Armored Core: Nexus represents the next installment of the Armored Core series. This makes 8 games published in this series in the US by AGETEC. The Armored Core series (referred to AC from here on) represents one of the most well liked robot combat games in the US. Armored Core: Nexus does not disappoint in the least, providing two disks of material for players to work with.
This is my impression after three hours of play of the game last night. It was supposed to just be sixty minutes, but I was so pulled in by the style and challenge this game offers that I failed to notice how much time had passed. The game promises 150+ missions according to the back of the box for the user to play through on two disks. Disk one is labeled Evolution and disk two is labeled Revolution. Evolution represents this version's storyline and primary source of missions and money. Revolution is a disk of remixed missions from all the previous AC games. It is not all of the missions, but about 70 of them, with the maps redone with the current graphical engine.
The biggest change in the game flow on Evolution is that even if you fail a mission, the game generates appropriate events. I had an opportunity to act as an agent for O.A.E (the corporate equivalent of the U.N., as far as I can tell) to help clear out the pathway to a mine that one corporation controlled and another insisted upon investigating. Due to my own lack of ability in either customizing my AC or piloting in a situation where there are sniper MT units around, I had my bolts blown back to the Raven's Ark three times on the mission. Each time I failed, the world changed and the balance between the corporations and O.A.E changed. Having only played three hours of the game at this point, I couldn't say how scripted this is, but the feel I get from it is that they've created a decent mission system to account for changes in the world. The game may play out completely different if I only played corporation missions and ignored the O.A.E requests.
Revolution, on the other hand, flows completely differently. The mission menu presents you with fifteen different chapters, each labeled with the name of the mission and game it is from. Each chapter has two to four missions based on the map it represents. For example, AC 1 has a destroy gun emplacement mission early on in its campaign. The Revolution disk has it, and has you destroying the guns on the island to capture it from Murakumo for the Chrome corporation. Once you have completed this task, you are rated, and some features are unlocked. The unlocked items could be items for your AC, or a poster, or music tracks and movies from the previous games. It also presents an "Extend" version of the map. In this case, you now have to protect the island from Murakumo's bombing attempt. The "Extend" version of the map is more difficult than the Remix map that you first completed.
The good news is that you use the same save file for both versions of the game, so if you find the Revolution disk too hard, you can go earn money in Evolution to upgrade and improve, then come back. From what I have seen, there are no money rewards in Revolution, but you can access the shop on the disk and buy stuff if you have money from the other game mode. The other good news is that this game is on two disks, and you can use either disk to play in link mode. Even better (though untested until this weekend), a friend can use the second disk to join you. This is helpful in lowering the cost of entry to the wonderful multiplayer mode of AC.
The graphics are really well done in any mode of AC: Nexus. The colors vary, from bright and clean to dark and murky. The colors and details all fit the environments they are placed on. There are some good environmental effects on some of the levels, with dust storms raging about, or heavy rainfalls blanketing a city. Not too much fogging is used to keep the view distance down, and they've gotten better at having aircraft and AC units fade in as they come in from off the map, rather than just popping up and suddenly appearing at the edge of the map. There are no huge graphical leaps over what players saw in AC3: Silent Line, but I don't think this hinders any of the development of the game.
The controls are a mixed bag. This is unfortunate as this version of AC was the first version to support the analog sticks on the PS2 controller. I attempted to use this mode for awhile, and found that I just wanted the standard controls back. The default analog controls use the left stick for move forward/backward and strafe left/right. The right stick is your look up/down and turn left/right. The right shoulder buttons become your fire button and switch weapon button, and the left shoulder buttons are your right arm fire and the jump jet activation. This isn't bad, but I just found I could not adapt to the new controls in the time I have played. I'll go back again and try it later as I play more, but for all my complaining about not having analog support, it doesn't help me much once I do have it. The basic controls work quite well, and you can even use the left stick for movement control, which works well. The basic control setup is the same one that has been in use since AC1.
The sound in the game is nothing overly special. For the most part, they are using the same background and mechanical sounds they have had since AC3 at least. The music is also pretty standard fare, with the techno themes and style they have used for some time. It all works together, and makes an acceptable soundscape without being annoying. It is nice that they included speech for the Revolution mission introductions.
Armored Core: Nexus makes for a good package for most players. For the people who have not played any of the games in the series up until this point, I would advise finding a copy of Armored Core 2 or 3 and play it first, as the difficulty in this one is not forgiving to anyone out of practice. If you liked any of the previous games, then this game should not disappoint. It provides what makes Armored Core so much fun, and that is the missions, storyline, and giant robots. This one is a no brainer for a rental, and is hard not to suggest as a purchase, even at 50 USD.