Silent Line: Armored Core


posted 9/2/2003 by Charlie Sinhaseni
other articles by Charlie Sinhaseni
Platforms: PS2
I love to blow stuff up. In fact, I think it was the first step that I took en route to becoming a man. I’m not sure what it is, but men just have this indescribable fascination with destruction and demolition. When heavy machinery is added into the fray that enjoyment just multiplies until it becomes a veritable orgy of destruction and mayhem. It’s under this mantra that a game like Armored Core: Silent Line should immediately appeal to male gamers the world over but the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter how many explosions you have, without a decent set of controls, you have nothing.

Armored Core started out as a Sony property but after the initial installment on the PSOne, developer From Software shopped its product around. Eventually Agetec picked up the rights to it and has since published the previous five entries into the series, six if you count this one. It’s been around for a long time and at the same time it’s a very unique yet familiar series. Just when someone thinks that they can characterize it something pops up to shoot down that comparison. It’s like a blend between Sega’s Gunvalkyrie and Virtual On series with a pinch of Square’s Front Line franchise thrown into the fray. On the surface the series looks like a simple shooter but underneath it all, it’s so much more.

The basic storyline pits two factions against each other. In an effort to save their respective asses each side hires mercenaries to carry out their tasks for them. These mercenaries are working for the paycheck and have no interest in the outcome of these factions so they’re driven by the need for cash and not their conscience. This is where you come in, assuming the role of a merc hired by one of the warring factions. Storyline isn’t exactly a primary concern in this genre of gaming but it’s nice to see that the developers took the time to give you a reason behind all of the fighting.

Each mission is preceded by a briefing that contains a nice voice over for those of you who are too lazy to read the flowing text. There are some slight continuity problems in these as the briefings will tell you to accomplish one goal while the actual in-game objectives vary, but it’s nothing major.

Armored Core has always been about customization and Silent Line carries on this tradition. There is a near infinite amount of combinations that you can make for your machines, different weapons, parts and color schemes ensure that each machine is outfitted to your liking. You can literally spend hours tinkering with the colors on the machine to match your tastes and it’s actually a theme in this game, if you don’t like something then go ahead and change it until you’re satisfied.

Everything goes well until you actually get into the game as the series really begins to show its age. Now in its fourth iteration, the franchise is beginning to show its age. This is obvious both in the graphics and the gameplay department, two crucial elements in today’s videogames. For starters it looks like the game hasn’t advanced a bit since the series hopped from the PSOne to the PS2. Textures are bland, architecture is boring and the explosions are weak. Adding to this is a control scheme that looks like it was designed well before the existence of the Dual Shock controller. As opposed to using the left analog stick to maneuver and the right analog stick to free look and aim, the game employs the back shoulder buttons to manipulate your vantage point.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that most of the enemies seem to be wearing stealth boots. Most of the time when you enter a room you can expect to be thrust into a blind ambush. And even when you thought you’ve taken care of all of your foes another manages to creep up on you and deal out some heavy damage before you can react. Most of this is attributed to the fact that there’s no quick turnaround button nor is there even a method of turning around quickly. Regarded that we’re in control of a huge 60 ton lumbering mech but that also means that we shouldn’t have to worry about being taken to school every time we entered a room as well. A dual-analog setup such as the one used in Zone of the Enders or Mech Assault would have worked wonders here.

On the audio front everything is just as you would expect, loud booming explosions and convincing weapon effects. All of this is aided by some decent Dolby Pro Logic II implementation that really submerges you in the action. There's some decent voice acting sprinkled throughout the game as well.

It’s a real shame that the controls had to play the role of the Achilles’ heel because there’s just so much to offer. Its customization elements alone are well worth the price of admission for both fans of the series and fans of mechs in general. Think of it as a thinking man’s Virtual On and the next entry in the Armored Core series, nothing more and nothing less.

If you like mech games you just might want to check out Silent Line. There’s a bevy of customization options at your disposal. It’s just a shame that the game is held down by some ugly visuals and a primitive control scheme.

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