TGS 2005: Front Mission Online Hands-On

We check out a work-in-progress PC version of Square's online mech combat game.


Front Mission Online

TGS 2005: Traditionally, Square's Front Mission games are turn-based strategy affairs in which you get to pit your small squad of customized mechs against other mechs while progressing through a story with multiple endings. Front Mission Online, though, has very little in common with its predecessors, as we found out during a visit to Square's Tokyo Game Show booth earlier today.

As its title suggests, Front Mission Online is designed to be played against other players, but the level on show at Square's booth today was a single-player training mission. At the start of the level, we were controlling a mech pilot inside some kind of hangar, and if we had been able to understand Japanese there were clearly opportunities for us to converse with a number of non-player characters before climbing into our mech.

Once we got into the mech, we were transported to the battlefield, where our goal was simply to destroy as many training mechs as possible without getting blown up. The battlefield was devoid of any interesting features or landmarks, but we suspect that's simply because it was a training area. The mechs, on the other hand, were nicely detailed and boasted some excellent animation.

Although we were playing Front Mission Online on a PC, we were able to use a controller not dissimilar to the PS2's DualShock. The left analog stick was used to move our mech's legs, and the right stick was used to look around and swivel the mech's body around. It sounds simple enough, but it took a little getting used to because pushing up on the left stick would always move us in the direction that our mech's legs were pointing, as opposed to the direction that we were facing.

A radar in the corner of the screen made it easy for us to locate our enemies, and when we got within range we were able to attack them using a machine gun and, if we got up close, using our mech's fists. We were also able to access some kind of inventory menu that let us use repair kits and stuff on the fly, but since the majority of the text was in Japanese it wasn't easy to do so.

Our opponents on this occasion didn't appear to be particularly intelligent, but they took a long time to destroy, which made for some less-than-exciting gameplay. The online battles promise to be much more fast-paced and eventful, though, so it's unfortunate that we didn't get to try one.

We'll bring you more information on Front Mission Online as soon as it becomes available.

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