There are several constants in gaming, events and franchises that you can rely on year in and year out. Madden football, Dynasty Warriors, and Armored Core. Since the original PlayStation From Software has kept the almost-sim-deep mech action series going with tiny improvements in each new release. Armored Core 4 Answer marks the series second next-gen outing but judging by what I’ve played in this demo the franchise has yet to really grow beyond its meager mech beginnings.
Sure, it’s pretty but things still don’t run so well. Jagged visuals and screen tearing litter the demo’s desert landscape where an impressively gigantic walking battle station is trudging toward its final target. You arrive with the help of a huge jetpack array that lets you cross the post-apocalyptic landscape in seconds. It provides an impressive feeling of space and speed but once you get close to the juggernaut you’ll feel the clunky 90’s gameplay catch up with you like a sonic boom.
Aiming and moving your mech around should be simple and intuitive but here everything feels loose and slippery. Even in the relative safety of the behemoth’s underbelly, taking my time to aim at its armaments was frustrating and my ammo was depleted well before I was prepared to attack its top side. On my next try I decided to fly up top and assault the monster one flight deck at a time. Big mistake. The top side is a hotbed of enemy activity, loaded with hundreds of missile launchers, gunports, and roving bodyguard mechs. My flight time lasted about 35 seconds. All in all I played about eight times through the demo and each time I was bested, first by the shear number of attackers and ultimately by the gameplay itself.
The scope of AC4A is impressive; that gigantic walker puts any ol’ AT-AT to shame. I wanted to see myself buzzing across the flight decks, dodging Macross-style missile tracers while battling mechs and navigating between the gargantuan legs below. Unfortunately, the gameplay just isn’t slick enough to pull it all off. The best I could do was duck back between the huge legs while sniping at missile bays from below with my tiny robo-pistol. Not exactly the thrilling mecha experience the trailers have been pimpin’ out. But, like Koei’s Dynasty Warriors, Armored Core has its base of rabid fans who make the most of the gameplay for the fanservice and intertwining storyline and I’m sure AC4A will deliver on those accounts. For the rest of us, it just hasn’t evolved quite far enough.