Here's the scoop: You're a newcomer on the Martian colonies, and eager to learn your trade and make your mark among the mech-jockeys. After training sessions (rather straightforward stuff), you're let loose to find your own way by "going gladiator" in the arena or by taking on a rather lengthy list of mercenary missions. Armored Core 2 has more than 50 arena battlebots to take on, and a plethora of single-player missions.
Success has its rewards. Winning arena sessions and accomplishing missions gives you money to upgrade your mech. Most of the starter mechs are slow beasts, so that you'll want to upgrade your speed, agility, firepower, and armor protection as soon as possible. Not so easily done when you're snowed under--literally--by sophisticated opponents who want nothing more than to take a blood pressure reading... by using a can opener for a diagnostic tool.
As with its predecessors, Armored Core 2 is no lightweight in the controls and learning-curve departments; it requires skill and dedication to succeed. First-timers are well advised to finish all of the training sessions and even run through them more than once. Even mecha-savants should brush up on how this game struts its stuff, before setting off for a day at the arena.
Once you're comfortable in the cockpit of your mech, take a few seconds to appreciate how good everything looks. No pixel was spared in making this game look as detailed as it could be. Check out the screens: the mechs look very tech-mechy, and the environments are to die for.
Simply stated, Armored Core 2 is exactly the kind of game that you'd want Sony to have at PlayStation2's U.S. launch. While other games (Tekken Tag, Ridge Racer V, et al.) are easy to pick up and play right out of the box, this game separates the men from the boys. However, it's from an extremely enticing genre, and its graphic sophistication and two-player mode undoubtedly will lure many people into parting with some of their zealously guarded launch bankroll--not to mention their precious time. --Todd Mowatt