Let me just start off by saying that I am a big robot fan, just about anything that involves robots big or small is cool to me, so when I first picked up a copy of Armored Core on the PS1 I fell in love with it. Being able to create and customize your own AC (what the mechs were called) to such detail, to me it was Gran Turismo for giant robots. You'd be lucky to get this close to an enemy in the original game Add a grapple function
Now this may seem like a big jump for AC fans (some AC purists might think I’m batshit crazy) but hear me out. Since I want the ‘new’ AC game to have more focus on close range combat it makes sense to add a the ability to grapple and throw the opponent, AC’s may also be able to disarm an opponent with the right parts.
To best illustrate this idea just picture this situation;
A one on one battle in the middle of a city, the fight so far has damaged half of the city pretty badly and you’re currently taking cover behind a rapidly deteriorating building pinned down by you’re enemy’s cannon fire. Your AC has been equipped with very strong boosters so you wait for your opponent to reload, then he does you see your chance and dash towards him and grab him. From here you can choose to throw him into the ground leaving him vulnerable to attack, throw him into the nearest building which if it’s damaged enough may collapse on top of him, but since you have specially powerful boosters you turn on your overboost function while still holding on to your opponent. While overboosting while holding your opponent you can throw him extra far, slam him directly into a building or drag him along the ground (or building side) for continuous damage. You have to be quick to do make these choices though, as the opponent, when grappled, is able to hit the boost repeatedly button to try and break away from the grapple or alternatively hit the grapple button at the right time to counter and reverse certain moves. And keep in mind just as you can turn on overboost while grappled, he can do the same to turn the tables, and if you both have overboost on you both can steer your both fight to direct the other into obstacle of the ground.
Now for such a system to work AC parts would need a statistic to add to their current stats of Armor, Weight etc, this stat would be ‘Strength’, it would apply to arms and legs mostly and would determine the physical strength of that part for grappling purposes; the higher the Strength stat of an AC, the better chance it has of escaping grapples and countering.
Like I said this seems like a big change, and it is, but I think this in-your-face approach to the series would be a big improvement.
Okay here is one of the AC’s big problems in my eyes, the controls. I have three main changes to suggest.
Fix the movement controls
This is a problem area and playing AC4 on the 360 has made it so much ore obvious. The controls are just plain awkward, trying to boost, circle-strafe and shoot at the same time requires you to have a thumb on each stick, a finger on the trigger to boost, and a thumb on a face button to shoot. “Wait, what? But I don’t have three thumbs!” I hear you say, well that’s exactly the problem. In AC4 I tweaked my controls to set shooting to the LB and RB nudge buttons, I can turn and shoot at the same time now but I have to hold my controller in an awkward claw position to have fingers on both the triggers and nudge buttons. No sir, I don’t like it. So I suggest that we re-bind the quick dash button.
In the current AC4 game you hold one trigger to boost and press the other trigger for a quick dash in the direction. Freeing up one of these triggers to fire would make things a lot easier for players, and since you don’t need the use of the right stick to direct where you dash it that function could easily be set to the A (or X for sony folk) button.
Revamp the targeting system (again)
Targeting in AC4 is shit. There, I said it. There was no guide to what you were aiming at, the system would just pick targets for you and it was a mess.
This may sound odd but I really dug the old targeting system mechanic of the AC games before 4, you were given a reticule on the screen that represented your target range and whatever was in that square could be shot, I’d like to maybe return to that mechanic with the focus on targeting being on who was closest to the center of the reticule.
Whether that system would work or not I don’t know but targeting definitely needs to be more direct and flexible enough for everyone to enjoy and not be completely lost with.
General gameplay changes Add a stronger focus to arena battles
Now the focus in AC games on arena battles goes up and down but I have always loved the concept of building a custom AC and going at it one-on-one with another pilot, and if the pilot is a real person with their own custom AC then all the better.
Sadly the arena mode (especially in AC4) seems tacked on as an afterthought, this mode need more focus, maybe a proper ‘Tournament Mode’ with it’s own side story? With AC rare parts as tournament prizes and a survival option, ‘Tournament Mode’ could become one of the game’s features instead of just a small bonus mode. The game needs a real story
I understand the AC games have stories, but they are so poorly presented and badly voice-acted that you have no invested emotion in the game apart from how cool your AC looks. These games need a better story, one that is well presented through machinima and in game dialogue, I want to be able to care about the people I am fighting for or at least better understand what I am fighting for.
Add a proper physics engine
Since I want destructible environments then I really should just go the whole hog and insist on a proper physics engine be added too. Not much else needs to be said about this really, all the good games are doing it, it’s all about physics baby.
Make animations smoother
I know I am controlling a giant robot but do they have to move so awkwardly? If the animations were a bit smoother, maybe with a bit of anime styled movement exaggeration the AC’s would look a lot more impressive and deadly.
Replenishable Ammunition and weapon pickups
In past AC games, you start a mission with the weapons and ammo you are given and that’s it, if you run out you’re stuck to using your beam sword for the rest of the mission. If there were ammo caches available and weapons you could pick up and drop on the fly then missions would be less of a pain.
I was excited as hell to play AC4 in multiplayer mode, unfortunately what was there was very stock standard; deathmatch and team deathmatch. What? Is that is?
With so many games involving multiplayer these days the AC series needs to make multiplayer that focuses on the fact that this is not like an ordinary FPS multiplayer match, AC’s multiplayer needs to stand out with modes that cater directly to the fact that you’re piloting giant custom-made machines of death.
Deathmatch needs to be held in huge environments with lots of opportunity for collateral damage such as a crowded city or the outer hull of a space station.
Also new game modes need to be added, deathmatch and team deathmatch are a start but how about objective based missions, online arena tournaments, assault and defend missions, co-op specific missions and survival modes.
One last point: FIX THE INTERFACE
My god! The interface is just so user-unfriendly and ugly, you’re meant to be in a society that can create stories-tall walking robots but nobody can create an efficient and attractive user-interface. Come on, it’s been well over 10 games now, it’s time to tighten up the UI.
Well there you have it, my opinions on how you could bring the Armored Core franchise out of the dark of B-rated games to A-grade title. Would it work? Hell if I know but to me these changes would work wonders for the series. Armored Core: For Answer, a step in the right direction?
As a closing note sometime this year we’ll be recieveing From Software’s expansion upon AC4 called 'Armored Core: For Answer', according to the info released it features giant bosses, giant maps, transforming AC’s and online campaign co-op. These changes were on my list but since it seems they beat me to the punch I’ll leave them be, lets hope that For Answer is a step in the right direction for the series and that the AC series can become a game that more than everybody, not just robot fanboys such as myself can love.