Armored Core: Verdict Day PS3 review – Enduring mecha series remains proudly impenetrable
Pacific Rim, then. A reminder, as if we needed it, that massive stompy robots can be excellent fun. Armored Core: Verdict Day doesn’t have the threat of interdimensional monsters – or indeed, any of the film’s visual flair – but the intention here is similar: gather together the best mecha pilots in the world for a cataclysmic scrap.
In some respects the Armored Core series is a hulking, 200-foot mecha version of Gran Turismo: iterative, tinkery and always scanning for that next breakthrough to set the latest model apart. With Verdict Day it’s a push to get everyone competing online in team-based, multiplayer battles, while the story mode is scaled back to Astro Boy proportions. Any potential lack of players is solved by the optional addition of AI members to your team.
Just like From Software’s more notoriously cruel franchise, the presentation here is unrepentantly minimalist. If you’re new to Armoured Core, be prepared to spend considerable time stumbling through menus and jargon. Frustrating, when all you want to do is blow things up. When it all slots into place, Verdict Day is comfortable at what is does – tactical, specialised, highly-mobile combat – if even if you’re initially not.
Going online to face the ultra-pimped ACs of the hardcore community might understandably give some the collywobbles. Thankfully, there’s still the Kevlar comfort blanket of the story mode to wrap yourself up in. This lets you try out your tooled-up machines in a series of sequential missions. If anything, this acts like a (much needed) extended tutorial for the uninitiated, and it’s here that you’ll get a sense of the rock-paper-scissors-plasma cannon logic of the game. Facing off against a direct mech aiming to close and initiate melee combat? Choose the epic sniper cannon and annihilate them before they reach you. Fighting a flimsy glass cannon-type? Get in close and go full Jaeger by slicing them with a laser sword. It’s perhaps not enough on its own, instead feeling like last-minute prep for the persistent, faction based online battles; the mechanically-reclaimed pork product in Verdict Day’s sandwich.
Unleashing mechanised hell can
be a thunderous rush, even if the
flaccid explosions & pancake-flat
textures are deeply average
Unleashing mechanised hell can be a thunderous rush. You’ll get a satisfying incendiary thrill from belching rockets across the battlefield, even if the visuals – particularly the flaccid explosions and the pancake-flat textures – are deeply average. There’s a huge disparity between weapons, and the volume of options is staggering: you can sacrifice firepower in favour of defensive dohickeys, or mobility in favour of increased carrying capacity. This makes customising your machines daunting if you’re new and invigorating if you’re not.
Is all of this enough? Almost. For anyone already ingrained in the series, the opportunity to build your own team and take them online will be irresistible. But truthfully, for the uninitiated, there simply isn’t enough here to satisfy those of us desensitised by the bombast of bigger budget western games. Deliberately low on story but high on detail, Verdict Day is one for the (armored) hardcore.