After a long absence, there is another video game review this week, this time with Square-Enix’s third-person mecha shooter, Front Mission Evolved.

General Information

Title: Front Mission Evolved
Developer: Double Helix Games
Publisher: Square-Enix
Platforms: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PC, PlayStation 3

Release Date: September 28th, 2010
Genre: 3rd Person Shooter

Available from Amazon.com

The Premise

In the far future the world has been divided into a series of power groups, each with significant group having presences in space through space elevators. After New York City’s Space Elevator is destroyed in an attack by the mercenary force Apollo’s Chariot, Wanzer (mech) designer Dylan Ramsey joins the military to get to the bottom of these attacks.

The High Points

While this installment in the franchise passes on the turn-based strategy of earlier installments in favor of third person shooting, the game does a pretty decent job of making the player feel like they’re piloting a 100 ton death machine. There are some issues that I’ll get into under the low points, but otherwise the game controls fairly well.

Additionally, the game’s customization works about as well as the customization in earlier games in the series, and making load-out decisions in the game is very simple and straightforward.

The Low Points

First, the camera is just a little too close. There just isn’t the peripheral vision that I’d like, and it doesn’t help that there isn’t a lock on-option either, to, for example, automatically highlight an enemy in your window, and make sure that his location in relation to you is always highlighted on your HUD, in relation to enemy missiles and so-on

This leads to the next point – warning arrows for incoming missiles from off-camera in the HUD are identical to arrows pointing to the position of enemies, making it difficult to prioritize where you should be turning to so you can shoot down incoming missiles.

The primary problem with the game, though, is that where in earlier games in the series, if you purchased a piece of equipment you kept it, changing your loadout causes your old gear to automatically be sold. Consequently, if you swap to a less expensive piece of gear later in the game (like switching from a ECM backpack to a Boost backpack), and find out that you need the more expensive gear again, you have to re-buy it. This also means that if you don’t have the money to re-buy it, you’re screwed.

Also, the game’s plot has some significantly laughable moments. While much of the story is general mecha anime melodrama, there is a point where the game’s villain, Cornelius of the terrorist organization Sword of Damocles, gives several speeches, first demanding countries make war upon each other and threatening destruction from on high if they don’t, and then when they didn’t buy into his bizarre failed Xanatos Gambit to force the countries to work together to build a peaceful world he gives another speech about his desire to destroy all nations and erase all borders to make the world just one nation by destroying one capitol city at a time. While I’m all for villains who are evil for the sake of evil (Darkseid is one of my favorite DC villains), the S.O.D’s efforts get kind of silly.

Content Notes

The game was rated T for Teen from the ESRB. There is no graphic violence or nudity in the game, but there is some profanity.

Scores

Originality: It’s a spinoff in a long running series, but one that uses a game-play style different from all the earlier installments. 4 out of 6.

Story: The game’s story starts well. In particular, the series of attacks against the various world governments by the S.O.D, before they reveal themselves is handled quite well. Everything after that goes off the rails. 4 out of 6.

Graphics: The game looks really good, particularly the mecha designs, which really bring some current-gen polish to the classic Front Mission mecha style. 5 out of 6.

Sound: The sound for the weapons and mecha is very good, with the Wanzers sounding appropriately huge and imposing. The voice acting is quite good as well, especially for the voice for Dylan. 5 out of 6.

Playability: The interface problems, as well as the issues with configuring your loadout really hurts the playability of the game, to the point that when I found myself unable to re-configure my Wanzer to defeat the final boss, I stopped playing the game, rather than start the game over with a more fiscally anal-retentive play-style. Everything else was fine, but that one problem became a literal game-breaker 3 out of 6.

Immersion: The HUD is pretty good at getting out of your way, except when it gets too out of your way and doesn’t tell you which arrows are missiles and which ones are enemies and how far away they are. Probably one of the few cases where less HUD isn’t better. 4 out of 6.

Overall: The game is decent, but it has some really significant problems that mar the overall experience. 3 out of 6.

In Total, Front Mission Evolved gets 28 out of 42.