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     " Lots of dakka dakka, whoosh and zark noises to keep you happy "

   Title: Armored Core 2 by Agetec

   Format: Action/Adventure PS2

   Reviewing Monkey: Monkeymus Prime

   The Hype: More than 200 customizable parts featuring new Interior and Extension parts, all new arenas with over 45 menacing ACís (Armored Cores, the robot battle suits you pilot), more than 35 single player missions and over a dozen VS battle stages

      What This Monkey Thought...

   Graphics: I watched the opening movie, and thought I was watching an episode of Babylon 5. Then the game started and I saw what I thought were more cinematic. Imagine my surprise when I discovered those were the in-game graphics. The lighting effects are especially amazing, and the detail is decent, until you realize that level of detail is everywhere. Some slowdown is evident when lots of missiles are in the air in 2-player mode, but Iím sure that can be tweaked. Eye-popping. 5 of 5.

   Sound: Nothing new under the sun, but plenty more voice acting. The mech sound effects are quite suitable, lots of dakka dakka, whoosh and zark noises to keep you happy. I just donít know what disturbs me more about the voice acting: that the script is a very literal translation of Japanese, which makes no sense unless taken very loosely, or that the voice actors sound like a literal translation read aloud? Stunted, choppy delivery with lots of emphasis on words, but little emotion to show how you should take what theyíre saying to heart. Music for levels kicks ass, though. What is it about techno and giant robot games that are like peanut butter and chocolate? 4 of 5

   Game Play: All the controls I loved were exactly the same as in previous Armored Cores. Theyíre as tight and well put together as ever. New players will have no problem with them, old school players will return to an old friend. Some have expressed dismay that AC2 has no analog stick support; I say why mess with greatness? The only drawback keeping this from a 5 is the aforementioned slowdown, but it happens rarely. 4.5 of 5.

   Level and Environment Designs: What a sigh of relief. The previous entries in the series seemed to be falling into the trap that "better levels means bigger levels." They got over complicated and you got lost easily. Not this time. Nice and simple levels means more fun. As for the VS stages, basically they went back to the levels of the first series and made them bigger. Not more complex, Just bigger, and cooler, since you can blow up buildings now, making it more difficult to hide behind cover. Again, why mess with greatness? 5 of 5.

   Multiplayer: You can fight against a friend in split-screen or linked mode. While I have yet to find out whether a PS2 requires a new link cable or works with the old PSX cable, I highly advise playing linked. AC has always been my favorite linked game, reminiscent of each pilot having itís own cockpit. The only thing that is worse than the previous games is that when going into VS modes before without loading a saved game, you got a limited selection of parts to swap, allowing for variety without overpowering with a saved AC. In AC2, if you donít load a mech, both players get the same AC, without any extra options. While that makes it fair, it doesnít make it fun right off the bat. 4 of 5.

   Replayability: Once you beat the game, it unlocks all the missions, so you can play the ones you missed, acquire hidden parts you didnít find, and earn more money. My goal is to buy all the parts to make for the ultimate variety in VS mode. I will play this until that is accomplished, and then continue to play against friends. This game is a perennial favorite for VS play, and never gets fully put away. 5 of 5.

   Story/Dramatics: Ugh. Again, literal translations that make no real sense make for bad story. Plus, it doesnít seem like the story actually branches very much. Iíve only noticed two endings to the game, one where you die in a mission, and one where you beat the game. I wouldíve liked some real branching allowed, like the option to join the rebels that spring up rather than stick with the corporation. Maybe next timeÖ 2 of 5.

   Instructions and Learning Curve: Instructions are much more helpful this time around. It actually gives a description of what the some of the stats describing the parts you buy are. Not all, but the really important ones. The curve is a nice one, starting nice and low and getting pretty difficult towards the end. Two pieces of advice: save your game between each mission you take, and customizing your AC for each mission is key. Donít feel bad about reloading a totally botched mission and redesigning your AC from the ground up to try again. I did it more than Iíd like. 4 of 5.

   Installation and Real System Requirements: Low load times, plug and play. N/R

   The Verdict:

       A killer mech game that keeps the PS2 humming. High on my list of recommendations!

   The Good: Giant robots, big guns, explosions, great graphics.

   The Bad: Bad voice acting, hard to follow story, VS mode not very fun without playing the single player game first

   The Overall Ugly: Liked Armored Core? Itís all here and better, a solid mech piloting game with great graphics game play and music. So far my overall favorite launch title. Who can argue with robots fighting and blowing stuff up?

   What it's Worth: $49.99

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