Front Mission Evolved
There are currently two things that stand out about Square Enix and Double Helix Games’ reworking of the popular Japanese mech series. Firstly, it’s yet another Japanese publisher reaching out to a confident Western developer, and secondly, it’s a complete departure from the series’ strategy-heavy and relatively impenetrable turn-based gameplay..
It’s almost become a cliché in itself to describe the mech-shooter genre as a tad ‘clunky’, but there still remains no easier way of describing the sort of gameplay that Front Mission Evolved is launching into. The fact that we’ve only been privy to marginal numbers of the big robot variety on 360 goes some way to confirming that it’s something developers have yet to crack. Chromehounds had a loyal following, but ultimately it fell short on most accounts. That Square Enix is allowing Double Helix Games (famed for Silent Hill: Homecoming) to rework the arguably successful turn-based combat into the more worldwide-friendly third-person shooter is an interesting point. Square’s acquisition of Eidos has already proved the publisher’s desire to confirm its footing overseas and Front Mission’s change of genre is yet another example how it’s attempting this.
Call Of Duty for mechs – or, if you’re sticking to the FME canon, Wanzers – is how Double Helix is describing the basis for its gameplay. It’s an interesting approach, even if currently in-game it looks like a rehashed hi-def version of a fast-paced Armored Core. What’s more interesting is the series enabling full control of not only the massive mechs, but also the pilots themselves. Jumping out and onto the rubble-strewn streets in a sort of Mechwarrior 2/ Lost Planet way, Front Mission Evolved turns into a rather more traditional shooter – albeit one with the added danger of the massive mech robots towering above you. Granted, nothing here is as original as Double Helix would have you believe, but there’s a level of ambition that makes this one to watch in many ways. Before development started, Square gave the proviso of recreating – in real-time – the intro video from Front Mission 4. Not only that, but with the traditional action adventure storyline (protagonist Dylan zooming off to a besieged New York in a test Wanzer to rescue his father), we’re inclined to lean on the side of optimism.
The usual level of customisation will be present, along with a much-touted online multiplayer mode, but the truth will be in Double Helix’s ability to work the ‘clunkier’ aspects of the mechs with the already refined third-person shooting we know that can be accomplished on the 360.