Reviewed: October 28, 2003
Released: July 29, 2003
I won’t bore you with the lengthy history of the Armored Core series from Agetec. Suffice to say, this mech warrior style game has been around since the original PlayStation and started gaining some notoriety when Armored Core 2 released with the PS2. Just over a year ago Armored Core 3 debuted and while it was easily the best game in the series the Armored Core games just can’t seem to break out of their tightly focused “core” audience.
Silent Line: Armored Core is the latest installment in the Armored Core series, and plays out more like an expansion pack than a true sequel. Veterans of the series will feel right at home as you assume the role of a Raven with all new features, new weapons, and 200 new parts. The configuration possibilities alone are too numerous to count.
Even the story gets a nifty update building on the events and history of the previous games and putting you right in the middle of the corporate conflict. You are the impartial third party sent in to resolve these disputes, often with extreme and excessive force. It is your job to restore peace and make it last.
Silent Line - Armored Core features the following firsts for the series:
At its core, Silent Line plays much like the previous games including the quirky shoulder buttons that still control the vertical panning. Even though the right stick still can’t change your view Silent Line marks the first game in the series with true analog movement control. You also get the long awaited cockpit view without having to resort to cheat codes and memory card tricks.
You are in command of a massive mech (robot) that stomps through the levels like a huge metallic giant wielding massive firepower. These lumbering beasts are a bit tricky to control at first but once you master the fine art of running and hovering and laying down waves of cover fire the game really takes off.
Like the previous games you will get to tinker with your mechs in the garage area prior to each mission and for you mech-heads out there, this can easily occupy more time than the missions themselves. With more than 400 total parts the possible combinations number in the billions.
One especially nice feature is the ability to import your Armored Core 3 settings into this game. I found this extremely beneficial as I had characters and wingmen from that game that I had built up over the course of 30+ hours and now I was able to continue their adventures. It’s not a huge deal and doesn’t really give you any advantage in the game but it is a nice perk for loyal followers of the series and lends a bit of continuity to the franchise.
The multiplayer versus mode and the 4-player Arena mode are wonderful additions. Chances are most of you won’t have the opportunity to link two PS2’s together to enjoy this mode, but if you do get the chance I highly recommend it.
The visual quality hasn’t changed much since the last game or the game before that. The opening movie features the latest in CG technology and will blow you away. The levels have returned to their cityscape roots and there is a good mix of indoor and outdoor levels that reach new heights in complexity and detail.
The game’s traditional chase-view is now supplemented with a wonderful cockpit view allowing you to see the world through the Raven’s point of view. Other improvements include modest enhancement to textures and overall visual clarity. Special effects, explosions, smoke, fire, and particle effects are abundant.
Of course the mech designs are just a good as ever. The models are just as good as they were in AC3 with excellent textures and realistic lighting that give each Core a weathered and authentic look to them. AC3 was starting to show its age last year, and Silent Line is starting to push the limits of visual tolerance. Even so, I can’t help but to keep using the same phrase each time I review a new Armored Core game – “This is easily the best looking game in the series.”
The sound in Silent Line is overwhelming with weapons fire and explosions rocking your sound system combined with the metallic thumping of mechs as they lumber through towering cities or various battle scarred terrain. Following the standard set by AC3, this game makes stunning use of Dolby Pro Logic II to envelop you in sound.
The music is pretty standard stuff, lots of percussion with military overtones. It hasn’t changed hardly at all from the last game. The voice acting is minimal, mainly confined to mission briefing and status reports, but it is all good stuff and quite convincing. I’m definitely ready for some “heavy metal” music and some lively com-link chatter to spice things up for the next installment.
With only 34 missions Silent Line is just over half the size of AC3 – not exactly a huge game but within the realms of expansion packs, this is a substantial offering. Combine that with 21 battle maps, 41 opponents, and the very fun and very challenging multiplayer modes and you will be playing this game just as long as any AC game before it. Plan on losing 20 hours of your life to this title – more if you enjoy tinkering with your mech and playing with the billions of configuration options.
Despite all these incremental improvements and new features not much has changed with the AC series. Silent Line: Armored Core looks and plays nearly the same as it did three years and two versions ago. It looks like as long as the gaming community is content to keep playing these minor “expansions” From Software will never find the motivation to truly take the franchise to the next level.
Even so, I have no real complaints or criticisms with Silent Line. The game is just as fun as anything before it and while I can wish all day long for something better, if we are to have “more of the same” at least we’re getting more of a good thing.