Boy's father disappears, boy hops in giant robot suit to find him, boy is inadvertently drafted into the army. Front Mission Evolved's story is a timeless classic if I ever heard one.
It's 2171. You're Dylan Ramsey, a young engineer who's handy with a wanzer (short for “wandering panzer”), and you're in a thirdperson shooter where your giant war machine nimbly stomps and hops around while firing some very Japanese guns at other robots.
Well, most of the time. There's also a chunk of the game where you'll find yourself severely underdressed for this party, battling enemy mechs on foot. This manon- mech action is well-paced, and taking down an enemy wanzer with only a rocket launcher is a liberating feeling, but these sections feel like they were included mostly to further the complex storyline (you might need to polish off that bachelors' degree in political science to fully appreciate it) rather than make the game more fun.
Back in the pilot's seat, you're given ample opportunity between missions to personalize your wanzer by way of cosmetic alterations and upgraded weapons, armor and skills, much like in past games in the stompy-mech genre (MechWarrior, why haven't you written back?). You can outfit yourself with things like shoulder-mounted rockets, machine guns and sniper rifles—I felt a little guilty using the latter, which takes apart opposing wanzers in two hits from a distance.
Having an effective arsenal is a necessity in the frequent boss battles, which are challenging, but not frustratingly so. Even though most battles involve taking on fancier wanzers, you never feel completely outclassed—you're the underdog, so you're forced to devise a strategy and wear them down.
Speaking of wearing down, while the story dialog is all well-acted, bosses tend to repeat the same phrase ad naseum. There are only so many times I can hear a mercenary whine, “I could have killed you, but I want you to suffer!” Alright, I get it! I'm suffering!
The level design got somewhat repetitive as well—at times I felt like I was running down the hall of a Scooby-Doo cartoon. The henchmen (henchmechs?), too, inspire a sense of déjà vu—I must've killed the same Brawler wanzer a thousand times. Fortunately the levels are short, and there's enough variety in the types of environments you tromp through—from bunkers and bridges to urban streets and lush jungles—to keep things interesting.
So yes, Evolved's a bit repetitious, but at least it's repeating something enjoyable: the thrills inherent to driving a walking tank.