Nut Load. Mini reviews of games old and new. No fuss. No spoilers. Occasional shock face.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Front Mission Evolved (2010)

Genre: 3rd Person Shooter | Players: 1 - 8 | Developer: Double Helix Games

Dylan Ramsey is on the job testing his company's new wanzer (aka mech) prototype in New York when a mysterious force invades and destroys the city's orbital elevator as well as the building where Dylan's father works as a wanzer scientist. Dylan then takes a special commission in the army to avenge his father and take down the soldiers responsible which will set him into a larger geopolitical quagmire (as it always does in this series).

The latest and most likely last entry in the Front Mission series ditches the turn-based tactical gameplay for a more traditional 3rd person action experience. Traditional being the key word as the gameplay is pretty standard. Despite being in mechs, there isn't a whole lot that distinguishes it from any other 3rd person shooter or even the sections outside of the wanzers. The wanzers can feel lumbering, but it is mostly tedious when you just want to skate to get around faster, but can't because the gauge needs to refill. Shooting outside of wanzers is even more generic as now the fleeting feeling of piloting a mech is gone and all the player is left with is a cookie cutter shooter. Not to mention these on-foot sections are so incredibly piss-easy that they feel like padding just to add a "feature" to the back of the box. You rarely encounter a handful of enemies at a time and there is spare ammo everywhere. The auto aim is also broken if the target is moving at all. Turning it off actually made the shooting much better since I could shoot while they were moving instead of endless cover-based pop-up potshots.

Customizing the wanzer for different objectives can be great fun, but the generic action doesn't really lend itself to anything other than the standard mid-range weapons outside of plot specific events where the game forces you to play differently. Sure there is limb specific damage, but it doesn't really matter since enemies and yourself can still use them, just less effectively. Destroying legs does make enemies and the player move slower, but in the space of 20 second battles, the same amount of time and effort could just be used killing most enemies. The boss battles are a different beast and are where actually knowing the advantages of different setups is actually helpful as well as all the piloting controls since if you don't the battle will literally be over in 3 seconds. This can be problematic if your setup isn't up to the task and you don't have any cash to switch loadouts forcing you to switch to weaker and cheaper parts to change weapons. This is a crack in the difficulty curve, but the battles are exciting and really the highlight of the game. The feeling of piloting was less fleeting while skating to avoid missiles while simultaneously firing a machine gun, locking on missile targets and avoiding EMP bombs. There is also the E.D.G.E. system which is just another name for bullet-time which works fine, but I went most of the game without using.

The story is serviceable, though simplified. The intricate political plots of past entries are mostly gone, for better or worse. In its place is a much more generic revenge plot with an unnecessary romantic subplot that the game doesn't even take the time to earn any emotional investment in as well as other opportunities involving changing loyalties and deaths of characters. Despite the balance issues and the overall generic gameplay, there are some shining bits of entertainment to be found.

Buyer's Guide:
Available on PS3, Xbox 360 and PC

3 insane bands of mercenaries out of 5

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