Namco-Bandai kindly sent along a retail copy of Armored Core V for review, and the plan was to have an article ready on launch day; March 20, 2012. This installment in the anime-style giant robot (’mecha’) franchise is intended to have a much stronger emphasis in its online play than ever before, which has lead to an unfortunate problem: the servers are down at time of writing, and a proper review cannot be done until that is fixed. While that’s very unfortunate, I can at least offer some general impressions of the game; what portions do function are very promising.
Like most Armored Core titles, this one puts you in the role of a mercenary that owns a customizable war machine. You’re put into a cycle of taking on missions for money, then investing that in improving your ride with new parts and weapons. This mix of third-person shooter action and menu-driven customization has been present since the first game, and there’s no reason to tinker too hard with a winning formula. All of this is actually more complex than I make it sound, but it has historically been worth dealing with that to get to a great game underneath.
While you’re normally in a fairly fast-paced fight against other robots, tanks, helicopters, and so on, players are allowed to slow things down on their end. The game assumes you’re going with a mobile design more often than not, but nothing stops you from building a slower, heavily armored weapons platform and launching a series of recon drones to give you a basic idea of where enemies will be. This ability to rebuild to fit the mission or your preferences is a strong part of the fun in offline play, and what little one can glean about the online versus modes suggests it will be even more helpful there.
The scope of customization is simultaneously the most daunting and impressive thing here, as you have control over nearly every aspect of the design. By picking through a variety of parts, you can build something that is heavy and well armored, fast and lightly protected, or a middle ground between those extremes. Shotguns, missile launchers, energy blades, gatling guns, sniper rifles, huge cannons, and more are all available. You can even tinker with what kind of power generator, thruster engines, and targeting system are equipped, and it’s possible to spend hours designing something that is ’just right’ for you. Once you’re happy with the design, you can even give it a very detailed custom paint job and decals; all in the name of showing this is your war machine.