Front Mission Evolved Review

The name Front Mission takes me back to a glorious turn based RPG on the original PlayStation, made by the masters of the genre Square, it was one of the few games in the series to make it all the way to Europe. Since then we’ve seen a whole host of additions to the series, though not always in the traditional turn based mould. The newest version, and first on the Xbox 360, is a third-person shooter that seems to owe more to Western influences and games like Armoured Core, rather than any of its predecessors. I suppose the Evolved tag is rather appropriate then.

“Pummel your foes – robot style.”

Developed by Double Helix, whose last outing was the rather lacklustre G.I Joe, Front Mission Evolved tries to be true to the spirit of the series, but at the same time feels far too generic to truly shine. The main problem is that the game seems to have been cobbled together with a mix of the series’ back-story, recent third-person shooter conventions and a few bone crunching wanzers – which is the laughable name of the military hardware you will be stomping around in. Considering the highpoints of the series, Front Mission Evolved seems like a major letdown.

The story sees you take control of Dylan Ramsey, a test pilot that gets swept up into a global conflict when terrorists strike New York. The plot is convoluted at best and flatly ridiculous at worst. Suffice it to say that you can expect shifting allegiances, plot twists and an ending that will leave you with conflicting emotions of utter confusion and pure elation that the experience is over. Considering some of the gems that Square Enix have been responsible for over the years, this is the equivalent of Memento as made by Uwe Boll. With the plot being strung out over seventeen levels and the same stereotypical characters popping up time and again, you will struggle to find much to like. Even the lead character is annoying most of the time, which is not a characteristic you really want if you are stuck with him for six hours.

“The magic 8 ball speaks!.”

The gameplay is simplistic enough. You pilot a giant robot and proceed to pummel, shoot and destroy everything that wanders into your line of sight. The great thing is that you earn money from collectables, challenges and destruction that you can then use to buy better parts and weapons for your suit. You can attack enemies strategically too, blowing off legs to slow them down or arms to destroy their weapons, but frankly, it’s just as easy to blast things apart rather than mess around aiming. Armed with your standard array of firearms – from sniper rifles, machine guns and melee weapons, to rocket launchers and Gatling guns - you can arm up to four things at once assuming you have enough energy to power them all, and also apply battle skills to each of them for a variety of effects. Sadly, you only have about six different types of enemies to beat up on for the entire game, not including bosses which also tend to repeat themselves.

If running around bland environments in a wanzer was all there was to this game, then it would be in deep trouble, but wait, you can also run around bland environments on foot and shoot a bunch of repetitive enemies too. Gosh, they’re really mixing things up now! The on foot sections are even worse as your character seems to slide all over the floor and the enemy AI consists on them running head first towards you until one of you is dead. Assuming they’re not standing still ignoring you until you kill them that is. With a massive choice of three guns and some grenades in these sections, they soon become tiresome.

“Check out those wanzers. Yes, it sounds so wrong.”

Once the single player aspect has gotten old, and it will not take too long – trust me – you can head online for much more entertainment. Here you can choose from a standard set of mechs and take on the rest of the world. Perform well enough and you will earn experience so that you can customise and enhance your robot to further taunt your online rivals. There are standard deathmatches and their team equivalents too, but you can also play the Domination and Supremacy modes. These see you fighting over control of turrets to take over the map and can provide some frenetic fun. In fact, the multiplayer offering is far more approachable than the single player, and offers up much more in the way of entertainment. It reminded me a lot of the classic Mech Assualt games on the original Xbox, which were also a blast online. If only the community here was not so small – with only a few thousand players worldwide, and most of those having played only one match.

The achievements list is a fairly easy one, thankfully, and you can get most of the points in one playthrough – assuming you had the good fortune to find all of the collectables, which is doubtful without a guide as they are extremely well hidden at times. There are points to be had for using a specific wanzer, and maxing out one of the weapon abilities too, as well as picking up a whole lot of swag. Online, you will have to do well in all of the different game modes, but the real kicker will be getting to level 70 – you could probably spend twice as much time on this achievement alone as you did on the other 900 points combined.

It is hard to recommend an average third person shooter like Front Mission Evolved over other shining examples of the genre. The levels are short, linear and lacking in enough polish to make the fairly short campaign an enjoyable experience. The robots are undoubtedly the stars of the show and being able to customise your own rig to an extent is a fun experience, as is the fact you can blow countless foes to pieces. Still, the shine wears off fairly quickly and the tiresome story means you’ll be glad when the whole thing is over and done with. Me thinks it’s time for Front Mission to go back to its turn-based RPG roots – now that would be something we could all enjoy.

Laughable caricatures for the most part and they struggle with the cheesy script. The music is nothing to write home about either.

The robots look decent enough, but they only seem to come in a few varieties and the backdrops are straight from Generic Scenery 101 with little in the way of quality.

Easy to pick up and play, but nothing you’ve not seen before. Only tinkering with your mech provides any real diversion and even that is taken away from you depending on the level. Still, it is strangely satisfying to blast your foes into scrap metal.

An incomprehensible story, dated combat and simplistic multiplayer all add up to make a less than satisfying morsel.

Not a terrible list and one that has a solid balance of campaign tasks, collectables and online action. Getting to level 70 will be a total grind though.

Front Mission Evolved does offer some doses of fun, but the campaign is far too short with a story that is patchy at best. More entertainment can be found online, but even at the relatively close proximity to launch, the community is worryingly small. Perhaps a return to the familiar turn- based RPG roots would be for the best based on this fairly average offering.

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