Armored Core: For Answer
The most recent release for the series, Armored Core for Answer, has just hit the PS3 and Xbox 360. Set in the future, For Answers sees the world in an apocalyptic state with the surface of Earth being over-polluted and its people forced to live in the sky. Armored Cores (AC) run rampant though as companies and factions continue to be at war with each other. As a mercenary you find yourself between sides in most situations, but as is the standard with your job you go where the money goes. Unfortunately, the story never really becomes very involved or interesting, but luckily the rest of the game makes up for that somewhat.
As with other installments in the Armored Core franchise, for Answer's big theme is customization. Once you get started you're going to build a mech and select everything from weapons down to boosters, extremities, propulsion systems, and even more convoluted system specifications. In all honesty, if you're new to the series then you're going to be left scratching your head for a majority of the beginning here. Nothing is really explained and it's not fleshed out to the point where you know how well things are going to work together. There's a lot of flying by the seat of your pants here. Then again, if you're an AC veteran you'll most likely feel right at home.
With For Answers the available options and items for customization are more in depth than they were in even the most recent fourth Armored Core installment, which was released last year. You'll literally spend hours in the game, between missions, tweaking everything in your mech right down to the color and customized emblems. The nice thing about this is that as you progress through the game you'll also game points which can be applied to the available options. The FRS tuning points are much more readily available with For Answer and as you start collecting them, have fun tuning the plethora of parameters in the options menu.
Now that you've built up your war machine we're ready to talk about the actual gameplay here. Like the other installments in the series, Armored Core for Answer is an all-out action game. You strap yourself into the drivers seat and take to each mission with an objective in mind. As you roll, run, or fly your way through each stage you'll be faced with an onslaught of weapon fire and enemies so you're going to have to be quite the mover and shaker if you want to be successful. Let's just hope you adjusted those stabilizers correctly. The core gameplay itself is a hoot, but if you have played other Armored Core games recently then you'll probably feel that it's a little tired. Even if you haven't, there's not much in the way of innovation here, so the gameplay is fairly standard.
Luckily each mission has something unique to offer and that variety helps break the up the pacing. With that being said there are some missions which become a pain as objectives aren't clearly defined and map layout is something that should be committed to memory. Boss battles in the form of Armored Forts also give For Answer a decided edge of other entries into the franchise. These massive behemoths rival the bosses from Shadow of the Colossus in terms of scope and really stand out as defining moments for the game.
Some multiplayer is available as well with the standard versus mode being present, but a new addition in For Answer gives this title a decided edge over the previous installments. Via the online component you can team up with a buddy and play through a set number of missions with co-op. It definitely extends the play time for the game and helps add some variety to an otherwise tiresome experience.
At the end of the day Armored Core for Answer offers some slight improvements over the previous installment, so fans may want to dig in. Targeting is still kind of an issue, but otherwise the gameplay is smooth, the boss fights are cool, and customization is just as deep as always. If you're new to the series, don't expect to have your hand held. You're going to be thrown to the wolves here and it's truly sink or swim. I suppose it really just depends on how much you like mechs and how long it has been since you've played an Armored Core title as far as whether or not this title is worth checking out.
With 720p output, Armored Core for Answer looks pretty darned good, but it's not quite as sharp as it could be. For what it's worth, all of the cinematics in the game are pure eye candy. These truly stand out above the in game graphics, and in all honesty are a shining example of what the PS3 can do. As far as the regular graphics in the game they are decent as well. Environments suffer somewhat due to most of the attention being paid to the mech models, and you can expect to see some bland locales. However, if you love your mechanized machines of war then you'll really get into the level of detail in each model here.
for Answer offers decent sound, but it won't exactly blow you away. Effects are very good with some explosions and mech details sounding realistic, or at least like you'd expect them to sound. The voice acting is very good as well and the music is mostly fitting with some tunes that really set the mood. All around the sound direction for this game is good though compared to other recent PS3 titles; the experience isn't quite as solid as it could have been.
Armored Core for Answer is another meaty entry for a niche franchise with a loyal group of followers. There's a lot to bite down on here, but if you're looking for some innovation you're going to be left wanting. The gameplay and overall experience is relatively static, though the additions included with this title are definitely appreciated from the standpoint of someone who has played other entries in the series. Newcomers will unfortunately get no help what-so-ever from this game, so if you don't have a high level of patience then you'll probably want to give this one a pass. Overall this is a game that is recommended for fans, but should be a rental at most for everyone else.