Man, I really wanted to like this title. The minute I loaded the disc, I marveled at the stunningly clear introduction movie and drooled over the countless customizations for Armored Cores. I was even impressed by the mock e-mail system used to give characters life and progress story details. Suffice it say, the game had me the second I hit the start button. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm didn't last very long after playing for an extended period of time. Brad covered nearly all the major points that I wanted to go over, so for my review, I'll just highlight the issues that stood out most in my mind.
How would I describe Armored Core 2? In a word: joyless. It's already a travesty that the developers passed on exploiting the fully analog controls of the Dual Shock 2 controller by simply adopting the exact same control scheme that was used in all previous PlayStation releases, but what ultimately killed Armored Core 2 for me were the difficulty levels. Stringent to the point of being abusive and masochistic, later stages in Armored Core 2 were so long and difficult that it drove all the joy out of playing through the title for me. Even after repeatedly completing mission after mission, I still felt that the challenge was too great and the reward was too little. There was never enough spending money for me to make the upgrades that I really wanted, and my Armored Core almost always felt behind the curve.
I would have enjoyed this game and recommended it a hundreds times over if the missions just eased up on occasion and simply allowed me to enjoy the fruits of my efforts. Somewhere along the way, I think the developers got too caught up in upping the challenge and forgot that the real fun in these giant robot titles isn't really the missions, but the tinkering it allows players. Like over-glorified Lego blocks, Armored Core 2 could have appealed to the little mechanic and carpenter inside all of us. Instead, they made this title for only those who are crazy enough to endure this kind of head-scratching difficulty levels (i.e. hardcore fans).