Mech games generally suck. We all know it. So when I was tasked with reviewing the latest Square Enix game Front Mission Evolved I had my preconceptions already prepared. Surprisingly the game isn’t as bad as I had expected.
Every kid, and most male adults, love giant robots. Aside from the MechWarrior games however, there have been few worth playing. With the return of Front Mission however it boldly removes most of the strategy elements and focuses on becoming a high octane third person shooter.
The game is set in the future, mankind as we would expect has become an even more aggressive race, with weapons of war adapted and enhanced over the decades. As well as vehicular weaponry however man has created the WANZER (the Z is important here), huge hulking robots loaded to the gills with firepower and plate armour – they have taken domination of the battlefield.
Some things remain the same however, with political situations across the globe driving conflict into a new scale. Giant orbiting spacestations are connected to the planet by elevators. Warfare has ascended into the heavens.
The game starts with a battle on New York, one of the U.C.S.s orbital elevator sites. Engineer Dylan Ramsey is building a fierce new Wanzer, but he gets thrown into the battle during the attack and decides to call upon his prototype mech to join the fray, while trying to find his father.
The players control Ramsey inside his powerful new experimental mech, entering dangerous combat zones, starting in New York. The action is fast, frenetic and you don’t spend the entire game locked in the mech suit with some variety being offered.
Unfortunately Front Mission Evolved has its share of issues, with the mech being slow to respond. The control system works quite well most of the time, but it is a difficult game to play with any degree of proficiency. This isn’t helped by shockingly poor camera system.
The Mech is supported by boost and skate abilities which help increase the speed, but sadly, without these it is a painfully slow moving unit. If your boost runs out during combat then be prepared to become frustrated. Wanting to move fast and not being able to do so was a long term chore than somewhat ruined the experience for me. Sure, you have to use your boost wisely which adds tactical elements to the combat, but it makes the combat unnecessarily painful at times, especially when battling boss units (who aren’t really that hard in the first place).
After a while you get used to preserving your boost and focus more on the array of weapons at hand, and there are a lot. You have homing missiles aplenty and the targeting system is easy enough to use. With health and ammo pickups to be found the difficulty ramp isn’t too uncomfortable.
The one area I found unforgivable was the camera system, frequently when you least expect it, the screen pans to a location which makes playing almost impossible. The camera often won’t ‘fix itself’ either, remaining locked out as you wander aimlessly getting shot from all angles and unable to even move out of the way. It happened fairly regularly, usually as I was finding something enjoyable about the game.
Ramsey will leave the mech on occasion for on foot missions and while this helps to enhance the feeling of diversity it isn’t really why most people will have bought this game. There is no cover methodology and the targeting system pretty much sucks. The artifical intelligence system is also shockingly bad. which ruins the feeling of immersion.
This leads me into another problem with the game – the lack of epic boss battles. Most of them are pretty easy to take down and nothing comes to mind when I think back on the last week of gaming. Its all pretty much of a ‘meh’ to be honest. There are plenty of locations, but generally its the same system of taking down opponents that works with everything.
Progression through the game is rewarded with powerups and customisations. There are a huge wealth of parts and weapons to improve your unit and they work well. I really liked the option of being able to paint the mech as I wanted, giving it a personal touch.
Graphically, the game runs well on the Playstation 3, the frame rate is consistent and the texture mapping and resolution is high enough to keep most people happy. Unfortunately, the initially positive feelings are ruined a little by the bland object design. Often I would notice objects plonked into levels, clearly lifted from earlier sections. It is basically instantly forgettable.
Production levels are average at best, with a jaded and tired storyline which immediately I lost interest in. The voiceacting is quite poor which didnt help improve the chances of me actually listening to the dialogue. You don’t care who is who, what is what and what your goals are – which is fine anyway as you run around basically just blowing everything up that gets in your way.
Overall Front Mission Evolved is a decent robot combat game which will attract a core group of gamers who can’t get enough of this genre. For the rest of us, it is one worth looking at when it drops into the bargain bin. Solid in some areas and poor in others.