Review by Denouement
Reviewed: 06/07/02 | Updated: 04/10/03
Nothing had changed, but that's a good thing
Armored Core 2: Another Age is not an entirely new game in the series; it is a direct continuation of Armored Core 2. Armored Core is one of the most venerable Playstation series in the mech genre. On the original Playstation, Armored Core was followed by the expansions Master of Arena and Project Phantasma. Then, Armored Core 2 brought the series to Playstation 2 and was one of the console's established hits. Another Age is the first expansion to come out for Armored Core 2.
In Armored Core 2, you are a member of the Ravens mercenary group, who pilot powerful Armored Core robot vehicles. You are hired to fight in a terrible war between the government on Earth and rebellious Martians; as the story progresses, you, in true mercenary fashion, fight for both sides in the war. The game follows the basic formula of this genre: by completing missions, you gain money that can be used to upgrade your Armored Core robot with more powerful weapons, enhanced mobility, and improved defenses. This edition of the Armored Core series contains all new missions and brand new mech parts. While the plot is pretty rudimentary and trivial to the game play, there is actually a bit of a plot twist in the story, which alone gives it more of a story than some other games of the genre. However, the story does not measure up to the complex plot of AC2, and in this sense was a bit of a disappointment.
There are two basic parts to the game: the Garage phase between missions, where you can modify your mech, save your game, and access a number of other features, and the Mission phase in which you will head into actual battle. As far as the Garage phase goes, all parts from AC2 are back and there are new ones as well. Specs for all the parts are right there, and it is easy to see how a new part will transform your Armored Core robot.
Difficulty is widely variant in this edition. Instead of your missions getting harder step-by-step as the game progresses, they seem to alternate between ease and impossible difficulty. Though you detect a general rise in difficulty from beginning to end, beginners might find themselves very frustrated at a number of points, even on normal difficulty. The harder setting is, in my opinion, only for mecha-genre veterans or those who are importing a much from AC2.
Fans of the single-player Arena will be disappointed in Another Age. There are a few Arena missions, but it is not an extensive part of the game this time around--Arena missions amount to less than ten, out of over 100. But otherwise AC2 fans will not be disappointed. The control system is exactly the same; if there is a change, it has only been to make control more precise, though use of the analog stick is still somewhat wild. But the gameplay truly appeals to fans of the series over new players, and veterans will love this experience.
Graphics are significantly improved over AC2, which surprised me because I found AC2's graphics to be pretty excellent. However, the designers at From Software were able to take the graphics to the next level, and everything is noticeably more detailed and less jagged than in AC2. Whether they took more time with the graphics or just had more experience programming for PS2, they did a stellar job. Many menu graphics, however, are reused from AC2, but considering this is an expansion one cannot really complain about that. And nevertheless, the menus are both clear and functional.
All the effects that tend to be trouble in many games have been exquisitely rendered in Another Age. From explosions to splashing water, the fighting environment is almost lifelike. Each weapon is distinct and looks great when fired. Plus, even when I was fighting two or three enemies at once, there was never any slowdown in the game or the frame rate. The battle screen in general is nice looking, though with all of the optional displays activated it can become very cluttered.
MUSIC & SOUND (6/10)
The sounds of this game are above average, and create quite a nice background for your fighting. Explosions, bullet sounds, and laser beams are distinct and come through clearly, and the game sounds especially good with surround sound. Character voices, both for the different factions and for the other Armored Cores, are pretty good but don't wow you, and some characters talk amazingly slowly. The music is less of a draw. During the Garage phase the thumping techno/electronica style of beat is entertaining, but I found that the music during battle failed to pump me up in the way it should have. Soundwise, Another Age is nothing inspiring or excellent, but it is not annoying and it does not detract from the other great aspects of the game.
EXTRA FEATURES (8/10)
As a continuation of the original AC2, this game features the ability to load data from that game into the one player scenario, and then begin the game with all your weapons and credits from AC2. This makes the opening stages of the game much easier. Two players can play in either cooperative or versus missions in the Multiplayer mode, which accommodates both split-screen and the use of an iLink connection. Finally, the emblem creation feature is back. The editor is exactly the same as in AC2, and you can import your logo, but there are some new (and much cooler) sample emblems to choose from if you're too lazy to design one yourself (or if you're inartistic like me).
Armored Core 2: Another Age does not bring anything new to the table, but this is by no means bad. It is calculated to please the same fans who made AC2 a hit. If you have played Armored Core 2 and hated it, this game will not change your opinion of the series. However, for both fans of the series and those who have never tried it, Another Age is a great introduction to the genre and certainly shows off the full power of the PS2. I would recommend it to almost anyone, but it's not a perfect game, so you might want to take it out for a few nights' rental (as I did) and then head out to buy it (as I did the day after renting it!).
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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