One of the prototypical uses for a video game system is to make robots fight each other. Spacewar, the title some consider to be the very first video game, was nothing more than a battle between spaceships. The classic tank gameplay of the Atari 2600s Combat was simple one-on-one face-offs between imaginary steel behemoths.
Even without primitive pixel limitations, though, theres a certain appeal to giant robots beating the nuts and bolts out of each other. Just ask anyone who enjoyed Pacific Rim this past summer.
Armored Core: Verdict Day (Xbox 360; Rated T; $49.99) offers up plenty of robots. It has plenty of ways to build the robots, plenty of ways to fight with the robots, and even a silly little story to go along with all of the robot-centered mayhem.
Actually, thats not entirely fair. The story isnt silly in the traditional sense. Its delivered with a straight face, and it truly seems to want you to take it seriously. Its post-apocalypse wartime, and in the single-player campaign, youre a mercenary caught between three warring factions. Also, your call sign is Fatman, and youre an overly cocky maverick. Hundreds of reasons for each of the factions to hire a mercenary are contrived for your benefit, and nobody seems to particularly like you but everybody needs you.
Its a story. It does what it needs to do. Nobodys here for a story, though. Everybodys here for the giant robots and the firepower, and those things are plenty impressive.
Lots of stuff
As far as your own mechanized warrior goes, you get rifles, missiles, and bombs, and for those rare times when youre not actually in the process of blowing things up, you get reconnaissance drones. You can upgrade your mechs body if you want to last longer in a heavy firefight, or you can upgrade its legs if you want it to be able to carry more stuff.
And lets be honest: You want it to carry all of the stuff.
The fact is, you need as much stuff as you can handle, to keep yourself from suffering another of many surprisingly quick deaths. Much of the time you find yourself among a sea of hostiles, each of which seems designed specifically to send you to the scrap heap.
Armored Core: Verdict Day wastes little time on tutorials and easy ramp-up missions before throwing you into firefights thatll sap your shields quicker than you can say uh-oh.
That may be because this isnt really a new Armored Core game so much as it is an extension of Armored Core V. The player is prompted at the outset to import as much Armored Core V data as possible, offering the most seamless possible extension from that game.
Verdict Day can be played on its own, but its meant as more content for a rabid fanbase, and as such, its not very forgiving to newcomers. Those that did play Armored Core V might actually be a little let down, as well. While there is some new content that offers better single-player options, it doesnt feel like all that much of a departure from its predecessor.
Fifty bucks might seem a high price to pay for what feels like a gussied-up expansion pack, but that said, the robot action is hectic, energetic, and precise. The adrenaline offered by the most intense firefights is rare among all games, never mind simply comparing it to other games involving giant robots.
One can find a sizable number of nitpicks with Armored Core: Verdict Day, but its clear that this is a game that knows where its bread is buttered.
New this week
The fours have it: Assassins Creed IV (Xbox 360; PS3) takes the popular and well-respected franchise to the seas with a pirate-themed installment, while Battlefield 4 (Xbox 360; PS3) kisses the current generation of consoles goodbye with one more round of military multiplayer mayhem.