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Front Mission 4 (PC) Reviewed!
Game Info
GENRE:
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DEVELOPER:
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Screenshots
Gameplay: 8 / 10
Graphics: 7 / 10
Sound: 7 / 10
Replay: 6 / 10
Final Rating:



Introduction


After four years, the Front Mission series returns with a fourth installment and a slightly different developer, if you can consider SquareEnix to be that different from Squaresoft. The overall story is the same: giant robots, or “Wanzers” as they are called, are now used in most of the world’s military engagements. The world has also constructed two large NATO-like groups of countries, the E.C. (European Community) and the U.C.S. (Unified Continental States).

The storyline switches between a French woman who pilots a Wanzer for an E.C. investigational company, and a group of three U.C.S. deserters trying to escape with millions of dollars in gold. Throughout the game more characters join your troop as do Wanzer verities (including ones that hover) and weapons.




At first the battle graphics seem like a blast from the past...

Graphics

It’s easy to say these graphics trounce those of the predecessor, since Front Mission 3 came out in 2000 on PSX, and as far as strategy games go, Front Mission is one of the best looking. The character portraits are well drawn as well as animated when the characters speak, and the backgrounds for the different areas are on par with any other still backgrounds found on other PS2 games.

The actual in-battle graphics seem more suitable for SNES, until you perform an action and the camera zooms all the way in to show off the beautiful 3-D Wanzer models as they shoot and punch away at one another, with only a few bugs with collision detection and parts moving through one another. Only a keen eye will be able to notice them, and they don’t hinder the experience at all. Everything looks good: the Wanzers themselves, their weapons are fully detailed, even the background. Sure, a few of the trees may look like two two-dimensional trees stuck together in a cross, but games like MVP 2004 have 2-D fans in the crowds, so it’s hard to deduct points from Front Mission when other games get away with it while being praised for their great graphics.



... Until you zoom down into the action!

Gameplay


This is pure mind-bending strategy at its best. Each character that comes along has his or her strengths and weaknesses, and each Wanzer combination (which could number in the thousands with the amount of legs, arms, and body parts that the game uses) fits a certain type of combat that the player must learn to use correctly or suffer defeat at the hands of a competent A.I. The player must take advantage of terrain by using higher elevation to get the drop on enemies, and can even use trees as temporary shields from the line of fire. The player must also take into account the HP system, which uses seperate Body, Left Arm, Right Arm, and Legs HP. Lose your legs, and you will only be able to move one square per turn. Lose an arm, and you can't use the weapon that arm was holding. But once the body is destroyed, even if you have full HP for everything else, your Wanzer is toast! Luckly, in this installment SquareEnix introduces the Repair Backpack, which can heal the different parts and even replace destroyed ones.

Gone is the Eject Tactics as it is now impossible to eject out of your Wanzer, whether it be willingly or not. It is replaced by Link Tactics, in which players spend points they earn in battle to create links between their pilots for devastating multi-attacks. I have personally gotten up to four Wanzers attacking one target in a single action. The link tactic is somewhat forced upon the player- they must learn to use it offensively and defensively or they will lose battles.

I mentioned that points are used to buy links. These points are earned during battle, and can also be used to buy different tactics and techniques. In Front Mission 3, you learned techniques by using certain weapons at random and hoping that you learn it. However, in the fourth installment, you buy these techniques. This allows for customization by the player to a certain point- each pilot has their separate set of abilities to learn, and they mostly create a niche for each pilot. For example: a male character that starts in the game with a rocket launcher is likely to learn mostly rocket techniques for the rest of the game, even if you change his weapon set to something else. So don’t expect to have full control over what your characters learn through the game.

As said before, there are thousands of parts, weapons, and accessories that you can equip your Wanzer with. You can even change its color and camouflage pattern. But once again, the customization of your Wanzers is limited to the pilot that uses it. It won’t do much good to have a pilot with mainly machine gun skills to have a Wanzer with rockets. So the customization is there, but it isn’t as deep as it could have been.



Some mechs even carry sniper rifles, good for blowing off limbs.

Sound

It took me a while to think of what to rate the sound for this game as I played through it. The music is great, as with most Squaresoft/Enix titles. But once I started buying new weapons, I realized that the machine gun I just bought doesn’t just have a different rate of fire, but sounds completely different from the last one! Every single weapon in this game has its own distinct sound, which is very impressive given the amount of equipment. It is hard to give this game a bad score in the sound department- every step made by the Wanzers is followed by a resounding clunk of metal. And I am not even mentioning the fact that the characters talk in this game! SquareEnix hired some very good voice actors, even with their own accent that was true to where the character came from.

So I suppose my only sound beef is that the voices don’t carry through the whole game. I wasn’t expecting background characters to have voices, but not every line spoken by the main characters is given a voice track, like they were in FFX and FFX-2. It almost felt empty to go through large droughts of no voice, when they had given so many lines of it in the beginning of the game.


Value


Unlike its predecessor, Front Mission 4 does not have a branching storyline. In the previous game there were two separate storylines, each with about 70 missions. In this installment there is a New Game Plus feature, so after you finish the game you can restart the game with all of the money and techniques you ended the game with.

Unless you are keen on getting every single technique for your pilots or making the ultimate Wanzer, there is little playability. And with thirty-some missions, some taking up to thirty minutes each (which is very generous) there is maybe twenty hours of playtime the first go around, including story and conversations and so forth. So low replay for the average gamer, but those obsessed with the game will get perhaps 40-50 hours out of this game.


Conclusion


This particular boss battle has you facing this spider-like Wanzer.


Everyone who enjoyed Front Mission 3 should at least rent this game, if not buy it. Fans of Gundam/Mechwarrior or tactic games such as Disgaea and Final Fantasy Tactics should be satisfied with SquareEnix’s first attempt at the Front Mission series. This game is definitely above average with its beautiful Wanzer models and loads of equipment, not to mention superb sound.

But unless you intend to devote your life to getting everything in this game, don’t expect it to outlive a month of playing.