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Armored Core: Verdict Day Review

Armored Core Verdict Day (1)

It’s a good thing Pacific Rim didn’t spawn a console tie-in. After strolling out of the cineplex, I could envision succumbing to the temptation of a hastily-developed interactive interpretation. Lured in by the prospect of piloting a hulking Jaeger, perhaps in perfect unison with an online partner, I concede that this rendition would likely follow the fate of most licensed games- and be devoid of depth. In practice, my deep-rooted mecha fetish would probably be better soothed by an entry in From Software’s long-running Armored Core franchise rather than some cash-grabbing rendition of the Guillermo del Toro film.

Although the series latest entry, Armored Core: Verdict Day doesn’t have any scaly terrors to trounce, the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 title does provide a cavernousness amount of content, offering the potential to engage committed players for weeks. In many ways, the recent release is the antithesis of the typical licensed game. Instead of delivering a feverish but short-lived conflagration, Verdict Day is like its predecessors, a smoldering burn. Requiring patience and determination, the title’s dividends are correlated to the amount of time players are willing to invest.

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The preceding game in the series, Armored Core V, concentrated on an online, multiplayer pursuit. While Conquest mode flourished in Japan, the component floundered stateside, stymied by a slender user base and servers which separated the endeavor into geographical regions. For Verdict Day this restriction has been jettisoned, with World Mode allowing global participants to side with one of three conflicting factions, or even play as a mercenary- picking up contract assignments.

In execution, teams of up to ten  players are tasked with taking control of towers protected by a chain of eight bases. If an opposing force is online, you’ll be matched again their squad of Armored Cores (or ACs). Otherwise, players will battle AI-controlled forces, with the resulting of the match altering the AP rating of the base. Periodically, teams can tackle Special Sorties, where well-armed antagonists with substantial defensives put AC squads to the ultimate test. For players who prefer a managerial role, the role of operator is available. Here, gamers forsake the exhilaration of combat to command a quartet of AI drones to victory.

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Regardless of the gameplay variant, camaraderie ran strong through Verdict Day’s sorties. While your results may be wildly different, the game’s Xbox 360 community seemed exceedingly supportive. After joining a team, I was welcomed by its members, and we quickly developed a relaxed rapport. Naturally, some of this is cultivated by Verdict Day’s mechanics, which encourage teammates to call targets, draw fire, and communicate the effectiveness of each weapon type. For serious players looking for like-minded, well-behaved compatriots, a purchase of Armored Core: Verdict Day might just be warranted by its community.

For games who prefer a solidary experience, the title’s offline component has some intriguing elements, but also a few blemishes. The game’s post-armageddon context is lacks a compelling narrative impetus and conveys about as much emotion as one of the game’s mechanized Cores. Although the sixty mission attempts to provide variance, too often players are left shooting at fitful foes which demonstrate a modicum of astuteness. ‘Fire when near’ and ‘buzz the player’ seem to be the title’s core stratagems.

Armored Core Verdict Day (5)

The lack of enemy intelligence is a bit puzzling, since ally NPC Cores show brainpower on the battlefield. One of Verdict Day’s best additions is UNACs, CPU-driven customizable Cores which provides support on sorties. Like your own personal mechanized mayhem-bringer, UNACs can be outfitters with a plethora of parts and given sets of details instructions to model behavior. Although players can undertake the title’s persistently challenging missions independently, before long the assistance of a UNAC will be required, as a deluge of enemy descend on the player.

Following Armored Core protocol, a myriad of construction option ensure players will spend as much time engineering as they will be engaged in combat. Each of a core’s fourteen components can be outfitted with a multitude of objects, allowing players to modify everything from weapon loadouts, forms of propulsion, shielding, and energy sources.  From hummingbird-esque ACs which flit across the battlefield to lumbering tank-like monstrosities which can barely push around an arsenal of overwhelming weapons, players are given near complete autonomy to craft a wide variety of machines. In essence, the only limitations are the laws of physics- forcing players to make accommodations based on energy consumption and weight. Pleasingly, players can even import their own custom AC from Armored Core V at the beginning of the game.

Armored Core Verdict Day (2)

Configuring your Core can be a bit daunting; the process which isn’t helped by the lack of tutelage, intermittently unintuitive user interface, and diminutive font size. Yet unlike most mech titles, Verdict Day’s control methods aren’t astonishingly complex. Beyond the basics of boosting, navigation, weapon deployment and selection, the title only offers a few additional elements. Engaging the right thumbstick triggers scan mode, which highlights enemies and shows mission waypoints. For foes hidden behind cover, players can launch a recon unit with a press of the “B” button, sending a tiny scout that can provide additional intel. Although the Verdict Day’s controls are easy to master, that doesn’t mean the game is a cakewalk. In fact, players who rush in, shirk cover, and fail to evade enemy fire will quickly find themselves in a smoldering pile of melted metal. For those inclined, the completion of the main campaign opens a Hardcore Mode, which bring a nigh-insurmountable trial to gamers. Amusingly, one element even put’s Chris Rock’s joke to the best, outrageously elevating the price of ammunition, and making every trigger pull a challenging meditation.

The visual apex of the game is its core designs. Assembling your steely superweapons, brings up a rotatable image of your machine, apt to ignite the passions of any Gundam enthusiast. Woefully, the rest of the game never nears that plateau; weapon effects are only decent, lacking the particle effects, striking smoke trails, collateral damage and mounds of expended brass that have highlighted other mecha games. Environments fare no better, most are drably hued and composed of low-resolution textures. Explosions do little to covey the bombast of humongous, overwhelming weaponry.

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Preserving precedent, Armored Core: Verdict Day is not for the impatient players accustomed to hand holding. Demonstrating intricateness and sporadically- intolerance, the game ultimately rewards, but only to players willing to dive into its recesses, and learn the nuances of UNACs, Core construction, and team cooperation. The title’s virtues aren’t found in the fleeting thrills of a singular firefight, but in a cornucopia of complexity. This is about as close as console titles come to the intricacy and involvedness of a PC game.

It’s a good thing Pacific Rim didn’t spawn a console tie-in. After strolling out of the cineplex, I could envision succumbing to the temptation of a hastily-developed interactive interpretation. Lured in by the prospect of piloting a hulking Jaeger, perhaps in perfect unison with an online partner, I concede that this rendition would likely follow the fate of most licensed games- and be devoid of depth. In practice, my deep-rooted mecha fetish would probably be better soothed by an entry in From Software’s long-running Armored Core franchise rather than some cash-grabbing rendition of the Guillermo del Toro film. Although the…

Review Overview

Gameplay - 80%
Story - 65%
Aesthetics - 70%
Content - 95%
Accessibility - 65%

75%

Good

Summary : Putting the (Armored) Core in hardcore, Verdict Day has an unabashedly steep learning curve but a long-tailed capacity for enjoyment.

User Rating: 4.31 ( 3 votes)

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert ‘DesertEagle’ Allen is Tech-Gaming’s resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

23 comments

  1. I don’t think I’ve played a AC on this generation of hardware. Last one I played was on the PSP and it was only decent. I understand that it was probably too much for the hardware.

  2. Those screen look pretty good. better than a 70%.

    Hows the framerate?

  3. I read one other site that mentioned this and Pacific Rim. Other than mechs, they don’t have much in common.

  4. I’ve kind of babbled in the AC games. Once they hit the $20 mark, I give them a try then put them on the shelf.

    So they’re getting harder.

    • They’re always been hard.

      This is from the developer behind Demon’s Souls/Dark Souls.

      • I played Armored Core: For Answer (The first time the series played on MS hardware). It wasn’t too hard. Just stick with it, and try to take sorties nice and slow.

  5. I’d love to see this on the Wii U, with the gamepad giving more info, area maps, and and other info.

  6. Robert, you know FROM Software made Steel Battalion: Heavy Armor. I remember you going off on that game on the podcast (well deserved, BTW).

    • I heard it would have been good if they took out Kinect. I guess that’s the story of the Xbone as well.

      • How can you say that? Have to even played any Xbox One games?

        How about not passing judgement until you have?

        • MS already admitted that 10% of the CPU power is reserved for Kinect 2. Obviously, some of the memory is as well. The reason Kinect games didn’t look that good on the Xbox 360 was because of this as well.

          I’ve seen the game’s Ryse, Forza 5 and not been impressed. They look only a little better than the current gen. Hell, that can’t even get BF4 running at 1080/60fps.

  7. Good review.

    Whats the best place to start if you just want to get into the Armored Core series?

    • Playing another game.

      Seriously, the AC series is made to be difficult. Its like DS, it’s for the hardest of the hardcore gamers.

  8. The mech designs don’t look Gundam to me, they’re too busy, too much detail.

  9. Good review. I read another one from some site called Hardcore Gamer…well short story they’re not hardcore and just complained about the game.

    I like how your issues are pretty objective, like font UI, AI, etc.

    Well done!

    • I’ve read two reviews (both on Metacritic, both for the PS3 version). Both of them were weaker than this review. Why aren’t you guys on Metacritic?

      I got this Chris Rock reference. Nice job there.

  10. Great review. I didn’t even know this came out. Might have to Redbox it.

  11. I’d love to try the game out. I haven’t played a AC game since the PS2 era.

  12. Just was that my GS is selling this for $50. Sale already?