The Armored Core franchise, spanning multiple entries dating as far back as 1997, now has its newest instalment in the form of Armored Core: Verdict Day. Developed by Dark Souls creators From Software, the latest entry continues with the series’ tradition of piloting highly customizable battle mechs, while incorporating some interesting persistent online features. Unfortunately, this is marred by bland gameplay and presentation, which makes for a rather uninteresting experience.
The actual story has a rather vague setup involving three warring factions in a desolate, post-apocalyptic Earth. With little else to go on, I felt that I was thrown into the action more so than being filled in on it. It doesn’t help that the ongoing plot is boring, and the fact that all the cutscenes simply consist of dialog over footage of the in-game vehicles instead of actual characters gives off a low-budget vibe.
Making matters worse is the graphical presentation. While the mechs themselves look decent, the environments are bland, dreary, and lack detail as well as creative composition and design, making for a dull look that feels more like a PlayStation 2-era title at points. The music and sound effects are equally forgettable, preventing the game from being the exciting shooter it could have been.
The main story campaign is largely unambitious in its approach. The bulk of its missions revolve around destroying either specific targets or every enemy in the level, with the occasional simplistic boss fight. Controls work fairly well, with the ability to dash via booster jets being a welcomed feature both for fast environment traversal and evasive maneuvers in battle. The user interface works well, too, featuring a target reticule that shows your ammo, health, and booster fuel around it. It’s a smart move that helps players stay focused, while providing easy access to the information they need.
One of the selling points of the Armored Core series is the amount of unique weapons and parts that can be unlocked and swapped in and out with your mech. Every part, from the core engine to the limbs and even the head, has multiple options that can boost or balance your stats. Furthermore, numerous weapon types, of which you can carry two at a time for both the left and right trigger buttons, offer plenty of options to suit your specific playing style.
The downside is that most of the parts are locked behind story progression, and while the campaign starts out rather typically, the difficulty ramps up fast, and the weapons you unlock don’t escalate in their rate of availability or power at the same rate. The fact that the game over screen, which you will see often, takes so long to fully display and restart the mission doesn’t help things eith.
There are some interesting new features here, most notably the UNAC mechs, which are AI-controlled partners that can provide assistance in battle and be given various instructions. There’s also the ability to play missions via online co-op, or take your customized mech into both team and free-for-all deathmatch missions. Unfortunately though, it was very difficult to find other players during my time with the game.
The persistent online component that I mentioned earlier comes in the form of custom teams that players can create and have others join. Each team chooses one of the story’s three factions, and the victories or losses they experience via additional online missions known as Sorties will contribute to their particular faction’s ranking during individual gaming “seasons.” I didn’t find this facet of the game all that captivating, but it will provide some good replay value for those who want an excuse to continually revisit.
I will admit that I went into Armored Core: Verdict Day with no prior exposure to the series, ultimately felt indifferent towards it, and don’t feel that it will make a good first impression with newcomers. There are both better-looking and better-playing games on the market, and though the concept of fast-paced mech battles is definitely intriguing, I feel that a more engaging game could still be made with the concept.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which was provided to us for review purposes.
With uninteresting presentation facets and monotonous gameplay, Armored Core: Verdict Day does little to revitalize the mech battle sub-genre.