Armored Core 3 Silent Line (PS2) - Ollie Barder - 10/10

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Source: http://web.archive.org/web/20041104214314/http://www.gamestyle.net/playstation2.php?action=review&id=142

Armored Core 3 Silent Line [game information] Version Tested: NTSC Genre: Mech Publisher: From Software Developer: From Software

In 1999 Armored Core Master of Arena was released that, whilst a sequel, was a major paradigm shift within the mecha genre of gaming. To the uninitiated it may appear merely as a “honing” of a concept or concepts, but the melding of so many finely crafted elements made any such advancements more than the sum of their parts. This year it happened again.

Armored Core 3: Silent Line is the seventh game in the franchise. For the more cynical of you copious eye rolling is not to be unexpected. It is, however, utterly without valediction. Silent Line is an utterly superb game.

Set a few years after the events of the previous game, humanity has ventured up from beneath the ground and has re-settled upon the surface of a recovered Earth. With them has also come all their baggage, namely a bunch of cussed and childish corporations that insist upon repeating history until it kills them very dead. Alas, there is a lot more to all this. Anyone familiar with the older games will realise that humanity has a very long history, one that offers great technological treasures as well as terrors. Petty corporations aside, pretty much anyone that can control doomsday weapons will be in a position of power. Cue Silent Line.

Admittedly there are orbital weapons platforms in the game, but Silent Line is not one of these. Silent Line is a place, a very old place. A place where the creations of man should have been left very much alone. Well, you are a Raven and none of that really matters when you have a 20 metre tall death-spewing robot at your command.

Set over 34, surprisingly diverse, missions and with a good fair few Arena opponents too, it is a sizeable game. On the surface it may not appear all that big a game, or all that much of a progression from the last effort. Thing is Armored Core is about building robots, Silent Line now has an additional 200 parts for the player to toy with. That is practically double the amount the original game had; this alone is a huge addition. On top of this, most of these parts are hidden and/or have to be earned. Upon completion you will be merely 50% of your way through the game. There are vast swathes of parts to be unlocked, many through particularly technical and devious manners too. In short, you will be playing the game obsessively for a fair while.

Existing parts have also been balanced and older parts from previous games also make an appearance. Not to mention the tightening of the FCS lock-on, making it much harder to dodge the onslaught of enemy fire. Forcing you to fight rather than flee. This is a nice modification, especially when faced with rather cowardly opponents. However despite all this, the biggest and most important development of all is that of the game’s trainable AI function.

It works thus, you “copy” an AC design from your garage into your AI window. You then manually train this AI in the Arena by, simply, piloting it in matches. The AI watches, learns and then utilises the skills that you just relied upon. This isn’t plain “copying” either, thought goes into the tactics used. Attacking your AI opponent will only make you realise that those vertical missiles won’t work when the AI has deposited the missile decoys above itself. Nor will carefully aimed machine gun fire bring down your foe; after all it dodges your dynamic streams of death just like you do. In short, it is beauty in motion.

It does take time to train an AI though, but it does learn and in doing so it teaches you all sorts of nasty things you had barely contemplated. Admittedly the AI setup is rather cumbersome, in the fact that the AI’s AC modification cannot be undertaken in the same way as in the garage. The only way additions can be made to an AI design is by that of copying them from an AC in the garage, in doing so causing the AI to re-learn it’s tactics to the new configuration. Yet, the sheer quality that you can breed in an opponent almost negates this problem to a mere technical fault. Anyone should be able to see that this AI function practically makes the game’s lastability an almost infinite value. It is also the reason why anybody that values gaming should go out and buy this game as soon as feasibly possible. Lest you were to miss out upon its sentient juicy robotic goodness.

It is also worth making a note, no pun intended, of the game’s aural prowess. For one it superbly utilises Dolby Pro Logic II surround sound, a lifesaver in some situations (especially in trickier Arena encounters). Yet the game’s real crowning glory is that of the musical composition. On the one hand we have a regression to the past titles musical style, that of bopping beats, and on the other we have fantastically emotive orchestral opae that accent the plight within the mission structure of the game. Most certainly a game to get the score of.

Finally it is important to say that whilst Silent Line is a sequel, it is by no means necessary for the player to buy the original Armored Core 3. Admittedly you can copy across funds and parts from Armored Core 3 to Silent Line, which does make progression considerably easier, but you can comfortably survive without it.

In short, a system defining title and one definitely worth a purchase.

Game Score: 10/10 Reviewed By: Ollie Barder