June 03, 2003
The Armored Core series, created by ASCII and taken over by From Software and Agetec. Along the lines, the series has undergone many changes, mostly for the better and hardly for the worst.
Armored Core 3 is the sixth game in the series and what a game it is. The introduction movie is nothing short of a beautiful and entertaining show of impressive visuals, every piece of action detailed and realistic. From Software claimed that all the parts from the previous games were scrapped and the selection is totally new and unique. They did not lie. EVERY part (save two trademark weapons of the series) has been removed, replaced with something original. The only thing that looks the same are some of the rifle weapons and left arm shields.
The gameplay itself remains almost totally untouched, retaining the original Armored Core controls from the first game with the exception of the use of the L3 and R3 buttons. For a veteran AC fan like myself, you'll hardly notice the difference. The setup is easy to get accustomed to as well as being easy to master.
A welcome change from the previous games is the adjusting turning speed for your Armored Core (AC) unit. No longer do they turn at a snail's pace. It's quite the opposite now. Instead, your AC turns quickly and smoothly, able to stop on a dime. This is a blessing for users of heavyweight ACs and those who were disappointed with the difficulty of attacking effectively in previous titles.
The first new feature in Armored Core 3 is remove equipped weapon parts. While it's a useful thing to do when your weapon is out of ammo and you want to be able to run faster, I wouldn't advise it during the regular game.
Dropping a fully loaded weapon during a mission will cause it to simply vanish into thin air, forcing you to finish your job with any means of long range combat. The only mode you can reclaim your weaponry is in Versus Mode but be sure that you don't like your buddy steal your gun.
Another new feature added to Armored Core 3 is the Consort Hire option that's available during some of the difficult missions. Instead of toughing it out on your own, you'll sometimes be given an additional fund to hire a partner, be they a puny squad of fighter planes, helicopters, MTs or an incredibly useful AC. However, for those of you who prefer to save every cent you're given, it's possible to not hire a partner and keep the cash given to you.
Personally, I wouldn't do so until you're able to hire AC pilots as partners as everything under it can take very little punishment.
Another downside to this system is that you're never given enough spare change to hire two partners. The only time you'll be able to have more than one consort is when you're given a partner by your client and still given extra money.
The last interesting add-on to Armored Core 3 is the Exceed Orbit system. In Armored Core 2, all cores were limited to using the Overboost, which enable your AC to move at incredibly high speeds. Well, in the third installment, some core parts have built-in attack units called Orbits (named as the back-mounted ones from the previous games). When you press R3, instead of Overboosting, one or two units will detach from your AC's back and hover along beside it, firing on a target of their choosing. It's a useful little gadget in Arena battles but use them sparingly. When an Orbit fires, it drains some of your energy so some careful planning is needed if you want to pilot your mecha effectively. Don't worry about the little buggers running out of ammo though, pressing R3 will return them to your AC and slowly recharge them.
Enemy AI is drastically improved this time around. Your opponent will hide behind objects and use various fighting styles, requiring you to plan your method of attack based on what you know about your foe. However, some enemies can get a little cheap and cost you a mission but fear not, you can always try again.
Unfortunately, the sound department gave me a mixed blessing this time around. The main theme is annoying as hell. VERY annoying. It consists of a choir repeating themselves every five or ten seconds. Time to time, you'll have to hear this on a mission. A majority of the music you hear is depressing and doesn't go along with the atmosphere of some missions but not to the point where you can't sit down and play it anymore. Just annoying to the point where you might mute the music.
Your rival pilots' voices sound sharp and fitting, that From Software did a good job picking out voice actors. Consorts will apologize to you for accidently firing on you, thank you for your help, comment on your abilities and the mission when it's completed.
Armored Core 3's story follows the same one it has since the beginning with a little twist of Masters of [the] Arena. Layered, the multi-leveled city is run by the all-powerful Artificial Intelligence program called The Controller, who decides EVERYTHING. Laws, regulations and everything else a basic human government would. As of late, a lot of sectors (cities) have been closed down for no real reason and some citizens are either accepting their fate, remained indifferent or oppose The Controller because of it. To make things even better, three companies fight for dominance in the AC market and aren't above hiring people to mess with the competition. What's going on in Layered? Who will you fight for?
The Arena remains unchanged from the previous games but once certain requirements are met, you can enter the Extra Arena, where the battles are two-on-two. Help your partner out because if one of you dies, your team loses!
All in all, Armored Core 3 has very high replay value. With several hidden parts to obtain, Arena opponents to conquer and fellow pilots to help, you won't be bored for a while. The third Playstation 2 AC game is, in a nutshell, an awesome expansion pack.
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