Reviews: Front Mission Evolved (6/10)

One of the most renowned mecha series in gaming has to be that of Front Mission, as it has endured the test of time and indelibly made its mark on the genre. It’s practically a beloved heirloom these days and Square Enix had the right idea, or at least the semblance of one, when they tried to bring the saga into the present day. On paper, you’d think that hiring a Western developer to helm a standard third-person-shooter would be a no brainer but Front Mission, like any mecha based gaming series, isn’t one that can slot neatly into a functionally standardised niche.

Ignoring the functional and cultural heritage of mecha is going to get you into trouble when you deal with a series like Front Mission and unsurprisingly that’s where Double Helix have landed themselves; up trouble creek without a wanzer to help them out.

Now before the supposed Front Mission devout proclaim the “end of times” on account of the fact a supposed turn-based strategy series has dared to venture into third person shooter territory, be aware that Evolved is not the first in the saga to do this. Front Mission Online was arguably one of the finest mecha games of the last console generation and it was also very much a third person shooter. However, unlike Evolved, Online was a good mecha game and wasn’t palpably embarrassed by its heritage. Evolved, unfortunately, has gone down the route of functional standardisation to the detriment of rendering the saga’s mecha of choice, the wanzer, almost redundant.

On the one hand, we get why this choice was made; as ultimately it acts as a means to encourage new gamers into the cold metallic bosom of mecha by making the functional parameters of the genre more familiar. However, on the other, the game suffers from a core functional identity crisis; as it retains elements of weight in how the wanzers handle and then encourages the player to blithely disregard them once real combat kicks off.

The singleplayer campaign is split into three distinct and functionally disparate sections; wanzer combat, on foot combat and on-rails gunship sections. The wanzer combat starts off initially as being quite promising, as the mecha handle with a decent and obvious heft. With walking and jumping giving a good machine-like feel, however this is shortlived as walking and jumping aren’t very useful in the thick of combat.

Now before I delve into the hover and dashing setup, it’s worth clarifying that wanzers are customisable and different backpacks will result in changes to how the hovering and dashing work. However, the first backpack you’re given is that of the hover and this basically negates almost any sense of weight the wanzer had and tries to turn the mecha into a person in terms of movement. Removing the hover backpack and using any of the others, results in a more mecha-like roller-dash setup but whilst it limits lateral strafing somewhat it is still suitably twitchy.

The bulk of wanzer combat, well the bit that has any meaning in terms of survival, relies extensively on your mecha not handling like one. With dash or hover enabled you’re pretty much playing any kind of pedestrian third person shooter, so whilst it works it horribly jars with the rest of the game when it remembers that wanzers are in fact machines (and not a person wearing a robot suit).

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The customisation is also rather linear across the campaign too, resulting in a large amount of part redundancy. In addition, the customisation setup is also quite simplistic to not only the other Front Mission titles in the series but also other games such as those from the Armored Core franchise. If you enjoy tweaking your mecha’s config and discerning the handling nuances of your weapon and frame load-outs, Evolved is pretty basic in this department and will leave you more than a little disappointed.

Separately to the wanzer combat are the on-foot and gunship sections. The on-foot missions are basically woeful and feel painfully dated in a functional sense, from the tiny variance in available weapons to the identikit human enemies. Even the few times you have to take a wanzer down on-foot feels pointless, as a few shots from your rocket launcher will dispatch them very easily. In addition, the on-foot element isn’t something the player controls by deciding to exit your wanzer at any point, like in Yuke’s VOTOMS game let’s say, but instead these are bespoke missions where you are stuck in pedestrian purgatory.

Following on from the out of place on-foot missions, you also have wanzer gunship sections. These have the player sit inside a wanzer dropship and linked into some very beefy gatling guns and rocket launchers. So beefy in fact you begin to wonder why anyone would bother with wanzers, as the gunships can pretty much obliterate all ground targets without much effort at all. Instead of adding to the wanzer framework, both these sections of the game feel very out of place and undermine what little the wanzer combat had going for it.

The only real light at the end of the tunnel for Evolved is its multiplayer, as playing against similarly skilled human wanzer pilots does begin to breathe life into the disjointed combat. However, even this is plagued with bugs and isn’t exactly that balanced either (on account of the linear parts list). The few times we managed to actually get into a match it did begin to gel though, so if you can stomach the idiotic hover dash twitchiness (or at least equip a different backpack) then you may get some fun here.

In summation then, Front Mission Evolved is a confused mess but one that still remains mercifully playable. So whilst the third person shooter framework the game uses for wanzer combat is deeply inconsistent in terms of how it deals with the various modes of movement, it is still just about manageable. That said though, the on-foot and gunship missions are a complete waste of time. Not to mention the wanzer customisation is pretty much an afterthought in terms of the parts balancing, something that does unfortunately rear its head in what would have been an otherwise decent multiplayer setup.

The sad thing is that the game happens to look mostly decent, despite a bit of texture tiling as well as a few glaring low-resolution textures, the environments are decently laid out and the wanzers look pretty damn great. The HUD is minimal but thankfully useful and even the somewhat annoying characters are modeled and animated pretty well too. Overall though, with all the irritating gameplay elements in concert with one another, Front Mission Evolved is a mostly standardised (though functionally contradictory) third person shooter and consequently a pretty mediocre mecha game.

Tamashii: 6/10

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22 Comments

  1. I don’t suppose we could get a Front Mission game with the basic combat system of Valkyria Chronicles in the future? That’d be a helluva great reboot for the franchise at this point. Keep the unit customization, natch, but use Valkyria’s movement/action/LOS system along with the defensive fire systems.

    You could advance your pilots along different tracks of development for different skills, as well. Heck, lifting the tech research system and expanding upon it would be pretty nifty, too. Have three different sides of a war for the main campaign to choose from and it’d all be gravy, I think. A huge project, but everything would be there for an amazing TBS game.

    1. Corsair114, You are right on the money! I said the same thing over on

      http://www.mechadamashii.com/news/news-front-mission-evolved-review-status/

      I think that game with Valkyria Chronicles style would suit this game perfectly. It’s too bad they went the totally Vanilla 3rd person shooter route. If you can’t do it better than FROM Software don’t bother. This game with this engine could have been great if they retained the Strategy RPG element.

      Brilliant Thinking!!

      1. The funny thing is, alot of valkirya’s mechanics were already featured in SRW, it’s just carried out in a different system. While playing VC, it felt just like SRW placing my units to defend other units and lead up to team attacks.

        1. ArOne- I don’t know SRW but your point is taken. I guess what we’re getting at here is that THIS games play mechanics would be better served in a strategy RPG format. That’s why I started playing Front Mission games in the 1st place I like turn based strategy RPG’s and I like Mechs.

  2. Looking at videos online, it seems the English dialogue uses the term “UCS” for the American continental bloc, as in the Nintendo DS port of Front Mission released in America, but the Japanese text looks like it still has it as USN, just like it was in the American version of Front Mission 3. Was there some sort of trademark dispute over the use of USN in America, or was it the overtones of using an acronym with “US” in it in a series where the US are not necessarily the bad guys?

    UCS has actually kind of grown on me while playing the DS version of Front Mission, because United Continental States sounds a bit less awkward than (and I’m running off of memory here) “United States of the New Continent.”

    Either way, this game is going on my “when it’s 15 bucks used” list, because seeing those dashes is almost painful at times. They have almost the right idea in the cutscenes, but once they start moving around in the game, the laws of physics don’t apply anymore. It’s the opposite of how cutscenes are supposed to work: we’re supposed to be angry that we can’t do what we see in the cutscenes, not be angry that we want to be limited in the game like the cinemas are!

    1. Re: UCS replacing USN

      U.S.N. is used to refer quite specifically to the the United States Navy here in the states. My guess is they changed it to keep from causing people to have mental BSoD’s whenever they read USN alongside wanzers.

  3. Even if you watch some clips from Front Mission Online, you can see the weight management incorporated into the game. It makes it FEEL like you’re playing a mecha game. Front Mission Evolved just feels like a dull third-person shooter with a mecha skin.

  4. Sadly, the game starts off fine enough..by the third mission it gets old fast…never mind Dylan’s voice actor has some weird ways he says things that threw me off into laughter more than feeling concern for the situation.

  5. Honestly quite glad I picked up Vanquish instead of this game. When the Wanzer in the video hit the ground, it killed the entire mood for me. No gravity effect that I could see or hear. And when it was walking, it looked great, exactly how you expect.

    Let’s hope that at some point soon, the series gets a better game. Strategy or shooter is fine, just make the creators watch some Armored Core first and really pay attention to how stuff moves.

    1. Or get Toshiro Tsuchida to direct (he directed FMO, so he’s got an idea on how Wanzers should move). After all, he conceived the franchise in the first place.

      1. More like just get the folks who work with Tsuchida since day one on Front Mission, and before Front Mission back in their action/shooter days at Masaya: Assault Suits, Gleylancer, etc. They’re pretty competent at action/shooter games as they are with SRPGs (which makes them unique coming from SE’s line of devs), and I’ve heard a lot of good things about FM Online from its players. Would be nice to see mass 40+ unit PvP battles, much more methodological battles, actually being forced to use teamwork, and the general feel not being “TPS using mecha skins”.

  6. This F***ing game!
    Nothing but bugs and glitches.

    First multiplayer game I was in the room glitched and weapons did no damage.
    In another the opposing team started the match with 12 points!

    Another multiplayer match bugged out and locked us in the room! We couldn’t open the menu, we couldn’t win or lose. Just went on forever. Eventually had to quit to Xbox dashboard.

    In single player my file corrupted TWICE!
    I have never had any game corrupt on me before.
    I’m never touching this game again.

    1. You shouldn’t have bought it to begin with.Do yourself a favor and improt FM5 if you haven’t already.

    2. No wonder Chirico Cuvie pissed on Front Mission Evolved–he might be an abnormal survivor, but apparently his saved games weren’t.

  7. Props to Cacophanus for getting all the way through this uninspired game for the review. 6/10 seems about right. It’s not the worst thing ever, I think they just went run and gun for the western audience. I hope Vanquish cheered you up afterwards 😀 (powerslide and gun!)
    Cool to see love for Valkyria Chronicles -maybe rather than Front Mission or SRW moving towards that gameplay, Valkyria just needs to get back on PS3 and add some WWII mecha.

  8. I have actually finished this game, and I think the review is spot on, it is certainly not worth 40quid or whatever your full retail price might be, not at all, it would be ok at 15 pounds.

    The main character makes the most screw faces Ive seen in a game, seriously I wanted to punch him in his face never mind saving the day.

    6months from now, people will forget this game even existed, and its for the best really.

    As for what SE will do next with FM well, if they go back to old school, you know that game wont come out here, because of poor sales of a crap FM game called evolved, you know it, I know it, and they know it.

    Then we get to wait 4 years for the fan edit, lucky I havent sat down to play FM5 yet so atleast I got that to look forward too.

  9. Does FMO have any sort of offline aspect to it? I know it sounds silly, but I’ve always wanted to try another game like AC that’s not actually AC (I already have SLAI but I’ve yet to give it a go).

  10. Congrats on just making it to the end of this game. Biggest fraud Square Enix has ever played on us mech fans. This game is an insult to the glory of past Front Mission games. I want my $60 back!

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