Armored Core 4
is a much faster game than previous versions. Although it doesnít quite match the speed of games like Z.O.E.
, it is still a fast game Ė especially if you build your mech for speed. The primary reason for the speed upgrade is the new boost mechanic. In previous games, you could only boost for a limited time before your engines cut out, forcing you to wait for what seemed like ages before it refilled. Now you can boost to your heartís content. In fact, it is impossible to complete most missions without constantly boosting around the combat area.
The new boost mechanic is simple; energy is only lost when going vertical, allowing you to boost around on the ground (or over water) as much as you want. If you need to really get somewhere fast you can use a quick boost, which dumps a large amount of power into your thrusters, launching you to your destination. The coolant system has also been removed so you donít have to worry about overheating your thrusters.
As good as the boost mechanic is, it is prone to error. There were times where, even though I was trying to obtain a vertical boost, my mech kept boosting forward, often into a building or on-coming fire.
Armored Core has always been about taking a bunch of random parts, building a mech and tweaking the hell out of the stats. AC 4 continues this trend, though creating mechs is a little easier than in previous games. Rather than taking a stock model and cobbling together parts, AC 4 revolves around schematics, which are pre-built mechs that come with certain stats and uses already in mind. Though schematics help give you a base to work with, you can still modify them to fit your personal tastes or for certain missions. You can also save your modified mechs as schematics for quick access.
Purchasing and equipping parts uses the same interface, which is confusing initially though it slowly makes sense with time. Purchased parts arenít automatically equipped, nor are parts you sell unequipped. You can also equip a part in the shop without actually buying it. However when you try to exit the garage youíll be prompted to purchase something, but wonít know what it is. And, if you donít have the money, youíll have to dig through your entire part catalog to figure out exactly what you purchased and canít afford. One of the first, and hardest, lessons youíll learn is to make sure you are always aware of what youíre doing.
Rather than throwing 100+ parts at you right off the bat, you have to unlock parts by completing chapters. At first you arenít given much of a choice, though you can eventually unlock a good number of parts. This makes it easier to understand how things work Ė at least when compared to previous games. Many of the parts youíll eventually unlock are just upgraded versions of equipment you already have, which is a bit of a downer.
Once parts are installed, you can then go through and fine tune different aspects of your mech. Adjusting these can get confusing since it relies heavily on abbreviated stat names that arenít all that transparent. Some are easy to figure out while others arenít. Fine tuning parts requires the expenditure of Fractional Regulation System (FRS) points which are awarded for completing mission packs and chapters. Unlike other games, where you could adjust each part individually, the FRS mechanic breaks all of your mechís parameters into a handful of areas like boost, balance and attack. Mechs can be manually tuned or automatically tuned, though you wonít get the most out of an automatically tuned mech. On the flip side, manually tuning isnít much of a joy either and takes time, so it is really up to personal choice.
Even with gameplay changes, Armored Core 4 is still a game that will only really appeal to the seriesí core audience. It may manage to snag a few newcomers, but the emphasis on strategic elements rather than action, as well as the slow pacing, probably wonít appeal to a more mainstream audience.