Reviews// Armored Core: Formula Front Extreme Battle (PSP)

Everyone Loves Robots

Posted 11 Mar 2006 09:00 by
Everyone loves giant robots, don't they? Well, those who can put aside for one moment that the closest we've got to them so-far is the frankly diminutive and rather shite Robo-sapien, and that weird break-dancing Hitachi thing. But once they're invented, we'll love them. Forgetting, as we will, that such creatures can only be conceived for creating havoc and destruction, and will doubtlessly be under the control of died-in-the-wool psychopaths like Donald Rumsfeld, or "Crazy" George Bush. In fact, giant robots sound like a stupid idea. Whoever's working on them should stop right now, and go create cold fusion instead.

But for now, giant robots are (in our frankly over-active imaginations) largely benign creatures, designed for rescuing cats out of particularly high trees, or for fighting off that extremely tall bikini-model in Demolition Girl. Or for fighting one another... and that is the central premise behind the Armored Core franchise. And franchise it is, since the game has now been kicking around, in various guises, since 1989 on PS1, PS2, PSP and it's soon (well, maybe not soon) to be on PS3 too. The series has always featured one-one-one giant robot combat action, except for the first PSP release, which those crazy Japs made into an exclusively strategy-based game, and risked boring the pants off giant-robot-mayhem fans the (rest of the) world over.

The modern day Western World's Giant robot love-affair began, probably, when Mechagodzilla reared up on his tinny (that is made of tin, not a typo of tiny) legs and swapped spit, and blood, and laser eye-bolts with Fleshagodzilla for all out global giant-lizard supremacy. Clearly, Mekka should have walked a victory, because metal is harder than flesh - even scaly lizard flesh. Plus it has no nerves, so can't be hurt. But meat Godzilla had god on his side (albeit the god of shinto-ism), and a righteous indignation caused by the fact that another 600ft lizard was treading on the paper houses that were formerly his alone to demolish. Anyhow, non-Mecha-Gozilla won, and everyone lived happily ever after. But the previously exclusively japanese obsession with all things big and roboty began to spread around the world. This flourished into an industry of Manga, Anime and live action movies that was just waiting for the technology to be invented to make it a fully interactive experience. That technology was the computer game, and the result has been a veritable slough of robot fighty games such as MechWarrior and the Mobile Suit Gundam series.

Armored Core is one of the most successful and popular examples of such games. And Armored Core: Formula Front Extreme Battle is the first of the series to move to the PSP. Other games in the AC family have attempted to contextualise the giant robo fighting by way of a complex story of international inter-corporate strife. ACFF:EB doesn't bother with this, assuming - probably correctly - that anyone interested in the game will know the score, and want to get right down to ripping other Mechs apart limb from limb. Though in the interests of fairness and accuracy, we ought to point out right here and now that you can't actually rip other mechs apart. But you can zoom around an extensive and beautifully modelled 3D world shooting at them with an array of weapons. Whereas previous games in the series have featured "Ravens", AC pilots who undertake missions for shady corporate overlords, AC:FF differs in that you play an "Architect" for an Amored Core league team. Rather than pilot an AC, you design and program one, and the ACs are unmanned. AC:FF posits the (entirely feasible) theory that in the future, Armored Core fighting has become a massively popular spectator sport. Much like Formula One grand prix racing used to be in the 1980s.

You might think that there's only so much you can do with giant battling robots. And if you do actually think that, you can go right to the top of the class. We'll be sticking a gold star on your "Things you can do with Giant Battling Mechs" report later. There IS only so much you can do in the field of battle. You can run and/or fly around, and shoot at your opponent with a selection of weapons, assuming you have equpped your AC with those weapons before the battle began. And erm... well, that's about it really. But let's be reasonable, Boxing's one of the most popular sporting in the world, and they do far less than these battling robots, and in a far smaller arena.
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