A heavy amount of giant-robot customization and unwieldy controls have been the trademarks of the Armored Core series for the past few years, and the pattern continues with the latest game in the series, Silent Line: Armored Core. It's unfortunate, because the game does a reasonable job of encouraging you to build specialized mechs to compensate for the sheer variety and difficulty of the missions it features, which range from all-out assaults to escort and seek-and-destroy missions. But the archaic controls are certainly a problem, not necessarily because they're difficult to use, but rather because they're slow and unresponsive.
Like previous games in the Armored Core series, Silent Line takes place in a somewhat dystopian future where huge corporations are battling to gain control of land. You assume the role of a mercenary armored-core (mech) pilot who will take any job, regardless of the corporations involved. The storyline in Silent Line progresses as you complete missions, and you'll also be rewarded with money along the way that can be used to buy additional parts or support units for your armored core. It's also possible to earn extra money by competing in the arena against other armored-core pilots. However, there are various things that will take a toll on your income, including upgrades, repairs, and the acquisition of jets, tanks, and other mechs that will assault enemy targets during a mission.
In any case, the main focus of the game is armored-core customization, which is absolutely crucial for gaining an optimal amount of money and sometimes even just for successfully completing a mission. The first armored core you have access to is rather slow and weak. It can handle the first several missions with few problems, but because it's so slow, it tends to absorb more damage than a faster giant robot would, resulting in a greater loss of money at the end of each mission. To get a faster armored core right away, you can change to a lighter pair of legs or even something with a little more rocket boost, but that's just the beginning. You can also change its head, torso, arms, secondary items, and weapons, and since there are plenty of different parts to choose from, it's easy to create mechs that are specialized for certain situations. Your creation can be tested by either taking on other armored cores in versus battles or taking it through a series of tests that will push its maneuverability and targeting skills. You can also import your save data from Armored Core 3.
But regardless of how well you customize your armored core, the game's controls are still lousy. For those who haven't played previous games in the series, Silent Line uses control mechanics similar to those of Sega's Virtual On games. These mechanics would have worked fine if the game took place in nothing but open environments against a single opponent, but that's hardly a typical scenario in Silent Line, which frequently presents you with confined areas and several opponents onscreen at once. The problem is that the right analog stick can't be used to manipulate your view--instead, you have to rely on the shoulder buttons to aim up and down and use the left analog stick to control movement and targeting. Moreover, the boost and melee combat systems are simply not as responsive as they should be. It's a slow and clunky system that would have been fine for a game created in 1999, but having experienced similar games that use much better control schemes--even ones that still simulate the sensation of piloting a giant robot--makes Silent Line almost unbearable.
The same goes for Silent Line's graphics, which would also have been perfectly acceptable had the game been a PlayStation 2 launch title. The game's environments are all quite bland and generic, particularly the indoor levels, and while there is some secondary detail in a few of the environments--such as cars on a freeway--it's all pretty simplistic. The mech designs are fine, but again, they're not incredibly detailed, and they seem to be lacking in overall visual polish.
The soundtrack is one of Silent Line's redeeming features, and while some of it may seem a little overdramatic at times, the music does a pretty good job of setting the mood. The sound effects are all pretty standard for a game of this type, and the small amount of voice acting in the game is done reasonably well.
Being able to customize a mech in so many different ways is definitely the main attraction of Silent Line: Armored Core, but it's too bad that the controls are still so sloppy that they detract from the game--even to the extent of making some of the customization features almost pointless. Still, the bevy of versus modes will offer some entertainment, since the versus arenas make the problems with the control scheme a little less noticeable. If you're willing to overlook the clumsy controls and the dated look, then Silent Line might be worth your while, but otherwise, there are much better giant-robot games on the market.