Hands-onArmored Core 2: Another Age

Read our impressions of the North American translation of Armored Core 2: Another Age.

We recently had the chance to play the upcoming online-capable Armored Core 2: Another Age, the latest version of From Software's combat-machine simulator. The story picks up five years after the events of Armored Core 2, as the Earth government and the rebelling Martian forces continue their struggle for supremacy as the reconstruction of postwar Mars begins. As a mercenary named Raven, your task is to sway the balance of power from the rebels and earn glory in arena combat against formidable human opponents.

Armored Core 2 is a 3D strategic combat game, where from a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective, you must shoot and chop your way through the enemy cores. The battles take place in a wide array of locations, against a multitude of different opponents. One of the strongest aspects of the series was the customization available--by using the editor and purchasing different interchangeable parts, you could conform your core to fit your individual style of play. One of the first titles to make use of the upcoming PS2 modem, Armored Core 2: Another Age allows networked players to compete in arena-style deathmatches, as well as head-to-head multiplayer missions, where credits and bragging rights are at stake. Versus missions can take place over i-linked PlayStation 2s and on a split-screen so those without the network adapter can also participate. One-hundred single-player missions are also available, the most of any Armored Core title so far.

Modem play is achieved through a direct-dialing procedure, and it currently doesn't appear to allow players to meet in a lobby or chat room. The versus missions we were able to play were intriguing, and they scaled nicely for competitive play. For example, one mission placed the attacking player in a lightweight core assisted by several other lightweight cores, on an assault mission against the second player. The second player was equipped with a stronger core to combat the greater numbers. The winning side was rewarded with a number of credits scaled accordingly to the challenge, while the losing side was forced to pay the costs of repair and depleted ammunition. Deathmatches took place on a number of new maps, including aircraft carriers and space stations, each with a distinct flavor, offering either destructible terrain, moving platforms, or similar hazards.

Players who found the customization aspects of Armored Core 2 enticing will be pleased to tinker with the abundance of new parts and accessories. There are dozens of different pieces and new color combinations to experiment with, allowing for an estimated 10 billion unique core configurations. For further tweaking, the emblem design feature has been changed to now allow 128x128 pixel images, twice the size of those in previous versions. Players can also import their data from AC2 to utilize their previous cores and begin the new missions with a greater amount of credits.

Graphically, Armored Core 2: Another Age is as impressive as its previous incarnation. The cores animate fluidly and properly convey the fully articulated parts. Your onscreen heads-up display is sleek and fully customizable, allowing you to instantly perceive battlefield information such as opposing core heat levels and an up-to-the-minute battle summary.

As we get to learn more about Armored Core 2: Another Age, we'll be sure to bring you the latest in the form of previews, new screenshots, and movies.

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