The more some things change, the more they stay the same. That hackneyed statement is so true I once tried to rewrite it so it would mean something completely different but it ended up being more like the original than the original version. Go figure.

Armored Core 3 has been changed and it's closer to what I'm sure most players envisioned the first and second version of the game to be like. The Armored Core series has a following made up of those who braved the learning curve and stuck it out. The games are not easy to control and there really is no reason why they should be so difficult. The digital control scheme does not feel natural and requires a lot of practice. The Cores are cumbersome at the best of times and can be out-maneuvered by enemies that possess the airborne grace of a hummingbird. AC3 has made a few changes which will bring back some of the Mech audience while preserving the integrity of the game for the legion of true believers.

The future is in the hands of the mercenaries knows as Raven; a group of guns-for-hire that battle it out encased in robotic armored vehicles called Cores. The game offers you a third-person, 3D perspective of the action. The control system now includes the use of the left analog stick for control over the Y-axis and X-axis. You still have to use the shoulder buttons for pitch and strafing but it's a move in the right direction, making the game a bit more user friendly.

A few new features to the game include less restriction on the weight which enables you to add more firepower without sacrificing too much maneuverability and a Drop feature which allows you to jettison empty weapons to gain back speed and flexibility. You can also store and operate up to three Cores and use them to perform specific missions. A Wingman is available to accompany, assist, and cover you on dangerous missions. Finally an Exceed Orbit feature lets you assign weapons and other accessories to circle in orbit around your Core thus allowing you access to more hardware without the added weight. It's like eating burgers that float around your stomach rather than make it bigger.

The game is more relaxed during the first few levels than the previous games. This helps to smooth out the learning curve. Also, the hummingbird precision of the airborne vehicles has been tamed for a flight pattern more in keeping with the physics of the crafts. To assist you in the air and on the ground there are more boost powers in this version of the game.

The Cores are the best looking of the series. They gleam playfully in the light revealing the hard, cold metallic armor beneath the reflection of the sun. The action takes place on Earth, as opposed to Mars and you can expect some really nice art for the background environments that range from swampy hollows to futuristic cities. I have just installed a Pro Logic II system in my living room and this game takes full advantage of it. PL II divides the rear speakers into stereo and the game really engulfs you in the atmosphere with sounds zipping around in all directions. The bass is incredible, it's so crisp and loud that if I lived in an apartment I surely would have been evicted two days ago.

Armored Core 3 may not be the easiest game to learn but taking the challenge will pay great dividends; it may even spark a desire to play the series.

System: PS2
Dev: From Software
Pub: Agetec
Released: Sept 2002
Players: 4
Review by Fenix