We try to finish as many games as we can when we review titles here at Atomic. Sadly, it’s not always possible. Some games are too long, some games are just... too bad. Then there’s a special class of game that thankfully we rarely come across – the game that spits in the eyes of physics and science.
That pretty much sums up Front Mission Evolved, a game that’s guilty of many sins, but there’s one paramount error that really gets our goat.
Early on, in fact during the game’s opening levels, badguys – we’re still not clear who they are, exactly, but we’re figuring that’s not all that important – attack the base of a space elevator. In the lead up to this, you get a wonderful intro cinematic that promises, for all the game’s giant mecha-trappings, some pretty gritty sci-fi; that premise is then powerfully shat upon in a series of reveals that out-lame even the lamest of anime plots.
First up, there’s the classic young folk owning their own mecha/research/weapons development facility. Seriously, what happens to arms regulation in the future, huh? What’s more, the testing ground for this baby-faced arms factory is right on the Hudson River – and protected by naught more than chicken wire. Apparently, misfires just don’t happen.
Obviously, the good people of New York are now fine with high-powered mech-ordnance being tested in their backyard.
However, young adults and mecha go hand in hand according the popular anime opinion, and with its skating mechs and over the top giant guns for giant robots attitude, Front Mission is very anime. That’s cool, though... no, the thing that really got us, that made us stupidly cranky, was the results of the attack on the space elevator.
You see, space elevators are cool, and as giant sci-fi nerds, we’re kind of down with how they work. In fact, elevator attacks are kind of a staple of fiction, and if you’ve ever read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series, you’ll know how epic a collapsing space elevator can be. But in Front Mission Evolved, the attack’s on the elevator’s base. So think about the physics, here. Tonnage that’s near continental in scale, all depending from a counter-weight asteroid or similar; in fact it’s just like swinging a tennis ball on a string.
So when you sever it at the base, it should float up out of the atmosphere into orbit – NOT FALL DOWN CATASTROPHICALLY!!! It’s simple physics people! Sure, we may be reading too much into a game all about giant mecha skating around the city blowing up other giant skating mecha, but space elevator physics are sacred, man.
Anyhoo... the game
Okay, with that out of our system, let’s talk about the game. Well... it’s just not that good.
On paper, it really should be a mess of fun – you’re a mech (or Wanzer, in the game’s lingo) pilot taking on a world-class conspiracy, upgrading and re-tooling your mech... uh... Wanzer as you progress through the game. Mech parts and armour can all be upgraded, there’s weight and power to be handled, and weapon types and gameplay to be taken into account. It’s all the kind of stuff that we adore about the classic Mechwarrior games, but in Front Mission Evolved, it’s all oddly... passionless.
Maybe it’s the repetitive combat, which quickly devolves into a series of circle-strafing skating matches to see who can pinpoint a Wanzer (stupid name!) in the chest first. There are some neat mechanics, like needing to zero in individual missiles in a salvo, or the way mouse buttons and the Q and E keys equate to your hands and shoulders, but that doesn’t change the actual nature of the boring combat.
Plus the limited nature of the destructible terrain merely shows off how indestructible the vast majority of it is.
Ultimately, there are better mecha games out there, so unless you absolutely must know how the Front Mission franchise is evolving, you may want to pass on Front Mission Evolved.