Coming into a game like Armored Core V without having played any previous games in the series didn’t seem like quite as bad an idea at the time as it turned out to be. It’s a game where you control a mech and blow up other mechs, how could that not be fun? I can honestly say, not only was it the least fun I’ve had with a game in a long, long time, it’s also just a terribly bad game.
There’s a reason I play and review games; I really enjoy them. For a game not to gel with my tastes is a very rare occurrence, indeed. Usually, even the most niche titles will somehow whet my appetite for a something new and different to play, providing of course they are in fact good. Armored Core V literally just didn’t click with me in the slightest, no matter how much I tried to enjoy it.
A mission based, third-person mech combat game with a heavy online component, Armored Core V’s campaign structure revolves around various areas on a map screen which feature a variety of missions of varying difficulty, including main story missions and special order missions which, as the name would suggest, are to be completed in a certain order. Speaking of the story… well, there’s not much to say, considering I couldn’t understand it. Basically, from what I could gather there seem to be two factions battling and killing each other for some unclear reason and you play an extremely skilled mech pilot fighting on one side. You go somewhere where there are a lot of buildings and even more mechs/tanks and do your very best to kill everything, as well as the odd train. With guns attached.
The game doesn’t do a great job of explaining its mechanics and structure either. You’ll be doing a lot of guessing when it comes to crucial things like changing weapons etc. There’s a form of tutorial, but I found it to be slow and ultimately ineffective. Other things, specifically in combat, that the game doesn’t explain well are enemy vulnerabilities and what’s effective against what. Quite often you’ll attack enemies and a message will pop over them saying that your attack is ineffective, with no explanation as to why or what indeed would be effective against that particular type of enemy.
At least the game’s combat is usually fun, although even that gets tedious at times. It’s a vanilla third-person shooter; no cover, just shoot-everything-until-it-dies-gameplay. The game falls apart when it brings traversal into the mix, however. You’ll have to climb buildings and boost across them from time to time, and it really doesn’t work well. You have to just keep jumping at the buildings to climb them, but it just works so badly and it’s so hit and miss. Worst of all, it breaks up the usual fast pace the game travels at and it’s just not fun, at all.
Something that has a tonne of potential in the game is the mech building portion of the game. You can buy a number of different parts and weapons for your mech and can also change the design of your mech, including its colour and place your team emblems on it. The marketplace you use to buy these upgrades, using an in-game credit system, is incredibly cumbersome and difficult to navigate. Not only that, but as you peruse the various different items in the shop the game will throw myriad different stats at you that mean almost nothing, due to a total lack of explanation.
Although some of the modifications you can make to your mech look really cool – tank treads are quite obviously the best legs – they’re possibly the only thing that actually looks good in this game. Armored Core V is an ugly, ugly game; the visual fidelity just isn’t up to par at all. The framerate is solid, but every edge in the game is plagued with aliasing and the environments look terrible. The sense of scale is totally off, and everything just looks murky and horrible; it was actually painful to look at at times. None of the effects look pleasing, and the fire effects are simply laughable.
The soundtrack’s nothing to write home about either. It’s typically boring, and there’s only so much of the menu music i could take without turning it off altogether. None of the sound design was appealing, from the sounds of battle t the voice acting, everything was mediocre at best. It’s not offensive, it’s just not good, at all. You won’t be playing this game for its looks or its sounds, believe me.
The online component is a big part of Armored Core V; players can create and join teams, from within which you can team up with other players for some co-op action on any mission. You can also hire mercenaries to help you out in missions, although it isn’t clear whether there’s actually another player in your game or if it’s just someone else’s mech being controlled by AI. Unfortunately, you have to be in the same team as a person to play co-op with them, which is, well, stupid. I couldn’t get help from the few PSN friends I have who own this game because they were all in different teams. Why the developers limited this feature in this manner is beyond me.
All this begs the question though, if you’re not playing for the ugly aesthetic, boring music and flawed gameplay, why would you play Armored Core v at all? It’s a question I’ve struggled with all through my play time with this game, Sure, games have niche fandoms who enjoy that particular style of game, but usually they are good games to go along with that. Armored Core V isn’t. The more I think about it, the less appeal I can see in this game. Is this seriously the best that can be done with mech fighting?
Who knows, maybe if you love the previous Armored Core games you’ll love this, but then again if you love it that much you’ll already own this game. For everyone else, there is no way I can recommend you go out and spend money on this game. It’s rare I have so much contempt for a game, but I really, really just hated playing this game. It really isn’t worth your time.