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It didn’t take much to get me interested in Front Mission Evolved. I was a huge Mechwarrior nut as a kid, and I may have been one of the few that played through almost every Armored Core game known to man with my younger brother, and both Zone of the Enders games. And don’t even get me started on all the fond memories I have of Mech Assault and Mech Assault 2. In other words, you can hand me anything with giant robots in it, and I will play it from start to finish no questions asked. It was with that much commitment, that I started playing Front Mission Evolved.
(Front Mission Evolved calls their Mechs Walking Panzers called “Wanzers” with my sincerest apologies to Double Helix and Square-Enix, I just call them Mechs. My bad.)
I jumped right in, and had a pretty positive attitude throughout the whole game experience. The customization from the get go is detailed enough to keep most Mech purists engaged in the details, though it never approaches the insane levels of micro-management that have made Armored Core games so wildly inaccessible to wider audiences. Front Mission however manages to make building, and customizing a fun and engaging process without ever feeling overwhelming. There’s also a great amount of parts, and plenty of the standard Mech gear to be had and play around with. I also especially liked the shields and only realized the limitless potential of the shields on my second playthrough. Now I find myself skating right up to Mechs to bash them in the face with a swift shield backhand, followed by a nice burst of shotgun fire, it’s downright lethal. These are the things that are critical to me in a great Mech game. The ability to customize, and wonderful combat.
So I thought I was home free, and for the first time in what would seem like a long time, I would be glowing about a game. And then they made me get out of the suit… I became nervous. I applaud someone for finally trying it. I think it’s about time someone started giving more personality to the people inside the machines, instead of just focusing on the machines themselves. But I don’t know how much of me saying, or implying that they were trying to accomplish that very thing would be overstepping. So while I can’t speak to intent I can only comment on the execution, and as it stands, it’s not the strongest point of the game by any shake of the stick. The problem is that it’s like a lite version of Gears of War once you get out of the suit, and your appreciation of that sort of thing, almost depends entirely on the gamble that you like cover based third person shooters in general. It’s the sort of thing that should be done with the understanding that if it isn’t an integral part of the main Mechanics of the game, it should be done so perfectly that people playing through those segments will think the game could not have survived without them.
These portions of the game slow the pace down considerably though, and break up the action in a way that just sort of blindsides you. If these segments could keep up the same kinetic energy that the suit combat generated, it would be much easier to recommend them for inclusion, but they just don’t. Which in my honest opinion is just a stronger testament to the great combat that thankfully makes up the bulk of the campaign, with the exception of a couple of terrific on-rails sequences. Honestly combat is the name of the game here. For every time I tried to get engaged in the plot, and the details of the characters, I just wanted to smash more stuff with my giant robot. For every expository speech or cutscene I watched, there was me gripping the Xbox controller, and bopping up and down impatiently waiting to launch another volley of missles into a group of enemies. It became pretty obvious pretty quickly to me what the strongest point of this game was.
But it seemed like just as quickly as I had figured it out, the game was over. Only around 7 hours in, and I had wiped out the campaign. I was sad, but also painfully optimistic about the multiplayer that I hadn’t yet dived into. Multiplayer however, is actually more of a hot mess than the campaign. Gone is the engaging detailed customization, replaced by a rank system that earns you entire builds, and extra parts. It’s not nearly as engaging at all, and does away with half of what made the combat in singleplayer so spot on. And if it’s in the name of balance that this system was introduced, then I can safely say that it’s not really working, as on my first match I got pitted against someone almost 12 ranks above me with equipment that just made me look pathetic. One rule I always remembered when playing old Mechwarrior games, that should apply here is that the parts don’t make the pilot. There should be a smart way of letting people build the same wide range of set ups, without letting that freedom unbalance the game. But the system in place now, is very restricting, and may not be enough to keep everyone’s interest.
So what’s the verdict? I like the game quite a bit. The controls finally make sense of controlling a giant walking tank, and are easy enough for the average person to pick up and master in no time, and the combat is great when it fires on all cylinders, and you aren’t on foot. Front Mission Evolved is a good game with great moments, but it’s also a good game with some out of place moments. It’s not hard for me to recommend, and even though the campaign is relatively short, it’s actually really entertaining to play through it again completely overpowered. But if Double Helix gets the go ahead to do this a second time, then they really need to beef up the campaign and multiplayer, and tighten the grip on the out of suit sequences. If they do that, there won’t be anything stopping them from taking over the world with their giant robot fists.
Front Mission Evolved is available now for Xbox 360, PS3, and PC
It was developed by Double Helix Games, and published by Square-Enix
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