Front Mission is one of those series that keeps mech fans happy. The Square-Enix franchise has been going strong since 1995 and it has become a favorite of import and domestic mech-lovers alike. The last time we saw the series here in the States it was with the fourth iteration. Though the fifth has yet to reach our shores, the spin-off, Front Mission: Evolved has just been released.
Front Mission: Evolved takes its namesake somewhat seriously as it dips its toes into the waters of the action genre. Rather than focus on strategic, tactical battles with menu-heavy customization and things gear-heads love, Evolved keeps things simple. It's an arcade-style shooter which puts players in direct control of a mecha (known as Wanzer in this franchise) and drops them in the middle of a battlefield. The result is a game that feels entirely different from what Front Mission fans are used to. Instead, it feels more like Armored Core or Mech Assault, for better or worse.
The story takes players to a futuristic world where humanity has reached a point where we have elevators into space and flying Wanzer suits. Naturally, there are warring factions, nations are locked in conflict, and at the beginning of the game there is a surprise attack on the NYC elevator. Evolved puts players into role of Dylan Ramsey, an engineer for a private Wanzer firm who happens to be testing out a new suit when the attack hits. Dylan rushes into the city to save his father, but he's too late. Along the way, he teams up with the military and makes some enemies on the other side.
Existing only as a way to give Evolved a sense of purpose and meaning, the plot here isn't as strong as one might hope; it's lightweight at best and the characters outside of Dylan are weak by comparison. The story and cut scenes basically feel like precursors to the action. Sure, that's not necessarily a bad thing I suppose, but any players hoping for an engaging storyline or memorable experience may be left wanting.
As mentioned above, the gameplay in Evolved is totally different from what Front Mission fans are used to. Things are taken to the third person perspective as Dylan pilots his Wanzer and the results are entirely hit or miss. There are moments where players will feel the rush of controlling a massive piece of machinery capable of great destruction, but then there are points where the action dips, the pace slows, and gamers will be left extremely underwhelmed.