Armored Core: Nine Breaker is a catch-22 kind of game. If you're new to the series then you're going to be left out in the dark as there is nothing but the most basic of online assistance, and if you already know how to play the game, you've already played this one since it's not altogether different from Armored Core: Nexus. You can also forget about any online mode which would have been the game's best selling feature.

At its core, Armored Core is like a combination of Battle Bots and Mech Assault. You customize your own vehicular killing machine and pit it against over a hundred AI-controlled creations that range from tanks to jets to mechs. There are more than 400 parts that you can use to customize your Armored Core but keep in mind that you're entering sim territory. You can't just add anything and everything to your core and that's why a comprehensive tutorial is so important. At the very least the game could present some tips when it senses that the player is having trouble in a specific area.

You must take into consideration the weapon system you will use and the weight of various accessories. Weapons can be ranged or melee. Automatic lock-on targeting systems, lasers, bombs, grappling arms, jump jets, energy drain, movement and even the paint job are just a few of the options that are available to you. If this is your first experience with the game you will have to look forward to a lot of trial and error to see what does and doesn't work. You biggest mistake would be to think that you could start playing this game immediately. There is a steep learning curve which could have been virtually flattened out if there was something to aid beginners.

Novices will find nothing new here. It's the same old game. Sure there are some new parts, new enemies and new arenas but there's not really enough new content to create an expansion pack never mind a sequel. The split-screen mode is old news and certainly won't appease those that were expecting online modes.

There's a certain coldness to the gameplay that was hinted at in Nexus but seems to have come to fruition in Nine Breaker. The battles seem less organic and more mechanical. That's due to the AI programming which seems more calculated, showing less human characteristics. There seems to be less mistakes and randomness on the part of the AI, at the expense of moving and attacking in somewhat predictable patterns.

The graphics, sound effects and gameplay mechanics are all identical to Nexus. I can't even tell if any upgrades have been made to the graphics although I've been assured that some have been made - now I guess I have to go back and hunt for them.

The next game in the series will determine if what we're witnessing is actually the death of Armored Core or a pivotal shift in direction. Let's hope the next game isn't just a vehicle to add the online modes that we're all waiting for while giving us the same old gameplay three times in a row.

System: PS2
Dev: FromSoftware
Pub: Agetec
Release: Sept 2005
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Fenix