The Front Mission series is one that I've always given my utmost respect, because it's one that's held onto quite a few gameplay elements that are rapidly evaporating in today's industry. Interesting plotlines, turn-based strategy combat, team customization and some extremely well laid out level design has kept me coming back to the franchise again and again. It's a series that's so good in fact, that it's been running pretty strong since 1995, constantly improving to and adding upon game design that represents some of the best aspects of the turn-based strategy games. So it's pretty fantastic that Double Helix decided to take all of this, and toss it right out the window in Front Mission Evolved.
The game plays like a slow, boring mess, as if the developers were uncertain how much they wanted their players to accomplish. Instead of the well thought out, but slower-paced strategy combat, Evolved decides to go more action based with a third person over-the-shoulder camera.
Character customization is still there, but where individual maps would have previously encouraged different team members for different purposes, this new game really just promotes any weapon that begins with Assault and ends in Rifle. To confuse players even more, there's a boosting option, which allows the mech to (for a limited time) gain a burst of speed in any direction. The downside is that this speed boost is only really meant for some extremely limited evasion scenarios (boss fights) and maybe just to get to the next checkpoint faster. There's no real advantage to dodging around a lot, nor will the game reward you for the extra effort.
This is the inherent flaw with Front Mission Evolved, it doesn't seem to know what it even wants from players. Some levels feature enemies firing rockets at you from far away, other levels just have bad guys all over the ground, both can be handled effectively with one to two weapons that only ever need to be upgraded the entire game. Cool rewards like triggered effects are ruined because the enemies never put on enough pressure. What was once an extra burst of damage to handle a potential threat is now an extra burst of damage that makes killing an enemy one second more efficient.
None of this would be a problem if the game had an extremely slow pace to it, since it would make every single shot count for that much more. Perhaps there would be other criticisms regarding the gameplay, but at least the action would be intense. Instead the Wanzers (armored robot) move somewhere between heartbreakingly slow, to uselessly fast, depending on how you look at it. The game's storyline also has taken a turn for the worse, replacing characters that were interesting, entertaining, and empathetic with typical Anime trash. A young man who's father has been killed, a hard up military woman who is really a good person deep down, we've seen and heard all of this before and it certainly doesn't make it any easier to relate to the characters.
Another fun fact in Front Mission Evolved is that the AI is absolutely atrocious. I've mentioned previously how a few weapon types easily master every single aspect of this game, but only a small part of that has to do with weapon design. The rest falls on the enemy AI, which is more than content with standing around and eating bullet after bullet. Perhaps there's a subplot in the game where all the enemies are really just trying to get hurt intentionally, and collect some sort of workman's comp. Only the bosses ever seem to try hard, but even they fall prone to robotic arthritis, and will soak up massive amounts of damage while dealing Sonic-esque repetitive boss attacks.
Just in case the game wasn't intolerable enough, the graphics and sound step in full throttle, almost intentionally reminding players that if they're having fun they've done something wrong. Each level seems to have a theme to it, such as Crates, Buildings, Boxes, where the developers throw down as many of that item model (generally featured in grey, brown, or rust-color) as they possibly can. Why or where doesn't really matter, as the AI never really take advantage of the terrain. It exists solely for the player to take advantage of how stupid the opposing force is. The sound on the other hand, has a very similar but different issue. It's either non-existent, or boring.
I could go on about all the poor design choices that exist in Front Mission Evolved, but really they can be summed up with one final note. There are missions in which the player must leave the Wanzer, on foot, and shoot ground soldiers. All of these missions are equally boring, unnecessary, and poorly designed, which sums up the entire game experience as a whole.
It's a shame that Front Mission Evolved is attached to the Front Mission franchise in any way, since the name itself is a massive misnomer to the sort of 'action' players will be engaging in this title. It does nothing to expand the franchise, or "Westernise" it, and what's even worse is that whatever Double Helix was trying to accomplish has already been done before, and far better. Anyone looking to really enjoy the sort of fun the Front Mission series generally entails can avoid this title altogether. It's hard to recommend it to anyone.