Fans of the Front Mission series will notice something different about this latest title from Double Helix and Square Enix. Ditching the turn-based tactics genre in favor of third-person action, Front Mission Evolved
is a new breed of the series.
The game takes place in the year 2171 where technology is running rampant and into the unknown space above the skies. As certain organizations and governments rise to power, border skirmishes have become an increasingly prominent issue in this theorized future controlled by ventures into space via orbital elevators.
After one such orbital elevator is attacked and destroyed, engineer Dylan Ramsey finds himself in the midst of war in search of his father who he fears may have been caught in the elevator’s destruction.
The primary defense system in each organization also involves the future’s advancement of technology. Heavily armored humanoid battle vehicles - known as Wanzers - house soldiers as they prowl the field. In an appeal to the typical fear of rapid technological advancement, Double Helix implemented the idea of Pandora’s Box with a particularly troublesome and powerful Wanzer advancement known as EDGE.
In terms of gameplay, your EDGE bar fills as you make kills and allows you to slow time to better your attacks in battle. As for the storyline, however, EDGE is what threatens humanity’s existence as a rebellious and blood thirsty team of Wanzer riders known as Apollo’s Chariot attempt to use EDGE to kill whom they please.
As the members of this villainous organization attempt to terrorize and gain power, you meet up with members of the UCS and decide to help them in their plight. This is particularly due to your father’s role in EDGE, being that he was a researcher on the project at the National Strategic Research Laboratories, where they develop the Wanzer technology.
The story gets further convoluted from here as you go on, throwing in a complex number of organizations butting heads as well as a few romantic inquiries thrown in for allegedly good measure. I love a meaningfully complex storyline, but the complexity here felt forced and insignificant. Furthermore, much of the storyline is told to you through a narrator over a bland map as words and meaningless symbols are highlighted. Being forced to sit through dull cut scenes such as this was too often to be tolerable. The story is made even worse with terribly cheesy dialogue read through with equally terrible voice talents to match. Really, the word “talent” here is used quite loosely. The graphics, when they are reflecting an actual scene with action, aren’t much to look at either. Rendering is fairly blockish, and the scenes are always repetitive.
Even the UI could use some major rethinking. Your aim sights are outlined with a box to indicate where your missile lock-on range is set. Rather than be of use for this purpose, however, the opacity actually interferes with the scene in front of you. One could argue toward realism - being confined in a Wanzer with such a limited windshield would certainly produce similar effects - but the fortunate thing about games is that we can pick and choose what realistic decisions add to the experience and which take away from it. For instance, I’d certainly never like to feel the actual pain from a gunshot wound. A game boasting realism features with some neurological sensory connection is definitely not appealing. The same can be said for this UI decision.
Minor nuisances that seem to make up Front Mission Evolved do not stop there. The Wanzer is an incredibly noisy suit. You cannot raise a finger without alerting what would undoubtedly be miles around you to your presence. The constant squeaking of metal as you walk irritates the experience and begs for some WD-40.
The single redeeming quality of this game is the Wanzer itself. This thing is fully customizable, from the style of movement given to you by your choice of leg structure to aesthetics and design. You can equip up to four types of weapons: one for each arm, and missiles or rockets for each shoulder. Controlling all of this weaponry on one gamepad is surprisingly fun. This is where realism is appreciated. The Wanzer is a complicated piece of armor and, like the APUs of The Matrix, being able to fight in one is a privilege given to those most skilled with it. Therefore, you certainly feel you have a deadly talent when you are able to control bursts of rockets while locking in your targets for a missile attack all while simultaneously shredding them to bits with your assault rifle. The action in battles is definitely jam-packed and calls for quick trigger fingers.
I found customizing my leg components the most vital behind, of course, the weaponry. Leg equipment ranges from bipedal to hover to quad legs. Bipedal can be either powerful or quick on the skate (also known as boost) ability. I was most fond of the hover legs given their awesome speed and flexibility, while the quad legs were slow and sluggish. I’d constantly find myself trapped in a corner because of my bulky quad legs when forced to equip them for a mission.
Infantry play is also featured in the game. This is where the third person shooter action comes into play, and is fairly typical. You’ll always start off equipped with a rocket launcher for your heavier and/or more stubborn enemies as well as some other more basic firearm. These on-your-feet moments are short lived, and it is quite fortunate that it is so because the Wanzer is much more entertaining to play in.
At the end of the day, learning to professionally utilize your Wanzer is the only fun aspect to Front Mission Evolved. Otherwise, this latest iteration is an ugly façade filled with even uglier components.