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Front Mission Evolved (Xbox 360) artwork

Front Mission Evolved (Xbox 360) review


"I have to wonder if all this fair weather combat is the result of a low budget, time crunch or just plain boredom?"


Most franchises doesn't escape fate so easily. Front Mission, for the uninitiated, is a story driven mech combat strategy franchise with emphasis on the humanity of war. First on the SNES as a Japan only release, then translated, which was my first experience. The franchise then made an appearance on the Playstation, Nintendo DS, and Playstation 2.

Its first official PC release takes the form of a mission oriented corridor shooter. As Dylan, you embark on a quest to avenge the death, or, murder of your father? This is where things become problematic. What I'm going to do is break down this game to its functional elements. We'll start with...

Story
Oh, you've heard this one before. A sneak attack, this time on New York, destroys an orbital elevator and levels a city block. Standard stuff. Then some rocker with a big scar declares war on the world. Or with the world. His vocal performance is not very convincing, but then, neither is anyone else.

As the protagonist, Dylan, you're out for revenge and everyone trusts you instantly. You've not had a day of military training and are a natural at combat. You have the E.D.G.E., and I'm not kidding. Again, neither is anyone else, and that's really shame because humour is a powerful survival tool.

But we don't need survival tools, just our privately developed Wanzer and super glowy bullet time, er, I mean, the E.D.G.E. It's dangerous, apparently, but that's kinda spoilerific, except it's not surprising at all. It's all so rote that the only guy who is remotely entertaining isn't around along enough to matter.

That sucks, because he was the only likable character, even though he was trying so hard. Everything is boring, but that's okay because we're really concerned about the business of how to make things explode. Let’s press on to ...

Combat
Banal. I recently rediscovered this word and it fits very well. It's not bad; controls are precise, and so much better thanks to keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately it doesn't feel like you're plodding around in a 40-ton mech. Granted they're nimble, with dash abilities that would effectively break any of Front Mission's isometric cousins.

Unfortunately this is the meat of the game. So much can be bad if the combat makes up for it, and it almost does the job. Enemies are awfully spongy and everything is reflex driven. That would be fine if the controls were precise enough allow me to pull off those critical moves, which they really aren't.

I have to mention customization here because the developers couldn't make up their mind here either. They want you in the “Zepher” type body so much that every time you upgrade there's a new version which happens to be the best balance of mobility, defense and weapon flexibility that there's no point in choosing anything else.

The combat roles of melee, ranged, assault, missiler and engineer are all on offer, but are meaningless. Boss battles will require one style of combat: White knuckle attack spam and frantic dodging. Combat has a rock-paper-scissors flavour that means you must bring the right weapon to the affair or fail repeatedly.

At least the devs let you re-outfit your mech before reloading into the campaign. It's a lame way of covering for an essentially unbalanced system.

Audio
There's nothing wrong with the music per se, except that it sounds like a remix of the Matrix and Transformers soundtracks. While we're on the topic, the Wanzers have a very Bay-esque audio expression, which works, but isn't exactly original. It's serviceable, and by default, pretty loud. It lacks personality, even the default military inspired tone, and that’s a shame.

The Port
Front Mission Evolved for Steam is a PC port of an XBox 360/PS3 game, though I don't know which version, and it doesn't much matter. It has some quirks, being a touch unstable and exhibiting its six-gen qualities. Character textures don't look good close up as they have no style. They're generic, disinterested coverings.

There are plenty of resolution and audio options to be had, and I found the game to run just fine at a steady framerate at 1080p. No hitches or unexpected dips. Choose keyboard and mouse or your gamepad of preference. Both work fine, though I find the mouse to be far more accurate.

On one occasion an NPC disappeared before a mission gate, and this required a reload. This game hasn't been supported by Square-Enix for a long time, so I suppose I should be grateful that it runs so "well" on Windows 10. Except that I doubt I'll be returning to it after this foray.

Graphics
Goodness, this is the only thing they got right. While these monstrous machines lack appropriate weight, they are lovingly modeled and carefully detailed. Texture resolution is quite dated, and are noticeably aliased on large screens above 720p. There's something a little off between the fluidity of the motion capped characters and their manually animated facial features, but that's forgivable as the cutscenes aren't very long.

The Wanzers look great, and are extensively customizable. In addition to choosing from a selection of body parts and weapons, a slider governing the unit's metal matte/gloss effect has been introduced. That said, I was thankful they had included an "Apply All" so I could slap a consistent look on my machine. Again, serviceable, except that I have to wonder if all this fair weather combat is the result of a low budget, time crunch or just plain boredom?

Multiplayer
I need to mention that the multiplayer side of those game went unplayed simply because I had no motivation to try it. It also happens there is a small to nil player base now, twelve years after release, but that's a consequence of market oversaturation.

Verdict
This is not a mediocre game. It's a conflated mess of uninspired, over dramatic ideas. There's too much detail in a paper thin story, too much combat in an unsatisfying system and an exaggerated presentation of a boring package. Even niche fans are better off looking to the nearest console game in the series. I wouldn't own it if it hadn't come in a bundle, I certainly wouldn't buy it in a sale. Save your cash for a superior experience, because you won't find any fun here.

2/5

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (August 27, 2016)

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