Review of Armored Core: Verdict Day from Namco Bandai
I don’t think there has ever been a point in my life when storming about as a giant mechanical death machine causing untold destruction on all around me hasn’t appealed to me. How could that not be cool? The latest addition to the Armored Core franchise has an online focus which could be a great new way to destroy things as a huge robot. Sign me up.
After a slightly lengthy install you’ll get your first taste of Verdict Day’s menus. At first they can be slightly confusing and there isn’t much in the way of explanation to help you in those early stages. I felt a little lost but after a short time you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of how to navigate Verdict Day’s menus. You won’t know what everything is unless you just get in there and figure it out so that’s what I did.
I don’t know about you but I think being constantly interrupted by loading screens and/or pup-ups can be quite a nuisance. A constant barrage of uninformative pop-ups and seemingly unnecessary loading screens work against your every effort, especially in those early stages. Providing me with huge amounts of superfluous information when I just start a game doesn’t help. Both opening and backing out of a submenu can cause a hefty loading screen to occur. Depending on what you’re trying to do you can literally spend more time waiting for loading screens than actually doing anything.
When you do briefly get chance to do something, and you’ve figured out what everything is, there are some genuinely clever online features in Verdict Day. Initially you will need to either set up your own group or join another one from a list. I set up my own so I could play on my own until I got an idea of what was going on. Each group, and in turn player, will fight for one of the three factions globally. A winning faction is declared either at the end of an in-game season or when only one faction remains. It’s a great feature that really has potential to change an online experience, or at least expand it.
Also impressive is the scope for customization of you’re AC’s (Armored Cores). Yet again you will need to figure out how the awkward menus work but once you do it’s clear there are loads of options for your very own AC. There’s more than enough new stuff to unlock and buy to keep you coming back and levelling up for a long time. Providing you enjoy the gameplay.
Trying out a couple of the story missions soon becomes a repetitive affair. Go somewhere, that’s usually about 5 seconds away, kill something. Sometimes it’s nameless drones and sometimes it’s another mech. Nothing special or creative at all but progression is good and you usually get enough of a reward to make it worth while. But earning money by replaying the first few simple “story” missions is just too effective to ignore, so grind on.
After customization comes a battle. You will essentially stand there and shoot something while it shoots back and see who wins. Sure you can sort of fly a little bit and dodge but it’s just so dull. Huge amounts of HUD and nothing else. Numbers, overlays and stats that give the illusion that something clever is going on. There’s nothing else to say about the actual combat in Verdict Day. This is definitely a game played in the menus not on the battlefield.
And there wouldn’t be anything wrong with that but the menus are so draining to navigate and the combat is just pure awful so there’s very little left to enjoy. I can’t help but get the feeling that Armored Core wants to alienate people and keep calling itself “hardcore”. Rather than help new players enjoy Armored Core it would rather flatter its current fans whilst keeping everyone else firmly out. And if the visuals of Verdict Day are anything to go by it was made with minimal effort under the free pass of being “hardcore”.
The visuals are by far, and I mean almost a generation in between, the worst available on the PS3. There is nothing else available on the PS3 I can think of to even compare it with. The environment is a bland monotone wasteland with nothing but a few poorly textured buildings thrown in and the occasional hill or crater. The detail on the AC’s is reasonable on the customization menu but when you get into the game you wonder why you bothered. Particle effects from explosions and muzzle fire are bursts of square-like sparks that add little to the already underwhelming graphics. I know someone worked hard on it, sorry, but It is unavoidably hideous.
Archaic menu designs that would feel outdated on a PS2 and an irritating amount of pop-ups and loading screens make Armored Core: Verdict Day just about the least friendly game I’ve ever played. If you’re a new player looking to get into the franchise Verdict Day will put in absolutely zero effort to meet you half way. Even if you do make it far enough to get to grips with the game all you will get is uninspired, generic mech combat with a complex customization system under the hood.
I’m all for complex systems and micromanagement, spending hour upon hour finding exactly the best parts to maximize stats but only if the result is enjoyable and immersive gameplay. Your reward for figuring out how to play the game and putting hours of effort in will be the same bland gameplay you would get if you didn’t.
There are certainly some great online features, like the global struggle between factions, but unfortunately it doesn’t matter because almost every fundamental has been forgotten. A complete absence of tutorials or help only further exclude those who don’t play Armored Core already. Armored Core: Verdict Day shows what you can do so long as someone calls your game hardcore. So call me a noob but I’ll go play something else.