True to its box art depiction, the Wanzers are indeed the celebrated stars in Front Mission Evolved, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg in this 5-act story. The spin from intensive mech shooter to the unexpected cover-based third person shooter is already dizzying enough; but when baffling cut-scenes are interspersed through intermittent game types. I’m telling you, it is quite confounding!
More astonishing revelations awaits; but first, you have to customize the huge machines of war (Wanzers) to your heart’s desire using multiple types of legs, chest, arms and backpack pieces; after which, you can then equip your handiwork with weapons in multiple slots – both arms with one weapon each and a choice of rocket launchers on each of the Wanzer’s shoulders. I personally find creating oversized versions of close range weapons like machine guns, shotguns and the astounding melee weapons, extremely interesting. As you can guess, once the customized war machine is dropped to the battle arena, you can easily control it with your thumb sticks – whether to move, aim the various weapons of destruction fastened to it or strafe the place to the ground. Compared to the scrimmages that other mecha titles portray, the one noticeable major change the Front Mission Evolved brings is the ability to “speed-skim” (much like skating) through all sides and areas of the surroundings by simply activating jets found right at the bottom of the mech and the player can just slither all over the place with amplified velocity.
These two abilities come very handy during numerous missions, whether in Boss Battles or linear endurance encounters in check points. I find the check point part kind of tedious with its two conditions for accomplishing the mission; you either defeat all the enemies or reach the predestined checkpoint. Still, other players may find purchasing upgrades between missions to be a good incentive. Boss Battles are mainly a blend of slow motion “Edge Mode” and pattern recognition; but mostly compensated by superb shooting mechanics. Likewise, taking cover behind a refuge to shield you from enemy fire works remarkably well.
Beware of some oddities that still plague the on-foot portions of the game, though. If you don’t stay alert, you might not notice that the health meter can swiftly run down after a few strikes, and without any warning. Trust me, I’ve been there; I didn’t even know what hit me – it was such an unexpected cheap death!
I have to warn you, there’s not much to expect from the sound effects and graphics features of the Front Mission. Lighting is good and the colorful environments do deserve some merits. The geometrical details of the Wanzers are astounding; I’m especially impressed with how the damaged sections gradually become discernible while health diminishes. However, no amount of customization can change the low resolution textures. One of my mates even tried different ways to customize the Wanzer’s color hoping it would help, but to no avail. When he brought the Wanzer image up close, the texture discrepancy became terribly apparent.
Sadly, the audio/sound effects aren’t any better. Not much distinction between “heavy” and “light” firing; more like repetitious rounds really. Dialogues are sometimes inconsistent with the scenes and the same catchphrases are repeated several times over until the battles are won. Although the music is unremarkable as a whole, it does at least sync with the frenzied scenarios of war and destruction.
I’d say that overall Front Mission Evolved is middle ground game. As first entry to a series that has taken on a new route, it may be intriguing enough for players to go for it. There’s quite a number of gameplays to be had in 4 to 5 chapters, which should last about 6 to 8 hours in medium setting; plus the 70 multiplayer ranks to scale up can also be challenging to a certain degree. It might not offer that much thrill to veteran action gamers, though; the negative issues and some graphical glitches may prevent this game from ever getting out of the rental category for many players.