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Xbox 360 Review: ‘Armored Core: Verdict Day’

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armoredcorevdFrom Software’s “little mech series that could” offers up its 15th total entry, inching ever closer back to the magic they discovered in early Xbox 360 exclusive Chromehounds. Here, three worldwide factions vie for online dominance as customized mechs, driven by sympathizers or profitable mercenaries, engage each other in grim, smoky remnants of civilization.

Armored Core may have solved a design conundrum: how best to merge introvert single players with chatty online warscapes. The solution is not glamorous, but rather direct with the inclusion of UNAC drones. These AI bots leech onto campaign and internet competition, bulking up warring sides without social interaction. Choosing mercenary paths means having no communication or allegiance, merely a means of depositing profits at the expense of others while still affecting outcomes. Full customization suites for drones (and player controlled mechs) mean commanding miniature armies of personal creation.

Armored Core remains exclusionary however, UNACs buried in an ill-advised, ultimately distressed campaign, which was clearly built from the minuscule solo ideals in Chromehounds. From Software crafts a manifestation of video gaming as a whole, it is revoltingly aggressive against those who do not grasp entrenched mechanisms, and unwilling to help for fear of future desaturated complexity. Guidance is anemic, clustered together in sub menus or walled up in explanatory text. Verdict Day has one perspective, its own, with no understanding of outsider confusion.

Maybe Armored Core functions as a movie sequel. No one should enter the fourth Harry Potter uninitiated and expect to deduce character motivations, let alone the 15th entry in the series. But, there are two sides here, one noting Armored Core’s unforgivably complicated facade since its PlayStation One inception, and the other being the necessitated communal features in Verdict Day. Without community, Sirius, Venide, and Evergreen Family factions waste their wares on inevitably rotting server capacity.

Players navigate online spaces to readily point and shoot. Call of Duty, for example, does so with pacing, ease of use, and appealing accessibility. Activision’s long standing, embedded mechanisms cleanly operate alongside one another. Verdict Day is vicious, even in its simpleton campaign, against anyone who does not accept its depth. Philosophy of mech design integrates traditional weight and power consumption, and even into weapon design wherein each deals different types of damage. Scenarios are ferocious in their uniqueness and demand exactness against unknown specifications.

Armored Core can be rewarding, satisfaction wholeheartedly driven from the riches embedded in robust customization suites. Tackling fictional future war with something of your own doing is a marvel, videogame magnificence in motion once the player is expunged from the learning curve stalemate. UNAC adoption from the outset would have undoubtedly lessened irritation, but Verdict Day would be damned before it let itself be exposed to simplicity.

Even this late into the series, its identity remains wholly unique. Mechs maneuver outside of their intended scale, zipping and dashing like wayward Dragon Ball Z combatants. Battles are slippery and unsatisfying, more conducive to measures implemented in first-person shooters to amplify a genre known for its tepid pacing. Despite scaling buildings in a single leap and scattering black top as they boost, Verdict Day warriors are locked in flighty, aerial lock-on struggles. It is a wonder why anyone would exit from initiated boost too; it is worthless to jettison thruster use, despite the option to do so.

Armored Core, Verdict Day or otherwise, maintains its hold on console convolution. Non-PC Simulations often appear fearful, afraid of pushing away marketable material and thus a profitable consumer base. What the series has are the dedicated, those who willingly snatch up each entry from a hunger to dig deeper into construction, which leaves them unfulfilled elsewhere. Everything else seems dainty in comparison.

Verdict Day is the unclimbable plateau and a closed door club. Armored Core is a geeky, prepubescent teen who builds an electronic clubhouse paradise, but paints a, “No girls allowed” sign, lest they sully purity of their complex anti-cooties systems.

It is fun to be in involved, but only if you’re one of the gang.

Armored Core: Verdict Day is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Mild Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence . This game can also be found on: PS3.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.