As appealing as the idea may sound, not everyone wants to drive a giant mech in a video game. Some people just want to watch other people drive them and tell them what to do. At least, that's what From Software is hoping for with Armored Core V.
The latest entry in the long-running mech combat series introduces a feature that may sound familiar to multiplayer shooter fans: the commander, or in this game's case, the "operator".
While Armored Core V supports up to four players in its multiplayer mode, it can actually handle a fifth, the operator, who instead of piloting a killing machine is given a bird's eye view of the battlefield and the means (via the ability to plant markers) to give orders to his or her teammates.
It's a novel idea, at least for this genre, but seems a little too sparse to actually encourage people to want to play it. While the ability to oversee the battle is a valuable one, there's not much more to do than play bossy-boots, meaning only the pointy end of an already decidedly pointy niche is probably going to bother with it.
More appealing to the giant mecha fan faithful, I think, is the game's persistent online mode, which combines clan warfare with a game of...tower defence. No, really.
Players can claim sections of the game's map, and if you come under attack while online, you just defend it yourself in a multiplayer match. But since Armored Core V has persistent online, if it comes under attack while you're away, your territory has to be defended in absentia by automatic turrets that you can place (and upgrade).
Since this was a Gamescom demo and not the real world, I couldn't see how well this actually worked, but in principle it sounds like a great incentive to get real good at tower defence games.
I got to play in a four-player co-op match being led by an operator, and...well, let's just say Armored Core isn't a series you can just pick up and play at a trade show. Its just got too many controls and nuances to its play that someone can't just jump in and start blowing shit up.
I tried to do just that, though, and despite meeting an explosive and inevitable demise, can at least say the mechs contorlled srprising well and the game's effects looked gorgeous.
Armored Core V will be out in 2012.