Front Mission Evolved, the first shooter in the long running Front Mission series, will be sure to draw comparisons to the Armored Core games, and there are similarities. That being said, this is definitely a game for fans who have wanted to know what Wanzer combat would look and feels like. I've never really been a fan of mechanized warrior combat, but after Front Mission Evolved, I can see myself swaying in that direction.
Piloting a large combat mech feels exactly like it should. Developer Double Helix Games (who are working on the forthcoming Green Lantern game) has managed to give real weight to the machines, and when certain abilities are activated, like the A.G.I.L.I.T.Y. system (abbreviated words are a big part of this game), players can really feel a sense of speed and power. The same is true of the game's combat, as it took quite a few bullets to reduce another hulking Wanzer to heap of scrap metal.
Weapons, armor, and attachments can all be customized. If players want to make a unit that has a machine gun in each hand and relies on high mobility to dash in and out of combat, Front Mission Evolved allows them to do so. Likewise, players can create a heavily armored Wanzer that deals serious damage in the form of explosives.
This customization will allow the creation of whatever kind of Wanzer the player wants to bring to the battlefield. All parts of the Wanzers are able to be customized, and I mean all parts: torso, legs, arms, and weapons. Speaking of weapons, players can pick from machine guns, rocket launchers, Gatling guns, shotguns, and melee weapons. All changes will have a mix of benefits and negatives. The formula ends up being mobility versus damage and vice versa.
Emblems, color schemes, and camouflage patterns are all available for cosmetically personalizing the Wanzers. Skills are also available for customization, allowing players to apply different effects directly to the Wanzer or to its weapons. Want an EMP blast to trigger whenever you shoot? Put that on the unit and combine it with a wider spread for its shotgun and have a huge area of effect that disables enemies for a short while.
The battles that take place throughout the game are hectic and definitely sell the idea highly developed mechanized battle suits in combat. Guns feel like they've got a bit of oomph as they shred enemy armor. Combat does reward accuracy. Shooting at legs to cripple them will slow down enemy Wanzers significantly. Shooting at arms will reduce an enemy's accuracy. Both these actions also serve to weaken enemy units and make them easier to destroy. By the way, enemies can use those strategies as well, so it is important for players to keep their heads in the battle and remain conscious of what's happening.
The enemy A.I. is a bit too robotic. Playing on Normal, enemies never use any real strategy other than seeking out and trying to kill players. This is successful at times, usually due to the enemies' almost uncanny ability to aim directly at players, even when they're behind cover. I never realized Wanzers were so advanced that they could bypass large buildings with their weapons.
There are a couple of issues with the game's camera. For instance, one level has a lot of overgrowth which players could get caught in, and their screens would be flooded by all the plants (I ended up dying because of it, which was highly annoying). Still, the camera worked a majority of the time and didn't hinder play too much. There are some segments of the game where players are required to be out on foot. I know what you're thinking: how does a regular human take on Wanzers? A rocket launcher will suffice, but there are also several human enemies to encounter. The on-foot portions of the game weren't awkward in any way and controlled well, but the placement of the missions did feel a bit forced. On foot or in a Wanzer, each mission has an objective to meet and, every once in a while, a boss fight.
A new part of the series is the E.D.G.E. system, which provides the user with a damage boost, time slowdown, and enhanced mobility. It can be handy in the tough spots, and as an incentive to stay aggressive, since the system only refills when players destroy enemies. The E.D.G.E. system is also a large part of the story that helps drive the game's narrative.
Front Mission Evolved quickly introduces its story: players assume the role of Dylan Ramsey, a lowly engineer who's out testing the latest Wanzer prototype for his company when, all of a sudden, New York's orbital elevator gets attacked. Ramsey's priorities change from testing the new Wanzer to rescuing his Father from a nearby building. He is unsuccessful and is recruited into the Army to fight and get his vengeance. There is nothing really special here, story-wise, just enough fluff to keep story moving. Its excessive reliance on the E.D.G.E. system as a story device is a problem, though.
The game's graphics aren't bad, but aren't amazing, either. Evolved is the first third person shooter in the series, so players might expect something a little more special. The pre-rendered cutscenes are very well done, however, and are full of action. While watching them, I couldn't help but wonder why my Wanzer couldn't be that awesome.
Multiplayer is also in the title, allowing players to pit their Wanzers against one another in traditional Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Domination (which pits teams against each other to control three turrets placed throughout the map), and Supremacy (a King of the Hill variant). Front Mission Evolved also sports a ranking system that caps at 70, which is similar to the Modern Warfare series in that better Wanzer parts become available as players level up. There's even a "Prestige Mode" called Tour of Duty that resets players' rank and equipment, but awards them a special decal.
For the series' first effort as a third-person shooter, Front Mission Evolved works well. Most of the game's problems could be easily remedied in sequels (which I venture to say Square Enix will probably develop). It might be interesting if future versions of the game attempted to integrate Front Mission's traditional RTS mechanics with the third person shooting of Evolved. But, for now, fans should be happy with what Front Mission Evolved has to offer.
Front Mission Evolved is available now for the Xbox 360 and PS3. Game Rant reviewed the game on Xbox 360.