What happens when you take a series that has based itself around statistics, grids and menus; a series about strategy and tactics and then reduce it to a game about headlong rushes and spray-and-pray combat? You get Front Mission Evolved, the fifth game in the Front Mission series, and one that will surely disappoint long time fans.
The game will be of interest to two types of people; the mech-head crowd and Front Mission fans. Both may be disappointed. Though the Front Mission franchise fits into the mech fighter genre easily it’s in the implementation that it falls apart.
Mech-heads have an abundance of better games such as Armoured Core to fall back on while the long time fans will wonder why the series has decided to strike out in a new direction at all.
Developer Double Helix have removed the SRPG values and replaced them with a tiresome third-person mech shooter that quickly loses any inspiration and tasks you with walking from one point to the next blasting tanks, soldiers and other mechs in your path.
The game is set in the year 2171 and the world is locked in constant battle as factions war with one another for global domination and, with the invention of "orbital elevators", military space stations.
The pride of these military factions is their wanzers – mechs piloted by humans. Our protagonist is Dylan Ramsey a wanzer engineer caught up in an attack and it is over his shoulder, either in a mech or on foot, that we try to uncover the truth behind the world's latest threat.
By and large the missions are tiresome and formulaic with only a couple of variations to try and shake up the game experience. Generally speaking you will control your top of the line machine and be set loose to blast your way through a city full of enemies before a boss appears in a ‘roid-raging wanzer. These mech-juicer encounters are typically bested by strafing at high speeds to dodge missile salvos and dumping everything you have back at them, interspersed with jogging between the abundant repair crates and ammo drops.
Because your wanzer is the crème de la crème it has a new ability wholly unique in the wanzer community. Dealing damage and killing things increases your E.D.G.E pool and once at more than 25 percent you may enter into bullet time. While initially useful you’ll soon outgrow it and find it largely unnecessary.
There is an initial thrill to piloting your wanzer and the first few missions will hold your attention but with repetition and an uninvolving story it was not long before my wanzers colour scheme and strange weapon load outs where the only thing of interest.
Before every mission you get to customize your wanzer. From the type of weapons – left arm, right arm, left shoulder, right shoulder can all hold a different weapon - to armour type and paint colour, style and glossiness. The only limit here is a power to weight ratio. If your wanzer power output is less than the weight of your mods you have to rethink.
The game manages to craft some interesting conditions out of the mod process. In some missions you will need to take a certain mod: for example a hovering leg mod needed to move over water that will only work if the wanzer is light, thus leaving you under-gunned.
To mix it up you also play as Dylan Ramsey at times. These on-foot passages amount to a poor third-person shooter, and though you are just a lowly wanzer engineer, you can expect to easily dispatch trained soldiers and enemy wanzers with ease. With no cover system expect to spray your machine gun vigorously around the room and secure any objective.
These largely pointless levels feel like half-considered attempts at variety long after the creators discovered the original mech game play would become stale.
The story has five acts and won’t take too long to complete. The voice acting is at times poor and repetitive. The characters don't look wonderful, but the wanzers themselves shine as they battle through dreary environments.
For replay value there is multiplayer included and involves a Call of Duty-style experience system. Unfortunately, with only four game modes and four map variants it’s unlikely to develop a strong community.
Front Mission Evolved is at its core an uninspired third-person mech fighter that throws out the tenets of the series, a move that may turn off long time players. Mech fans will find it lukewarm at best and the rest of us are left to wonder just who the game will appeal to.