Front Mission Evolved Review
Let's face it – every gamer has a soft spot for giant robots. There is no subtext, double meaning or exception to this rule. My generation cut their nerd teeth on Voltron, Transformers and, to a lesser degree, the Power Rangers, and something about watching a mechanized beast lay waste to creation never really gets old. In the video game world, the giant robot theme has been spread across every genre, from strategy to action and everything in between. Perhaps that is why it is so puzzling to me that so few of these games ever really turn out to be very good. And that is where the new entry in the Front Mission series, Front Mission Evolved, comes in. Despite offering insanely customizable Wanzer machines and some solid third-person action, this title just never really pulls it all together into a fun, interesting package.
I usually start my reviews with a look at a game's story or plot, but with this review it's going to be tougher than normal. Even attempting to explain the story has got me at a loss for words. Apparently the Front Mission series is known for convoluted, politics-based tales, but even those who could follow the famously obtuse story found in the Metal Gear saga will find themselves scratching their heads until they are raw and bloody. The protagonist, Dylan, somehow gets caught up between different political factions and their battles on Earth and in space. That's where my recap has to end because past the simple setup, I rarely had any idea what the hell was going on. I'm all for plots based on more high-minded ideals than finding a princess who is always in another castle, but only when I can make heads or tales of what's going down. After the first handful of missions, I completely gave up on Dylan's tale. Not a good sign.
The game's presentation doesn't fare much better. Front Mission Evolved is jarring to the eyes or ears, but it doesn't captivate either. The Wanzers and characters look alright, the environments are somewhat large and almost devoid of any real detail and the music and voice acting is serviceable, not spectacular. The only real aspect that caught my eye was how the Wanzers change depending on their customization. Since there are so many options available on outfitting your mech, the size, shape and appearance of Wanzers is constantly changing, and can hold some surprisingly cool loadouts. Other than that, though, everything in the presentation department falls into the “good enough” category.
The gameplay is where Front Mission Evolved stumbles hardest. What you'll find here is a underwhelming blend of third person, mission based shooting. It just feels like a million games have done this type of thing, often with better results, before. The mission structure particularly infuriates, as you have a wealth of options for outfitting your mech but missions leave little to do in the way of experimentation. Most tasks require a specific part be used, which can make the player feel as though they may as well not have the customization options. For example, a few missions require traversing special areas. You'll need a specific leg part to get from point A to point B, which limits the weapons and other parts available for use. This can result in too many frustrating deaths simply because your weapons aren't the strongest you've got and you have to rely on lesser guns to accommodate from the larger movement loadout. Why customize when you have little choice in parts for most missions? The boss battles are the only real area of the game where outfitting yourself creatively seems to pay off, but how much thought does it really take to know the biggest, strongest weapons are your best bet?
At its core, Front mission Evolved is a run-of-the-mill action shooter that wastes the opportunities its got in giant robot combat. The game only occasionally frustrates, but never really wows the player, either. If you have to scratch the giant robot itch, try the far superior Super Robot Taisen series of the Japanese-only Choushojuu Mecha MG on the DS. Those are mech games done right; Front Mission Evolved never comes close.
Final Rating: 61%.