Square Enix has always been known for its RPG’s, but to some gamers and critics, some of their other critics have seemed to be red-headed stepchildren. Part of that could be because some of them unfortunately remain on Japanese shores. A good example of this has been the critically acclaimed Front Mission series. Hailed for its storyline and gameplay, this series has enjoyed success in Japan while languishing in relative obscurity in America (save 2000’s Front Mission 3 on the Playstation). Fortunately, this is going to be remedied this summer as Front Mission 4 is released on the PS2 over here.
Set in 2096, the world’s countries have become splintered into numerous consolidated factions. For instance, the European Union as we currently know it has evolved into the European Community, while all of North and South America has merged together to form the Unified Continental States. The borders and infrastructures of these factions are patrolled and protected by wanzers, large mechanized robots piloted by skilled soldiers. Front Mission 4 centers around two such warriors in separate sections of this splintered world: Elsa is a French wanzer pilot who’s just been recruited to join an EC unit known as the Durandal. The Durandal are a research and test unit of the latest wanzers on the market who are quickly scrambled to active duty after a base is destroyed in Germany. The other character is Darril, a UCS soldier in Venezuela tasked with border patrol. When Darril and his squad stumbles upon a cache of smuggled gold from the rogue President, he and his friends decide to steal the money and make a run for freedom.
Aside from choosing either character’s story to play through in our demo, we were able to check out an extensive demo, which ran us through the paces of controlling our massive war machines. This ran the gamut from instructing players on the basics of movement to essentials of evading and launching counterattacks. While these machines are quite large, they are rather agile and capable of very swift movement. In fact, astute (or foolhardy) field generals can try to outflank and destroy opponents from behind. These soldiers will also have to take additional factors into account, such as time of day cycles or weather patterns before launching an attack. For instance, nighttime attacks decrease the accuracy of weapons, while rain disrupts the effectiveness of sonar.
Sonar is important, as it will help your scout mechs provide ranges and accurate distances for your artillery carrying soldiers to provide suppression fire. Unlike the previous Front Mission game, the wanzers can perform “link attacks,” specialized strikes that let two or more fighters strike a target in succession for a massive amount of damage. If properly orchestrated, this can literally decimate even the toughest weapon on the field. Speaking of weapons, players will have the ability to pick and choose their armaments and equipment from a number of wanzer manufacturers, allowing gamers to make up specialized squads of their own liking. However, mech designers will have to be shrewd in their choice of offensive and defensive parts, as wanzers can be debilitated by having their arms blown off or their legs fused together in the heat of combat.
With a number of impressive in-game movies and beautiful CG cutscenes interspersed throughout the game, this game presents a very pretty version of a mech-dominated world. This is bolstered with an orchestral score and decent voice acting scattered throughout the game for dramatic effect. Plus, the number of customizable options and two separate storylines suggests quite a bit of replayability. Front Mission 4 should stomp its way into stores in the next two weeks. Check back soon for a full review!
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