Games are like people, they have to adapt to survive unless itís a really strong franchise. In the case of Front Mission Evolved, that evolution to a third person in-mech and out shooter has pretty much dented the series. Itís not rubbish but itís certainly not the game it could have been.
First off weíll do something a bit different, or I will - Iím going to talk about the multiplayer with its lag issues and vanilla design. Itís horribly busted in places since thereís not so much a balance of power as a massive abyss that rips any of the fun out of the experience if youíre going mech to mech with someone who has a better equipped Wanzer. Just like many games used to, parts and power is keyed to how great you are at the mp through levels and ranks and weíve seen it before in other games, it usually doesnít work very well.
Then you have the deathmatch, team deathmatch and domination, ctf variants. Itís a bit of fun but itís like the starter for the actual meal, itís not very filling.
That said weíre now onto the main attraction, the game itself. What you have here is an odd little cucumber, gone is the turn based strategy of the former game series, replaced by an in mech (Wanzer Ė aka walking tank) and some out of mech sequences. Let me say right now, the mech combat is fun but the on-foot stuff is tedious and very annoying at times. The balance is crazy since the mech stuff has you blowing the heck out of other mechs and so on, with ease and the foot shooting does the same. You feel like many of the enemies are made out of Paper Mache or cardboard, they are put down way too easy.
The difficulty curve isnít too bad, or at least thatís what I found when I played but Iím pretty good at third person shooters in general. There are no real issues with the controls apart from the fact that your weapons are mounted to the triggers and shoulder buttons, so you have this crab-claw grip when unleashing a full arsenal. Everything else is mapped how you expect it to be and basically works decently enough.
The boss battles are basically against powered up versions of normal mechs. These fights are hard and thankfully just as in the normal fights; you get respawning health packs that bring you back into the fracas. Even if you get crippled and damaged mech parts they bring you to full working condition quickly. Itís very arcade and for action fans it is excellent, for fans of Front Mission? Not so much.
Thereís the obligatory high power, slow motion bullet time power up you can trigger to give you an edge in battles, and again it seems to just have been thrown in because it looks cool. Talking of cool though, it has a massive customisation option that is basically rpg in its depth...itís full of options and things to tweak, weapons and even the look of the Wanzer can all be altered.
There are some presets and thereís power/weight to keep an eye on, however itís excellent to play with and you can have a lot of fun. In fact some missions in the single player require you to equip certain parts to accomplish a goal: like hover parts to cross bodies of water for example.
So the gameplay bottom line is fun enough, but not fantastic.
How does the game fare...Graphically: Well, it looks ok in terms of the Wanzers and the basic environments and falls down badly when you look at the character skins, facial animations and all of the on-foot models. Graphics are decent enough overall and trimmed down in multiplayer to speed things up. Eyecandy (which is a favourite word here it seems) has enough whizz bang for your coin but still doesnít quite measure up. The weapon effects are good though, including the great rocket pods which never get tiresome.
Story: Iím not going to say much about it. Itís clichťd and sadly very cheesy, what really lets it down is the terrible writing that comes right out a B-grade science fiction movie. At times I really felt that the cast of MST3K could be sitting there right with me and making comments through the whole of the game.
Then you move onto the delivery and voice acting, which complements the cheesy dialogue perfectly Ė which is a bad thing if youíre looking for a solid story and good voice acting.
Sound and music are decent enough and thatís all I can really say about that side of the game.
Overall then, itís a decent enough game with some balance issues and terrible story/voice work. If you want lots of action and the feeling that youíre piloting a mech-o-death, come play for a while but you probably wonít want to stay for the multiplayer Ė youíve seen it all before in some other game and the maps are limited to a small number, thereís very little to keep you coming back all round.