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The end of the Armored Core era

Brad Gallaway's picture

It's over.

The love affair between myself and Armored Core is over.

I thought this day would never come but it has, and although I'm sad that the magic isn't there anymore... I'm almost glad. Relieved, even.

I've played every single Armored Core game in existence and finished them all, the majority of them at 100% completion.  I love giant robots, I love tinkering with the parts, and the bite-sized missions have always suited me fairly well.

Although the series started strong back on the original PlayStation, it faltered when making the jump to PlayStation 2. It retained too much of the original structure and never really embraced the higher levels of technology and never devoted enough resources to overhaul it to respectability outside its small, devoted niche.

The PlayStation 2 iterations went steadily downhill, with the last two or three being loved only by the hardest of the hardcore. Up until that point, I think I would've counted myself in that group, but no longer.

I got a copy of Armored Core 4 on the 360 few days ago, and after playing for a few hours, the game had as much appeal to me as a piece of raw liver.

True to form, the graphics are as unimpressive on the 360 as they were on the PS2... perennially behind the curve, From seems to catch up just as everyone else is leaping ahead.

An even bigger offense than the graphics is that the menu system and process for tinkering with the Cores is incredibly cumbersome and awkward, seeming to favor some sort of abstract futuristic aesthetic over functionality.  I doubt there's anyone more familiar with the series than I am, and I was getting completely lost trying to re-learn something that didn't need to be made more complicated and less user-friendly.

The missions are just as simple as they've ever been, and although they were passable before, they're just not acceptable anymore.  I've been doing these same sorts of kill X, defend Y for years and years, and it doesn't feel any different or more sophisticated on the 360 than it did on the PlayStation.

I still like robots, and I still like the concept of being able to monkey around with their construction and functionality, but the Armored Core series is baked.  It's had more sequels than most franchises ever get, yet they seem to make less and less progress with each one.  The common consensus is that the developers are afraid to alienate their core audience since that's who keeps buying the sequels, but I think that if they really took a step back and tried to improve the game as a whole, maybe opening it up more for newcomers they could find a new audience, especially with the kind of horsepower modern consoles are packing.

I put Armored Core 4 aside unfinished, and I have absolutely no desire to come back to it.  The spark is gone, the charm has worn away.  This day has been coming for a while, but it's here now and there's no getting around it.  I'm a little bit sad because the series has been such a constant companion for so many years, there's no denying that it's overstayed its welcome and hasn't been able to keep pace.

Like a faithful dog that's gone blind in one eye and can't walk, it's time to let go and let the series move on to that big game graveyard in the sky.  I think there's a possibility it could be revived at some point in the future if some energetic young developers sink their teeth into it and aren't afraid to piss off the hardcores by being unafraid to shake things up, but for now... let's put it out of its suffering and let it rest in peace.

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Sadness Brad. I know how you

Sadness Brad. I know how you feel, in two different ways. One: I loved the first few releases of Armored Core. I remember playing and tinkering with my makeshift Transformers with my friends til the wee morning hours. We probably had more fun piling on weapons than the actual fighting. I gave up right before 3 came out.

And in another sense, this describes my relationship with the Tenchu games. There's one more game coming out for the 360, and I've decided to make this one my last Tenchu purpose. I've bought all four games, even Tenchu 2 and its gratuitous fog of war. There are practically no ninja stealth games, if you don't count Sam Fisher as a bionic ninja. That's why I always fall back to the Tenchu series, just as you have falling back on Armored Core and the chance to soup up robots. But really, if the Tenchu guys can't get it right this generation, I don't think they'll ever get it right.

Good Call, GP... I

Good Call, GP...

I absolutely loved Tenchu #1, easily one of the best game experiences in my career-- but you're right that it's another strong starter that's been faltering.

funny that you mention it though, because i gave up on it one or two sequels ago but seeing the footage on Live with the multiplayer action got me excited again.

on the other hand, you might be right in saying that if they can't nail it now, they never will.... my fingers are crossed, but i'm not expecting much. is it really that hard to get a ninja game right?!?

; )

Interesting

The people at Gamespot seemed to feel that Armored Core 4 *was* the change in direction the series had been needing so long, moving away from its more hardcore simulation roots (which got put into Chromehounds) and into a more breezy fast-action sort of thing.

I myself have no opinion. I've tried the Playstation Armored Core, as well as Armored Core 2 on PS2, and found the controls so hideously unfriendly that I've never actually delved into either any further. But it's a series I've long wanted to enjoy, as I do love my giant robots, so I was kind of hoping that whenever I wind up getting a 360 that AC4 might be the one.

Yessss... NO NO!

Every time a new iteration of Tenchu or Armored Core is announced I experience brief excitement followed by the painful realization that the game is going to suck. Not because the concept is stale but for the same reasons everyone else mentions. I know the control will be the same, as will the missions, maps and graphics. No wonder I can't convince anyone how great these games were. Maybe someone whos got a pair will take a chance on revamping Armored Core. Like the stupid Ford Mustang. Some hate each new version, but there is no denying that the heart of the original is seen in every generation. Now if Tenchu was in the hands of Team Ninja...

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