Armored Core 2
|a game by||Agetec|
|Editor Rating:||6.9/10, based on 4 reviews|
|User Rating:||6.0/10 - 1 vote|
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After the bitter destruction of Earth, humanity withdrew to the safety of the underground. Living for decades under Earth's surface, the survivors called this event 'the Great Destruction.' Intent on making sure this never happens again, strict laws now bind the actions of both government and corporation; massed armies no longer fight wars with weapons that destroy entire cities.
Instead, this era has seen the birth of many mercenary units, sold out to the highest bidder to fight small scale battles, test new prototype equipment, or even conduct covert raids on opposing corporations. Chief among these mercenary groups are the Ravens, the group your character belongs to in each of the Armored Core games. Always on the forefront of mercenary warfare, they supply highly elite soldiers to the highest bidder. Bound by a strict code of conduct, some battles even see Raven fighting Raven after each side hires a Raven to do their fighting.
This chapter of the Armored Core universe sees the exodus of humanity from war torn Earth. Mars has been terraformed and thousands of people leave for this new land of opportunity. As colonists depart, so do the corporations, ready to supply manufacturing equipment and basic needs to every man, woman, and child to set foot on the red planet. Naturally, the Ravens have joined the movement and now operate largely from Mars. You are once again thrust into the role of a new Raven pilot, soldier of fortune, mercenary for hire.
Armored Core 2's plotline progresses as a series of in-game cut-scenes (rendered wonderfully in the Armored Core 2 engine) and emails that you receive between missions. Initially hired purely for mercenary reasons by a variety of corporations, you're soon embroiled into a plot involving special forces soldiers from Earth and a conspiracy involving unmanned robots called Disorder Units.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
At its heart, Armored Core 2 is unchanged, essentially the same as the original Armored Core -- all of the gameplay and cinematics are handled in the exact same fashion. Basically divided into two sections, construction and mission, Armored Core 2 is a light action game with enough features to entertain any mech enthusiast. Your Armored Core (the big robot that you pilot within the game) is the latest in military technology, able to handle tens of different limb, weapon, and electronic packages.
In the mission mode, your Core is controlled from a 3rd person perspective, with traditional movement handled by the directional pad on your PS2 Dual Shock 2. Your R and L buttons control aiming up and down, as well as side to side strafing, and the buttons are used to control your weaponry and turbo boost. Clicking on the R3 or L3 button allows you to 'overboost,' which propels your Core at tremendous speeds but limits your maneuverability and quickly drains your energy. Your weapons are easy to aim, but hard to master, ranging from machine-guns to cannons to laser and plasma guns.
The game plays similar to a first person shooter, with a strong 'mecha' feel. Depending on how you construct your Core, you can have a lumbering beast with massive firepower, or a lithe machine with extreme maneuverability. One flaw of the action mode is that the developers of Armored Core 2 didn't provide full Dual Shock 2 control for the game, forcing you to use the directional pad to control your mech.
In the construction part of the game, you receive emails that inform you of the plot as it develops and you have the ability to spend your hard-earned cash. This section of the game allows you to purchase and sell Core parts, which you can use in the garage to construct your Core. This is the area of the game that offers the most attraction to mecha fans, as you can customize your Core to your heart's content. With over ten different part types (legs, arms, right hand weapon, booster pack, etc.) to change and over twenty different options for nearly every part type, you can pick and choose until you've build the right mech for you.
Armored Core 2 supports two person split-screen play, but it isn't anything to get excited about. Cramming all of the information you'd normally need into a space half as big as it was designed to use doesn't tend to improve the playability of the game. Multiplayer doesn't get good until you're able to use an I-link cable to hook together two PS2s and two TVs. Each player gets his or her own screen and controls, and doesn't have to worry sharing space with another player.
Armored Core 2 doesn't take full advantage of the many graphic features in the PS2, but it comes very close. Each of the Core parts is highly detailed, down to small moving panels and expandable barrels. The scenery also receives a lion's share of detail, with intricate cityscapes featuring destructible buildings and wide-open spaces. All of the textures in the game are high-quality, eliminating much of the pixelation seen in older games. Even with all of the splendor of these detailed environments, with simple lighting effects and anti-aliasing, the levels themselves are usually sparse, keeping the system performance high and enhancing gameplay.
Almost par for the course, Armored Core 2 lacks any noteworthy audio effects, leaving it slightly bland to the ear. The music is simple, the sound effects are well done but not exciting, and the voice acting always leaves something to be desired, both in acting ability and attitude.
Definitely one of the first titles I'd recommend for the PS2, Armored Core 2 does a good job on three fronts. First, it recreates the legacy set forth by the original Armored Core games, providing the only in-depth mech contruction/fighting game, ideal for hardcore big robot fans. Second, the graphics of Armored Core give the PS2 a chance to shine, as well as giving you a good idea of titles to come. Third, even though they've gone to a completely new console, the developers didn't alter the gameplay significantly, resulting in a tested formula that works.
The only drawbacks to this title are its relatively high difficulty later in the game and the fact that it really hasn't changed at all since the original Armored Core. Although it performs much better than the PSX version, looks much nicer, and has the same consistent gameplay, there is nothing new and enticing for the player to do inside the game.
Still, even with those small drawbacks, Armored Core 2 remains one of my favorites and one I'd definitely recommend to future PS2 players.
Download Armored Core 2
Finally, after so many slightly upgraded Armored Core games, we finally get the official sequel for the PS2, and guess what? It's the exact same game again, just with nice shiny graphics. If you have no idea about the AC franchise, allow me to summarize--"ehh, 's alright." The best thing about the series has always been how you can build and customize your mech from an intimidating range of parts (weapons, arms, legs, computer, head and tons more--right down to the paint job). You fight in both a nice variety of single-player missions (seek and destroy, retrieve, escort, etc.) and one-on-one arena competitions (two robots enter, one robot leaves). Completed missions earn you money, so you can buy more parts, so you can earn more money, so...you get the idea. My main problem with these games--besides their stubborn refusal to evolve--is with the control. What the hell does From Software have against the analog sticks anyway? Here is a game that requires quick movement in every direction and you are stuck turning your mech (very slowly, I might add, even with parts installed to speed it up) with the D-pad, with shoulder buttons to look up and down and no i8o quick turn. Absoludicrous! Sure, I admit the missile trails, awesome explosions and glistening robot models do add something, just not enough to recommend AC2 to anyone but those who are already fans.
AC2 is at once a perfect model of what mech games should and should not be. It looks outstanding, it lets you customize your mech, and there are plenty of missions and modes to explore, including two-player split-screen or linked capability. If it wasn't so terribly unbalanced, these positive attributes would carry a lot more weight. May the deity of your choice help you if you get caught in a stream of bullets, 'cause you'll never break away from it. The story is uninteresting and the weapons and controls are slow and unresponsive. I do (ike AC2's visuals and applaud the effort on this title, but it's just not fun to play, and that's what it's all about.
Would someone please explain why From Software thought to include every conceivable tweaking option in AC2--including linked multiplayer and the ability to craft your own decals with a USB mouse--but then left out analog-stick support. It's just a little thing, but it would go a long way toward updating gameplay that's little changed from the PS one games. That said, AC2 looks extraordinary, with outstanding mech models and the fancy weapon effects fans of Macross-flavored battles love. Of course, you get the endless mech-customization options and some decent missions, but the stiff control really hurts this game's score.
We had a chance to try From Software's latest mech building/ shooting action game at the last Tokyo Game Show, and what we played seemed mostly just like the previous games in the series (including no analog support--why?!), but of course with way better graphics courtesy of the PS2. The explosions and swarming missiles are especially impressive, and reps did tell us the game will allow more customization of your robots than before. AC2 is due out this summer.
OK, we've galleried AC2 before, but we just had to show you these incredible screenshots. If you've ever played Frame Gride on the Dreamcast, you may recognize some of the shoulder weapons these mechs are sporting. But as detailed as the robot models were in FG, they can't even compare with the detail on the AC2 mechs. Check out the plume of dirt and smoke as your mobile suit hovers above the ground-that's detail baby. AC2, by From Software, is a launch game for the PS2 in March.