Front Mission Evolved Playtest – The Wanzer Marathon

By Spencer . September 30, 2010 . 7:50pm

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In an attempt to bring the Front Mission brand to the masses, Square Enix hired Double Helix to make a third person mecha shooter with Wanzers. While Front Mission Evolved is set in the same universe, this game barely takes advantage of the series’ mythology. The war sparked by an orbital elevator attack on USN soil is just a cursory pretext to blow stuff up.

 

Speaking of explosions, water makes Wanzers spontaneously explode. I didn’t expect my Wanzer to swim when I accidentally skated (Front Mission Evolved’s term for boosting) off a cliff, but as soon as it touched the water it blew up. Baffled by this phenomenon, I tried walking out of bounds in other areas to see what would happen and when invisible walls didn’t stop me, a self destructing Wanzer did. Trees explode into a falling leaves when a Wanzer walks on them, but buildings for some reason are indestructible. This makes levels more like mazes where you’re skating from one cover point to the next.

 

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Double Helix tried to include the idea of targeting different Wanzer parts in Front Mission Evolved. You can aim for an enemy Wanzer’s legs and slow the machine down if you damage that particular part. However, when a brawler Wanzer (the kind of Wanzer that dashes to you carrying a giant pipe) is speeding towards you why would you target its arms to lower accuracy when you can shoot the core and simply destroy it? Tactics aren’t necessary when shooting homing rockets while skating towards an enemy to land an iron knuckle punch to the torso is an effective strategy. Skating increases the amount of damage melee attacks do, kind of like a charge punch. Using skating melee attacks after activating E.D.G.E., a defensive system that slows time for everyone except Dylan, is a great way to take out a group of Wanzers. The E.D.G.E. meter fills up when Dylan destroys enemy units. Later on, I found the double shoulder rocket launcher plus a bazooka a better combination since ammo packs are so plentiful. Holding L1 + R1 to lock on and skating in a circle to avoid damage worked for most missions.

 

Even bosses.

 

One encounter with Apollo’s Chariot, a mercenary group that blew up the building Dylan’s father was in, pits you versus two heavily armed Wanzers. Marcus fires volleys of missiles while Gloria charges at the player smacking specific parts with a rod to debilitate your combat performance. Every attack, homing rockets, machine gun fire, even a punch to the face barely scratches the enemies. I thought, at first, this was one of those Square Enix story fights that I had to lose to move the story forward. Expecting Captain Russell to dash in and save me, I stood still and let the mercenaries beat up my Wanzer until a screen popped up asking me to retry the mission.

 

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I resorted to my homing missile / figure eight skating technique in round two. The rockets didn’t do any more damage than before. There were no weak points to discover or a more effective technique. I won because I sat through the fight, chipping away at each Wanzer and grabbing respawning health packs to repair damage. The boss fight was like a marathon… that doesn’t allow running. Eventually, you get to the finish line, but it takes a mind-numbingly long time.

 

Boss battles are also when players will realize how useless battle skills are. Special attacks like Shrapnel Shot, an attack that makes rockets deal extra damage, and the EMP blast which disables nearby enemies activate at random. Sure, you can spend time selecting the best skills, but since you can’t count skills when you need them the most they’re useless. Customization feels shallow too. Once you decide how you’re going to fight all you need to do is keep upgrading parts. Double Helix also included pre-built Wanzers such that are just as effective.

 

Dylan has to fight on foot in some missions. In these scenes Front Mission Evolved turns into your basic cover shooter. You go into battle armed with a type of gun, grenades, and a rocket launcher. There are some man versus machine (helicopters and Wanzers) fights, but most of these areas just have Dylan shooting his way through plain old troops. Since on foot missions aren’t the main focus, Double Helix didn’t do much to develop this part of Front Mission Evolved so players have to march through bland corridors. The other break from Wanzer on Wanzer combat are on-rails sections where you sit in a plane firing two chainguns.

 

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The story takes around ten hours to skate through. After that, you can return to levels in search of microscopic beacons to shoot and online play. Front Mission Evolved has four modes: deathmatch, team deathmatch, domination (defend an area with the on-rails turrets), and supremacy (the most interesting of the bunch where you fight to control a random spot on the map). Front Mission Evolved, perhaps inspired by the Call of Duty games, has a system where players earn experience. The more you play, the more parts and weapons you get access to. For people really into the multiplayer mode, Front Mission Evolved has a reincarnation option where you can reset your online rank after level 70 and keep all of your weapons. Do this and your reward is… a special emblem. With only a few maps to play with, over and over again, I wonder how long of a marathon that task will be compared to the boss fights.


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  • joesz

    you don’t seem to be happy with the game, spensa!

  • Tom_Phoenix

    On one hand, I would love to try this game simply beacuse it is a mecha game coming for the PC. I love it when Japanese companies support the PC platform, so I want to support their efforts.That said, everything I have heard so far about the game indicates it’s either bad or mediocre. I was originally going to get this as soon as I get a new PC. Now, however, I am not so sure.

    By the way, I have a question. How fast-paced is the combat?

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      Fairly fast since you can skate and rush enemies. Wanzers can’t take too much damage so you shoot through them quickly.

      • Tom_Phoenix

        In that case, there might be some hope for good multiplayer. Thank you for the answer.

        • http://www.frontmission.info/ LegaiaRules

          Multiplayer is the more polished of the two game modes and it’s got more lasting power than the underdeveloped single player campaign. It’s certainly worth checking out in any case if you’re a fan of mecha.

  • Kibbitz

    With regard to skills not being useful when they’re most needed, do you mean that you just felt that the rate of them firing off is too low? Considering the skill system in FM, the rate of triggering isn’t helped by the fact you’re only piloting your unit, as opposed to commanding a full squad or more.

    Also, when you say customization is shallow, could you explain a bit more? IIRC, in standard FM, your part variations are mostly design, armour/HP, and for the leg sections, movement speed and type. While it wasn’t completely without variation, it didn’t seem deep to me either.

    • http://www.siliconera.com Spencer

      The rate of firing is too low. Also, you don’t really need them for regular fights. Enemy wanzers are easy enough to defeat with the lock on and skate in circles strategy.

      With respect to customization, you can change your arms (left/right), torso (power for equipping weapons/armor), legs (movement), and backpack. Instead of having pros/cons per part, you just buy the best equipment you can afford. The backpack is where there are differences – like do you want to have more power to carry a heavier weapon load, repair unit, or a jump/hover ability.

      • Kibbitz

        Thanks for the info. It sounds even more disappointing now than my initial read of your review.

        • idofgrahf

          to be fair, there are some differences between say a Zhyper 5 and a Zenith 5, usually your mobility and armor, and of course quad legs and hover have differences too. But, some parts are clearly superior than others even on the same grade level. The same goes for weapons, some have variations but some weapons are clearly better (IE Gatling guns over rockets or missiles) on the same grade level.

          As for battle skills, I beat the game with absolutely no battle skills equipped, even on bosses, its a waste of time. Most enemies go down in a few seconds. They are no were near as crucial as they were in previous FM non spin off games.

  • kupomogli

    Even though it seems the game wasn’t enjoyed I still want to check it out. Hopefully it hits $20 as fast as Front Mission 4 did. If it sucks we still have Armored Core 5 to look forward to.

  • http://gameplay.pl/keii Keiician

    Got it and completed it. The game is sadly medicore at best.

    • http://tristsantithesis.tumblr.com/ Tsunayoshi Sawada

      Wow that kind of confirms my initial fears with the game. Was there nothing redeeming or enjoyable about it at all?

      • http://gameplay.pl/keii Keiician

        I’m not saying it was bad, more like “bland”. The one aspect that really sucked was the story, haven’t seen such bad screenwriting for a long time.
        Gameplay is enjoyable, but basic enemies are really easy and bosses are best defeated by the hit and run strategy. Overally, I think Armored Core games are better.

  • Hraesvelgr

    I don’t think I’d say the on foot missions are like your basic cover shooter, only because they didn’t put any sort of cover system in the game, despite putting so many spots for cover in it.

    Also, the game really is stupidly easy. I will admit that the series has never been particularly challenging, but this game really takes the cake… except for the bosses, which can sometimes put you down with one lucky shot.

    Another issue is wanzer customization. It’s nice that they have a fair amount of wanzer parts and different types of “builds”, but there is, quite frankly, no point in using anything other than the most powerful/highest armored wanzer parts with as many missiles you can carry. Using the lightly armored wanzer parts for extra speed seems to serve no real purpose or advantage, which is rather disappointing.

    Overall, I’d say it’s an okay rental if you’re a fan of the series, but probably not really worth it otherwise.

  • idofgrahf

    My main grip with the game was the story, whomever wrote that story should be shot. Other than that, the AC like gameplay is okay, certainly not an improvement over FM5 but entertaining enough is short bursts.

    • http://www.frontmission.info/ LegaiaRules

      That would be Motomu Toriyama, the lead writer of FFXIII and other games he worked on. SE head management chose him over the far more talented (and proven – they’re book/film/TV writers rather than your ordinary game writer) writing team in charge of FM. It’s a real embarrassment considering the series hasn’t failed to deliver the goods up until Evolved.

      Oh well, at least there’s FM Dog Life & Dog Style 06 for anyone who wants a real story that’s worth reading through. :)

  • rainfire2010

    wasnt front mission a tactical rpg before and they branched to this?

    never played a front mission game so i dont know but i wanted to play this but it sounds like it didnt make the cut

    • http://www.frontmission.info/ LegaiaRules

      Yes, Front Mission started off and has been primarily known as a turn-based strategy (TBS) series. However, it’s equally well known for experimenting and embracing change – there’s been three other genre spin-offs prior to Front Mission Evolved. Front Mission Alternative (real-time strategy/RTS), Gun Hazard (side-scrolling shooter), and Online (MMO third-person shooter/TPS). Evolved is the fourth genre spin-off and the second one under the TPS genre.

      • rainfire2010

        is it worth buying and playing?

        • http://www.frontmission.info/ LegaiaRules

          I’d probably recommend a rental first. It is playable enough for that, at least. If you’ve played any arcade-styled mecha games like Slave Zero, Phantom Crash, or SLAI, you might find this enjoyable because it’s essentially a spiritual successor to those games.

  • kirishima_industry

    Most Japanese users still suffer from the shitty glitches on the online mode. (There are so many terrible glitches on the offline mode, too. But this one is a more serious problem than it.) It’s almost impossible to play it as a normal game.

    SE and Double Helix really suck. It looks like they abandon their responsibilities for their customers and refuse to release a patch.

  • http://twitter.com/Retsuneko Laura

    This is not Front Mission, is Armored core! ;_;

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1472407455 Charles Lupula

    After the mess that was Silent Hill: Homecoming, I am not surprised, at all, that this is not a great game. Double Helix are an awful developer and I can only imagine what great franchise they’ll be allowed to defile next.

  • Code

    Gave it a shot, and now I understand why when Double Helix comes up, people just sort of get a tired expression and sigh. I wanted a slower mech game then armored core without so much redundant boosting, and hopping/flying up and down (turns my stomach can’t play it), and I for the most part I got that much at least, if only that. Story mode I figured I’d write off, it looked like it was going to be bad, no surprises when it was, at least the way characters eyebrows moved amused me for a little while, particularly Godwin, I don’t think I’ve laughed so hard at a character’s facial expressions as I did whenever he was around.Unfortunately Double Helix skimped on Multiplayer the one reason I was considering it. Five stages and they apparently believe customization involves asking if I wanna use Sniper Rifle A, or Sniper Rifle B when I reach level 57, they forgot the customization in my customization. Also there is just something absolutely bizarre about how the game registers hits, I initially noticed how long it was taking to destroy enemy wanzers online sometimes well strafing back and forth up close, you’d be clearly getting hits in but it just didn’t feel like anything was registering. so I tested this in single player, without going into aim mode, it took 15 shots to kill something that takes 1 hit to kill, in aim mode it took 1 shot, every weapon just seems to have bizarre quarks like that, other then Rockets, which kind of trumps everything any ways (ggrrr balancing 2 sets of like 6 weapons shouldn’t be hard Double Helix omo’). Also ranking system online has a terrible curve early on since the higher rank you have better parts with more HP, thus making high ranked players nearly unstoppable for low ranked. Seriously though if they are planning DLC to add more stages/weapons/parts it better be free, they owe people that much. Any way ginormous let down, Double Helix I’m putting you on notice.

  • Exand

    FME has a nice concept behind it, but the technical aspects and execution for the game are poor. Pinning it on the developer seems hateful, but after seeing Silent Hill Homecoming and Front Mission Evolved, I hope they never get to touch another established franchise again. They need to sort out what they’re doing before ruining a series by dropping a very sub par game like FME.

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