Sunday, October 31, 2010

Front Mission Evolved on PS3 Impression

A new direction for Front Mission with Evolved

The Front Mission franchise is one of Square Enix hidden gems. This is not due to limited exposure but rather the genre it falls under. Strategy role-playing games (S-RPG) require hours of dedication, customization of characters/vehicles and the replaying of battles lost due to slight miscalculations. Time intensive and detailed is what Front Mission is all about. The mech (Wanzer) based franchise has always been solid so when a third-person action game was announced fans of the franchise and gamers in general were left to wonder ‘what’s up’? The answer is Front Mission Evolved. Taking a franchise out of its comfort zone is risky (ask Mortal Kombat and Tekken) so the question is will Square Enix benefit from moving out of the S-RPG arena and into third-person action? Let’s take a look.

Gameplay – The future, corporate and political strife, battle with giant mechs called Wanzers, mucho customization. Welcome to Front Mission Evolved where gamers take control of a Wanzer (mech) in third-person view and fight their way from objective to objective and checkpoint to checkpoint. The story, characters and settings just serve as window dressing for what’s a deep Wanzer customization exercise, something fans of the franchise in its original format will be very familiar with. The series moves into a very, very Armored Core direction with core multiplayer components in place. The Wanzers feel too slow and heavy at times and while there are boost abilities the initial experience can be a bit draining. Customization takes to a new level for the franchise as gamers have control over the weapons they equip in battles and can feel the pleasure of a well placed shot or blunt trauma beatdown. There are also on foot segments that … well let’s not talk about those, why get out of a powerful Wanzer.

Graphics – The stars of the show; the Wanzers. These mechs look great, detailed and can be customized to no end. Sadly this is the shining graphic achievement in Front Mission Evolved as the environments are bland and fairly standard destroyed city/base/land settings while the characters are generic and not very eye catching. Wanzers great, customization great, everything else so-so.

Sound – Lots of things blowing up but good. The soundtrack blends into the background without much fanfare while the weapons, Wanzer and overall destructive sounds take center stage and do a good job along the way. The voice work is overacted at times but fits the overly political meets personal story. Listen, Front Mission is all about customization and action and the sound delivers what’s needed on this front.

Design – Taking a solid S-RPG and moving it into a very Armored Core format works and it feels much like Armored Core. The amount of customization and Wanzer design is great and should please series fans but the ‘first-stab’ at a detailed third-person environment falls flat. Nothing really grabs the gamer as outstanding in the overall design.

Miscellaneous – Titles like Mortal Kombat and Tekken have tried to move outside their normal genre and failed but Square Enix seems to have found a nice middle ground with Front Mission Evolved. The move works and while not spectacular this is a good first offering in a lacking genre (mech genre folks, mech)

Overall Front Mission Evolved is not a bad game by any stretch. It’s the first romp into a new format for an established franchise that works fairly well. The Wanzer’s controls are tight, mechs look good and are very deeply customizable but the story, characters and environments are bland and need work. A good first effort that should not turn off franchise fans but will turn off S-RPG fans for obvious reasons. In a deep holiday seasons there are limits on mech action which is good for Front Mission Evolved, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

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