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Armored Core: Nine Breaker
Score: 80%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Agetec
Developer: From Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2 (2 - 4 Network)
Genre: Arcade/ Simulation/ Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Armored Core is back, with Armored Core: Nine Breaker. The graphics have a nice amount of realism to them, and have a familiar appearance to those familiar with various types of mech-related science fiction. A lot of detail is invested not only in the appearance of the armored core parts, but their different stats. Selecting different parts to outfit your armored core is made a bit easier by color coding on stats while in the garage; if a stat is blue, it is an improvement over your currently selected part and if it is red, it is not as good as your currently chosen part.

In addition to selecting your parts, you can select the color of your armored core (part by part, not just as a whole) and your weapons. You can even create your own emblem to adorn your armored core: use an existing one, edit an existing one or make one from scratch. If you have a USB mouse, you can hook it up to your PS2 to make your emblem editing a lot easier and quicker.

The UI feels similar to previous Armored Core games, and maintains the same style throughout all of the menu systems. The customization opportunities doesn't stop with the selection of armored core parts and weaponry, either, but extend to the heads up display when you're actually playing the game. You can change the color of the HUD and select which items you want to display and which ones you don't.

Armored Core: Nine Breaker is an Armored Core that is really pointed at the existing Armored Core gamers, with quite a bit of challenging gameplay that makes some pretty decent demands of your skills. The storyline basically states this - you've been watched and been observed to have great skills, so you get to participate in the special Nine Breaker arena/training. The competition's pretty tough, so you'll need to be good - or be ready to practice and tweak a lot.

One interesting twist in Armored Core: Nine Breaker is that you don't have to purchase your parts. You can waltz into the garage screen and outfit your armored core with whatever you feel like... so long as you don't exceed your weight limit. In previous games, you had to earn money to buy these parts and then spend them carefully to ensure that you could equip your armored core for the tasks ahead of you. Now, you can pick and choose and switch and tweak all you like - which is good, as you'll want to tailor your outfitting to whatever task you might be embarking on next. To make this easier, Nine Breaker allows you to outfit three armored cores in the garage and switch between them, if you like, before starting your next mission.

Hmm... to put it bluntly, Armored Core: Nine Breaker is difficult. Very difficult. The game's storyline assumes that you're the best in the business, and the challenges start about there and work their way up. The early challenges in the training area can be described simply enough - shoot all of these targets within a certain time limit, that sort of thing. However, that time limit's not very long, and the targets may take a couple of hits - and they never seem to sit still and just let you shoot 'em.

The AI is also as good as it's ever been in an Armored Core game, possibly better than ever before. This is less evident when in an open area fighting against an opponent that just sort of strafes you and unloads heavy weaponry on you, but in some of the enclosed arenas and training areas, they're a bit craftier.

The best advice I can give for those having some difficulty would be to practice, practice, practice. Also - if you're playing in the arena, choose your opponents wisely; matches against some opponents will actually have a positive amount of points awarded whether you win OR lose. If you're going to lose, you may as well get some credit while doing it.

Game Mechanics:
Armored Core: Nine Breaker is a game designed to give Armored Core gamers a challenge. To this end, it is not as accessible to gamers new to the series. However, the removal of the requirement to spend lots of time to earn enough cash to upgrade your armored core allows gamers to try out parts with a lot less of a time investment, so this offsets this a bit.

The controls in Nine Breaker will be familiar to those familiar with the Armored Core series. The complexity of playing is increased by the ability to have a reserve weapons on the right and on the left, but the ability to drop your primary weapons and grab your reserve weapons offers a bit of aid in longer engagements, as well as a bit of variety in weapon type, that may be greatly appreciated at certain times in the field.

If you're a fan of the Armored Core series and happen to have a Armored Core: Nexus saved game, you can use Nine Breaker's Convert option to convert your saved game over for use with Nine Breaker.

Nine Breaker is a thinking-man's Armored Core - you'll need to refine your skills and hone your strategies to advance and progress. The difficulty level here makes Armored Core: Nine Breaker a less than perfect choice for those wanting to try out the series, but a must-have for fans of the series who are looking for some new challenges.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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