Armored Core V is a good looking mech game with tons of action, a robust online mode and so much customization that you can spend more time creating than actually fighting. It's full of good ideas that you don't normally see in a console game like this, as well as a diverse set of missions to complete. There's just one problem: This fifth Armored Core is completely impenetrable.
From the nonsensical storyline to the completely busted user interface, Armored Core V feels like it was designed to keep all but the most hardcore fans far, far away. That's a shame, because deep down there's a surprisingly fun mech game here with tons of original ideas and creative level designs.
In a lot of ways Armored Core V is a lot like From Software's last game, Dark Souls. The developers just throw you into a world (or, in this case, a world map) and hope you'll be intrigued enough to figure out what to do. Even getting into a basic level isn't as clear as it could have been, leading to some very confusing moments early in the game. But after some struggling, I was able to come to grips and actually have a reasonable amount of fun playing this mech shooter.
While past installments have involved a lot of single-player action, Armored Core V makes a big push for online connectivity. In fact, many of the modes in this game would neatly fit under the "Massively Multiplayer Online" banner. Thankfully it doesn't require a monthly fee (unless you count the Xbox Live subscription). Fans looking for a primarily solo experience may not see what the big deal is, but there's a lot to love about the game's social elements.
Right from the get-go you're told to either create your own team or join somebody else's. The idea is that everything you do adds points to your team, impacting Armored Core V's bigger picture. Sadly, all this isn't very clear from the start. The game isn't interested in simply dropping you into a level to play around, it wants you to go through the work of joining, designing and customizing before you even begin to learn what the left and right triggers do.
Thankfully the gameplay itself isn't nearly as difficult as the menu system. Once in a game it turns into your basic slow-moving mech experience. You lumber around large cities, warzones and industrial areas looking for other mechs, picking up items and locating checkpoints. Because the game is so customizable, each level can be tackled in any number of ways. You can load your machine up with the most powerful weapons and play it as an all-out action game, or use a smaller machine to hide in alleyways stealthily looking for bad guys to decommission. The game makes knowing where everybody is even easier thanks to recon darts and your mech's scan mode.
The game is constantly pushing a lot of information at you, something that can be a little overwhelming at first. Although simplified, the heads-up display can be a little confusing and you'll spend a long time reading about all of the parts before you decide to commit to any purchases. This is a game that rewards players for sticking around and fighting to overcome the steep learning curve. A lot of the early game frustration can be eased by teaming up with the right team. This is the kind of game that almost requires a more experienced player to guide newbies through the labyrinth of crazy gameplay decision.
Sadly, if you don't have somebody to point you in the right direction, Armored Core V can be an absolute nightmare. The game is simply impenetrable, purposely keeping all of the most vital information as vague as possible. The game barely tells you what the controls are, let alone what anything in the customization store does. I spent hours trying to decipher the cryptic wording, which ended in a lot of trial and error. I'm glad I stuck with it long enough to figure out what I was doing, but it's a shame that every element of this game is so inaccessible.
Armored Core V is big, explosive and full of good ideas. Too bad the game is nearly incomprehensible. Thankfully the game's strong online component and roughly one hundred levels make up for some of the learning curve problems, but don't go into this game looking for an easy ride!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!