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Game Name: Armored Core 3
Platform: Sony Playstation 2
Developer: From Software
Localizer: Agetec

The latest installment in the Armored Core Series, AC3 takes the mech-combat genre to a new level.

Although based on the same engine as its predecessors, Armored Core 2 (AC2) and Armored Core 2: Another Age (AC2:AA), it improves on them a lot. Some examples:

  • Graphics are improved, especially in the detail department. ACs finally look real, although in AC3, they sometimes tend to look smaller than they are (like toys), although the scaling is done superbly. Even in FMVs, AC's look outstanding.
  • A huge improvement has been made to the music. Although it is not great, it suits the story nicely.
  • The improvements to the sound make the weapons sound real, also. The bazooka sounds like it is firing a huge explosive slug.
  • As usual, there is an excessive assortment of parts to choose from. Some nice additions include Left Arm Weapons, Exceed Orbit weapons, and a huge-ass linear cannon.
  • PLUS, an old mode of cheating in AC, has been removed in favor of the OP-INTENSIFY part. In the old AC, PLUS would bestow upon the user certain abilities, like enhanced part performance, extra features, etc. OP-INTENSIFY does this, but instead of it being cheesy, it is balanced by making you beat the game to get it, and by making it an Optional Part, and because of this, it takes up all the Optional Part slots, making it impossible to use any other Optional Parts. This also allows you to turn it off, which was impossible in the earlier games.
  • Overweight AC's are no longer cheesy. In AC2, once you were allowed to get an overweight AC, you could put the fastest leg part on it, and it would perform like a lightweight even though it is loaded with cannons and heavy armor. In AC3, you are allowed to make an overweight AC, but you are penalized for it by reducing booster performance and speed, no matter which legs you have.
  • You are now allowed to drop parts. This is awesome, since it means that if a gun runs out of ammo, you can dump it and increase your AC's speed and booster efficiency. It also allows some cool strategies, such as making an overweight AC with a heavy weapon, firing a couple of shots of the heavy weapon, and then dumping it, thereby making your AC no longer overweight. Extensions and Inside parts are also dumpable.
  • Cores are now separated into two classes, but differently than in AC2. One class of core comes equipped with both Overboost (a really powerful booster that also uses a lot of energy) and a built in missile interceptor, and the other class of core has neither, but has Exceed Orbits, which are autonomous weapons you can release that recharge themselves.
  • You can also use a consort here. This is basically you paying some money for another unit or group of units to help you out in a mission. This will either be Helicopters, Fighter Planes, an MT, or an AC.

As usual with the Armored Core series, the story well, sucks. The story basically consists of this: The population of Earth is underground, and in this realm called Layered, an intelligent supercomputer called The Controller (or The One, in the Japanese version) controls the functions of people's daily lives. When it starts malfunctioning, the Corporations (Crest, Mirage, and Kisaragi) are the first ones to be hit hard by this. They fight it out with each other, and then eventually you have to assault The Controller. Armored Core 2's story was a lot cooler.

Game performance is great, and I experience none of the slowdown that happened in Armored Core 2, despite the improvements to detail. The interface is streamlined, too, which is nice. As usual, it is compatible with an iLink cable. The controls require a learning curve, but are very effective considering the nature of the game, and you get used to them quickly.

Characteristic of the AC series, optimizing your AC and picking the right part combinations is half the battle, so don't be surprised when you spend as much time in the garage as in the arena and in missions.

If you're looking for a hard-core mech combat game, AC3 delivers, and it delivers bigtime. I love this game, and can't wait for Armored Core 3: Silent Line.

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