Posted on : 10-10-2013 | By : Cacophanus | In : Reviews
Hardware: PlayStation3, Xbox 360
In the case of Armored Core’s history as a series, each major shift in functionality has met with a follow on title that polishes and improves the original setup. Sometimes these are just general changes but occasionally they coalesce into something truly great. These games have also normally been the best of that era. Titles like Master of Arena and Silent Line for instance marked the pinnacle of the previous two console generations.
Verdict day is a direct continuation of the previous game and utilises much of the same inherent structure, both for the expansive multiplayer but also the campaign. What’s different are all the substantial low level changes as well as all new systems that sit atop them. It’s quite frankly the best mecha game we’ve played this console generation.
The game is set a considerable period after the events in the last game. The world has changed quite a bit, resulting in three main factions; Venide, Sirius and Evergreen Family partaking in the Verdict War. The planet is also still pretty much an environmental wasteland. Narratively there’s also a lot going on here. Previously in other Armored Core games the lineage and backstory has been gently inferred, at least in the Japanese releases (much of this was always lost in the foreign translations sadly). In Verdict Day there are very direct references to events in For Answer as well as dovetailing with the original Armored Core games back on the PSone. In short, Verdict Day has unified the story across sixteen years of Armored Core and done it very deftly too.
With that in mind, what’s interesting is how streamlined the campaign is now. Whilst you still have story and order missions of a sort, the story missions are far shorter and simpler but the order missions can be a bit more involved. Overall, you end up with a more coherent flow for the missions. The campaign is also much more challenging, much of this is down to the all new AI as it’s really quite ferocious.
This is probably the biggest and most important addition to Verdict Day, the new UNAC AI setup. This allows players to create an AC and then plumb in all manner of AI commands into it. This isn’t a basic barebones system either, it’s practically a game in its own right and eclipses even games like Carnage Heart in its scope. Once completed, a UNAC is a powerful ally or enemy. You can use them in the campaign as well as online and they are formidable entries to any battlefield.
The online setup has also been greatly improved too. From the much welcomed merging of the US/EU servers to the fixes to stop boosting (amongst many other things). The latter was when people created two teams and faced each other and had the other quite, “boosting” the remaining team’s stats. This was a real issue with the last game and has been curbed by not awarding any points to either team. Following on from that, the conquest system has been overhauled. Completing normal sorties will unlock a special, these special sorties can either be big team based face-off or a boss fight (depending on what’s available at the time). Rolling the boss fights into this setup, makes them feel more worthwhile rather than the incongruous approach in the Western version of the last game.
Special sorties are heavily weighted, if you win you raise your team’s rank and if you lose you are suitably penalised too. The interesting thing now is that due to the increased server size you’re likely to face human opponents pretty regularly (both on normal and special sorties). Couple that with the faction system, where each team can pick one of the factions in the Verdict War, really adds a nice layer of progression and makes us feel that this is what the previous game was meant to be in the first place.
Much of the game’s complexity is also explained with an in-game manual. Admittedly this is a pretty weak concession from a design standpoint but it’s better than not having it at all, especially for newer players who will inevitably feel quite overwhelmed in places.
Visually it’s also looking a tad dated now, as the engine is getting a bit long in the tooth really. Whilst the framerate is much more consistent on all versions of the game, the textures and environments in general are really quite bland. Naturally, the mecha all look pretty damn great but it would have been nice to have a bit more visual variety as per the last game. Oddly though, this game has far more environments to play in but very few of them are overly memorable.
So with all this it’s strange how the game’s release been handled outside of Japan. In short Bandai Namco have almost gone out of their way to bury Verdict Day. This is very odd, as the game has released in the West before in Japan (a first in the series’ sixteen year history). They even got some decent English voice actors this time around as well, with the likes of both Cam Clarke and Nolan North making appearances. Admittedly the translation is still pretty bizarre but that’s nothing new really and even with this the important narrative beats have thankfully remained intact. So it’s bizarre that the game hasn’t had any real support and released alongside a swathe of other very large games.
Overall then, this tangibly improves many aspects of the previous game and does try to be a bit more accessible as well. It’s only a shame that it wasn’t sufficiently supported outside of Japan in terms of its release. As this is probably one of the best Armored Core games ever made.
All versions of the game have been played, with negligible framerate differences between the PS3 and 360 releases. As for server regioning, the US and EU share one server whereas Japan has its own. Separately, the 360 US/EU version of the game is region free.