon - all available at the press of a button! Oh how blessed that would be. But alas, the shoulder buttons are used for strafing and aiming. A task that could so easily be accomplished with the unused analog sticks.My other source of frustration comes form the way you earn (or lose) money in Armored Core 2. Each mission you successfully complete pays you a certain amount of money.
Your expenses for the mission (repairs and ammo) are subtracted from this total. This does not bother me. I think it is more than fair that the better I do on a mission (the less damage I take and ammo I use) the more money I will earn. This is a great system that rewards you for your skill. My problem is that if you fail a mission, you simply lose money and then you do the mission over. Is there a gamer on this earth that won't reload their last save game and play the mission again to avoid the financial loss? I think not. Obviously no one will take this loss. If you have to play the mission again anyway, you might as well reload your save game and try again. I wish the developers of Armored Core 2 would have foreseen this and simply allowed the gamer to restart the mission without the financial penalty. Pay me when I succeed and subtract my expenses. But don't make me pay for failed attempts because reloading saved games gets old real fast.
Why would you need to reload so often? Well, as I said, the game does not provide recommended mech configurations. So the only way to see what type of mech you need to build for a mission, is to play the mission, see what you have to do, fail the mission, then build a mech for that specific mission. Sure, you will get through some missions without needing to do this, but you can't do it all the time. The failure of missions is guaranteed. Therefore reloading saved games is guaranteed, unless you don't mind losing the money you need to buy better parts!!
If you do reload saved games after failed missions (as I do), the only time you lose money is for repairs and ammo on missions, which is acceptable. The cost to buy a part is exactly the same as the cost of selling it. While this may not be realistic, it is very helpful. You can essentially sell your entire mech after each mission and rebuild it without losing money. This takes the stress out of redesigning your mech. I only wish I could by the parts from the Garage screen, so I could be sure I wasn't overweight!!!
Overall, AC2 is a very solid title. It just has its annoying quirks and major control issues. But if you like Mech Combat and customization, this game has a lot to offer for a console title.