It’s been quite a while since I’ve played a giant robot Mechwarrior type of game, so when Square Enix and Double Helix Games’ new title for the Xbox 360, PS3 and PC, Front Mission Evolved, showed up on my doorstep, I was actually pretty excited to crack it open and start kicking some ass. Unfortunately the single player campaign failed to deliver anything more memorable than the dump I took this morning, BUT, the game’s multiplayer might be its saving grace, that is, if it wasn’t released so close to Halo Reach or even Black Ops later this fall. Had this been released this past summer it likely would have had a chance for survival, but I’m not confident it has what it takes to be a major contender with the AAA of this fall, especially at a full $60. Regardless, let’s check it out, here’s Front Mission Evolved.
The story in Front Mission Evolved is nothing we haven’t seen before, in fact, it has striking similarities to the space simulator DarkStar One, that I reviewed a few weeks back. The year is 2171. Humans have constructed massive orbital elevators that connect the planet’s surface to space stations high above. Military forces have been essentially replaced by giant mech robots called Wanzers, and you, rebellious little shit Dylan Ramsey, have been working on a new prototype unit for your company when the orbital elevator in New York falls under attack from an unknown terrorist group. Essentially, these terrorists are trying to bring about world peace through unconventional methods… By killing off all of the world’s governments.
Like DarkStar One, Dylan’s father has been working on a special technology called E.D.G.E. when he is killed in the attack on New York, so Dylan vows to avenge his death and is recruited by the UCS, which I have to assume is the United States military. Also like DarkStar One, some of the game’s primary characters worked on the E.D.G.E. technology with Dylan’s father, and there will be a series of plot twists involved around that as well.
The story is kind of confusing though because there a lot of politics and organizations or governments that aren’t ever explained. You don’t know who the characters are or why they are involved. On top of that, the story is just soooo cheesy! The final level has the General giving a very Mel Gibson-y radio broadcast, “Today we stand together, regardless as to race or color, against or foe, to make a final stand blah blah”. It’s just trying WAY too hard to be epic when it just isn’t… at all. On top of that, you’ve got a seriously clichéd love story thrown into the mix that, to me, is quite unrealistic. Dylan meets a girl and instantly is ready to give his life and stop at nothing to save his new love… minutes after meeting her. Ugh.
The single player campaign’s 15 levels spread out over 5 acts took me only about 6 hours to complete on the medium difficulty setting, but probably 2 or so of those were spent simply wiping and trying the extremely difficult boss fights over and over. They don’t take skill; they take luck and the right customized Wanzer. Being that the game is so short anyway, it’s just a slap in the face that the developers tried to prolong your game-play by making the boss fights so difficult.
Luckily, Front Mission Evolved has a series of multiplayer game types including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Domination and Supremacy that are actually pretty damned fun. Like most other multiplayer games today, you earn experience as you play the matches, which unlocks additional parts and weapons for you to customize your Wanzer, BUT, when you first start, you’re going to be seriously underpowered when compared to all of your opponents who have been playing the game for a while already and unlocked a series of significantly more powerful upgrades than you’ll have access to, so be prepared to get your ass handed to you for a while. It looks like there is also Clan support, though I didn’t dabble into this as the options were grayed out for me.
Now, being that this titles was released between Halo Reach and Black Ops, it’s really going to be hurting for a strong online community as most of you likely are going to be purchasing the other titles and spending your time practicing your noob-pwning skill-sets on those big-name games. If you remember my review of Section 8, it suffered a similar problem. The campaign was extremely short and boring, but the online multiplayer was really cool… It just had no player-base. Whoever was in charge of deciding this game’s release date greatly miscalculated the risk of releasing it between two AAA multiplayer titles.
While the game-play is identical between the mulitplayer and campaign, I found it quite enjoyable online against human players, but grew quickly bored of the repetition in single player. You can choose your entire look and feel including decals, graphics and colors, and as you progress through the campaign, new parts, weapons and battle skills will be unlocked for you to customize your Wanzer to suit your particular play-style. You can equip up to two weapons on your shoulders, and have several options with your hands including melee weapons, shotguns, rifles, machineguns and bazookas. With that, you have to take your time to plan out how much your Wanzer weighs, how much power it uses, and how much armor and mobility it has. So you really balance mobility for strength. The customization of the Wanzer is pretty fun, especially as you gain access to better weapons, but still, the game just feels very repetitious, right from the start.
While most missions simply have you running and gunning from point A to point B, sometimes you’ll mow down enemies in a helicopter with missiles and turrets which is a nice change of pace, and other missions have you jumping out of your Wanzer and infiltrating bases on foot. This was OK, but it just didn’t feel as good as other third person shooters. There is no cover system beyond simply ducking down, and the screen doesn’t notify you and the controller doesn’t vibrate as you take damage, so it’s quite easy to die.
Throughout your adventure you’ll acquire some allies who will fight along your side, but they aren’t particularly useful by any means, as it seems as though they do zero damage. Finally, you have access to the experimental E.D.G.E. technology, which slows down time, highlights your enemies and lets you do extra damage. I thought this was a pretty sweet feature as I found it to be quite helpful, but in the story and cut-scenes, when E.D.G.E. is used, the controller of the Wanzer gets mind controlled and rages out. I don’t understand how the story can revolve around this technology being a bad thing, and you use it so freely outside of the cut-scenes.
If you haven’t noticed by now, the graphics are quite bland. Really, I don’t think anything looked good. Everything to me just looks dated, like maybe a PS2 title. The graphics are kind of similar in quality to DarkStar One, hell; Dylan even looks like the same main character. While the Wanzer’s look pretty cool when you get them all pimped out, the graphics are still not top notch by any means. Even the menus in the game are bland and not enjoyable to look at. While obviously what the menus look like is not that important, when I see a bland menu system like this, it makes me feel like the game was rushed, which again seems odd considering the date the publishers chose to release the title.
Now, the cut-scenes in the game look pretty sweet; not as good as many other games, but still pretty decent. The soundtrack is forgettable, or rather; I just never noticed it because the sound effects of the explosions are so damned loud… Not that that’s a bad thing. Finally, the voice acting for MOST of the characters is just terrible. There are just WAY too many long drawn out, NON-dramatic pauses.
It’s really too bad that for the most part, Front Mission Evolved was a letdown. It’s been so long since I played a great Mech game, and I had high hopes for this before I started it up. The story isn’t THAT bad, it’s just really cheesy sometimes and you’ve seen it a million times. The concept is neat and all, and I don’t mind a borrowed story if the concept is executed properly. I just don’t feel that it was, and this game could have been a lot more had the developers spent some extra time on it. Plus, 6 hours for a repetitive mediocre single player campaign is ridiculous. It offends me to think that the developers find this acceptable, though; the game-play was so boring that 6 hours was almost too much. In fact, I couldn’t wait for it to be over and I actually screamed for joy when I defeated one of the final bosses. Not because I was immersed into the game, but because he was so freaking hard that I spent an hour wiping on him when all I wanted was to be finished with the damn thing! Regardless, the multiplayer portion might be the title’s saving grace as it IS actually quite fun, but I don’t think it can survive against the AAA titles out there right now. What do you think? Leave your questions and comments below!
Developer: Double Helix Games
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Release Date: September 28, 2010
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**This title was provided to me free of charge from the publisher to review for you.