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Game Review: Armored Core For Answer

This is about nameless pilots, building robots, taking up missions to fight robots, and fighting even bigger robots.

Armored Core is the epitome of customized robot combat, and once again holds the mantle as one of the best robot games out there. There are so few, and with Gundam games rounded to stiff simulators and button-mashing slaughter fests (Dynasty Warriors: Gundam) and no signs of a next generation of Virtual On or Zone of The Enders in sight, its pretty much the only major mecha game out there right now. Armored Core: For Answer or rather "Armored Core 4: Answer" by its original name is the follow up title to Armored Core 4, was produced by From Software and distributed by Sega. AC: For Answer is still made by From Software, but distribution rights were passed to Ubisoft after the demand for its release by US fans.

"Unidentified Target Approaching"

Players take on the role of a nameless, faceless, and otherwise direction-less Lynx (the name given to ace robot pilots, once called Ravens according to AC history) piloting a NEXT (the new generation of Armored Core unit) taking missions from clients in the war ravaged world. Earth is no longer a collection of nations under different flags, and is now controlled by private corporations that have taken up the responsibilities of ruling nations. With the main pockets of humanity in secluded colonies such as the Line Ark and the Cradles, the Earth has become their private battlefield and otherwise an ever expanding wasteland from their disputes. Although these groups have the capacity to manage themselves, very often do they run into trouble with others seeking to usurp their authority, steal their technology, and other office middle-management shenanigans that would require the likes of a robot armed with enough lead spitting firepower to sink a Chinese toy factory. And that where you come in.

Armored Core: For Answer (hereby dubbed AC4A), is divided into three modes of play, spanning across from single player to the game's online component.

"Here is your objective..."

The story mode is where the player takes on a list of missions and progresses through five chapters until the game's conclusion. The story mode does have some open-ended periods where taking one mission will null out another mission on the list and send the player on one of three courses to the end. The mission types vary from basic counter-insurgency, clientele defense, locale assault, and head to head fights against another Lynx or two... or three... or four... (Long story short, players will have the world's largest bull’s-eye with the words "Kick Me" scribbled on it slapped on their back with duct tape).

There are some other types of missions as well with more direct objectives such as destroying a single target like an Arms Forts; giant mobile assault platforms that dwarf the player's already large machine. Sometimes these missions begin with the player strapped to a heavy set of disposable thrusters called VOB and flying in over hails of gunfire to destroy a single item. Between each chapter and after every mission, the player is rewarded for mission progress with a gift of money, weapons, or tuning memory (more on that to come) as well as a performance rank which is dependent upon how well the player succeeded. This rank is based on two components; mission objective and costs (ammo spent, repairs), sometimes with a bonus depending on the objectives; such as taking out other targets or keeping the collateral damage (in defense missions) to a minimum. Otherwise the mission grades depend primarily on how much damage the player took or how much ammo was wasted.


The second component is called Free Play mode. This mode allows players to take a break from their single player section to revisit older missions to achieve a better overall performance ranking and soak up some extra cash should they need it. In Free-Play mode players can switch out to the game's Hard mode and play through each mission again facing tighter restrictions and plot-devices such as a time limit, more enemies to engage, and rare occasion wardrobe malfunctions. The Hard mode is also another way of absorbing tuning memory for use in the garage.

"Sieg Zeon, kill HIM!"

The third portion of the game is the online component which is then divided into two sections: arena and partnership. Arena is what it sounds like; player versus player until the last man standing wins. Unlike the previous AC4, AC4A has the optional “respawn” setting that allows players to soak up a decent kill per death ratio in a single game compared to the standard "First person to shoot generally wins after killing the other guy" bout. The size of the game's Arena maxes out at eight, in battle royale or team battle modes. Unlike Halo, where the player has a distinct way of telling opponents from allies (red team shoots blue team), the only way players know not to shoot their teammates is that they do not register a target lock on them. Still that hasn't stopped some players from putting the "I" in Teamkiller.

The arena itself is subdivided into two categories: Ranked and Player. Ranked matches are the common thread of any video game with a multiplayer function. Player performance is recorded and added to their overall rank on a Leaderboard, with a bracketed system of ranks that matches players against another of equal rank, but sometimes not equal performance. Player on the other hand is the straight forward online component, with no ranking system; simply players logging online looking for a fight and walking away.

"Never fight alone"

Partnership is something of a hot demand mode in a number of games nowadays called cooperative play, or Co-Op. The game mode allows players to team up on missions from the game's story mode on both Normal and Hard mode. Although the monetary reward is negated, the performance rank and the additional rewards (such as parts, weapons, or tuning points) are given to both players. A word of warning though, the mission rank is dependent on both players' performance. So if one person acts as the bullet magnet while the other one wastes copious amounts of munitions, expect a low rank. For those with a more cooperative assistance, missions can be planned out ahead of time: either for who goes after the primary objective or secondary objective or just throwing caution to the wind and being an overwhelming team of destruction. In either case, a good team means a good rank. On a side note, some of the chapter-break missions from the story mode cannot be played cooperatively.

"Heads, shoulder mounted weapons, knee stabilizers, and no toe-room for a cup holder"

Between all of the game's modes is the garage (or ACSIS according to the menu screen). The garage is the primary component for the game where players can build their own machine and outfit it with their weapon of choice and performance. The number of part combinations is staggering: with players having to choose not only what parts: head, torso, legs, and arms to put onto the robot but also the targeting system (FCS), what type of engine the machine would best perform with, and the four types of thrusters (main, sides, back, and Overboost) that provide their machine's basic mobility. Once the robot is completed, the player can outfit it with weapons, two primary on the arms and two on the back, with additional slots for the shoulders and hanger units.

Stabilizers are included as an optional component for building machines. These extensions are added to various locations on the body to bolster performance or supplement the weight difference of a machine outfitted with different weapons of different weights and sizes. Sometimes, stabilizers that fit onto the robot’s head are just a nice touch of flair that can distinguish one’s personality. For example a good friend of mine has his machine (loaded to the teeth with weapons) wearing only a set of stabilizers in the shape of devil horns.

"We highly recommend the Kamikaze set, would you like to add some complimentary homing missiles to your order?"

Arming a machine has just as many combinations as building the robot they go along with. Whether it is having a machine dedicated to a single combat mode or armed for just any occasion, the possibilities are just about endless. The weapons of AC4A are variations of a number of similar types, such as solid ammunition rifles, laser weapons, cannons or bazookas, close-quarter combat blades, and missiles. With four slots to choose what to attach to where, the player can arm their machine in the same way they choose to build their own robots. A heavy impact weapon can be paired with a lighter weight high speed weapon, or players can just go with one type of weapon depending on their play-style. The two additional spots for weapons are generally counter-measures. The shoulder units are simply add-on weapons that either bolster the machine’s combat performance or increase the survival odds. They include support missiles that link to other missile units or fire independently, or a set of thrusters to supplement a machine’s mobility. The hangers are the spare tires for the hand held weapons, should the player run out of ammo they can at least carry a spare pistol or two. The only restrictions come from the machine’s load capacity, which negates loading the machine with extremely powerful or heavy weapons. In the overall, a well built machine can take on anything. A well tuned Next armed only with a rifle and sets of back missiles has the potential of pulling off some daring “Macross” style moments, where the only thing its missing is its all “Fire Bomber” mix tape playing in the background. Regardless of artillery, nothing says fun like playing AC4A with “Charging Love Heart” blaring in the background.

There are two final parts of the garage that serve to balance out how the machine actually performs: Tuning and Regulations. Tuning is the functional component that determines how the machine performs based on the allocated memory points (called FRS points) that can be distributed to the machine’s sectors: Combat, Engine, Shielding, Mobility, Boosting, and Stability. The points distributed to the variables in each such as Combat’s maneuverability, firing stability, or precision, can determine just how well the machine is able to attack as well as fend against an incoming barrage. Gaining FRS memory is based on story progression for the first amount, and mission completion in hard mode for the additional points.

Regulations are a default function in the game’s options that determines the game’s basic performance such as refining the pre-tuning settings to weapons or parts and even engine function. One of the current regulations, dubbed build 1.15, has the engine’s energy drain/output set to 0, which translates into unlimited thruster power and no energy-cost for using energy based weaponry. Regardless of type, the Regulations add to the play value and allow the player to really balance out their machine’s handling for their personal or competitive use.

“Suit Up”

Despite the limited fan appeal in general gaming, Armored Core: For Answer continues to live up to the Franchise’s name. Some will play for the competitive Arena mode and some will just find peace fighting along side others in Partnership mode. Personally, it’s the garage. The game is not without some faults, such as its overly aggressive (and regulation defying) AI, or long load periods between menus. AC4A takes some getting used to, but after a while these grievances will fade. Armored Core: For Answer is a worthy update to its originator.

The game is available for both X-Box 360 and Sony Playstation 3 gaming consoles. The game was reviewed here for the X-box 360.

Posted 20 February, 2009 - 14:12 by Gunpla Rob


3 comments posted
I need to get me a PS3 or

I need to get me a PS3 or 360... sigh...

CollectionDX Admin

JoshB's picture
Posted by JoshB on 22 February, 2009 - 09:26
This is an excellently

This is an excellently written & informative article Rob! Thank you for taking the time to write it, it's much appreciated.


BlazeEagle's picture
Posted by BlazeEagle on 25 February, 2009 - 07:23