Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon Review

Fromsoftware are typically the developer you associate with gigantic and gigantically difficult Souls’ games such as the progenitor of this subgenre Demon’s Souls, as well as Dark Souls, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Elden Ring. However, back in the halcyon days of the original Xbox, there were these ultra chaotic mech-toting action games that spawned a handful of sequels-and indeed the name of this series is Armored Core. Unlike Souls’ games and their slow and arduous scraps, Armored Core is a hectic bullet and missile bonanza, where hellfire rains down all around you as you’re forced to repel oncoming robotic armadas with your own suite of heavy artillery. Does Fires of Rubicon aptly fire on all cylinders, or is this searing flame easily extinguishable? 

Forget those heavily plated rogues who lug their seismic axes, towering great swords and leviathan hammers about in Souls games, this time you take to manning a ruddy great big mech with rocket thrusters and devastating missile launching capabilities, a man-sized sturdily fortified messiah of mayhem that can glide and dart along the battlefield gracefully, like a lethal twinkling spectre armed to the gills with all the incendiary potential of Semtex. Suffices to say, Armored Core is faster, more chaotic, and zippier than a Souls game, it’s like a robotic ballet of bullets and missile fire, giving you both ballistic and balletic thrills aplenty and it can be downright epic to watch in action.

On the contextual front, Fires of Rubicon deals heavily in warring corporations vying for control of Rubicon and its neighbouring environments to protect a powerful energy source called coral, which has led to planet-wide devastation and causes furious hostile friction between several military organizations known individually as Balam Industries, Arquebus Corp, the Rubicon Liberation Front and the Planetary Closure Administration. Each of them have their own plans for utilizing or destroying coral, and they’re all hellbent on ripping each other apart, making for advanced high-stakes warfare where supremacy is a premium desire no matter the costs to others.

Stuck in the middle of all this raging warfare is C4-621, otherwise known as “Raven”, a mech under instruction from a mysterious entity called Walter, to carry out a handful of missions to destroy highly destructive military equipment and to take out hostile threats that threaten to impede progress. The tasks you’re charged with carrying out are bite-sized affairs, where you follow a glowing objective marker, obliterate all the metallic nuisances in your way or otherwise shred apart all the enemy’s precious equipment, then mission done and onto the next battle.

All the codenames and dearth of non-authoritative personalities does make Fires of Rubicon (cough-cough) quite robotic. Fromsoftware aren’t known for charismatic characters, but Fires of Rubicon can be too regimental and task-heavy for its own good, yet if all you care about is hellacious scraps and high-octane jousts against the sinister scourges, then joviality and cocksure quipping won’t be important to you at all.

Fires of Rubicon doesn’t grant you a welcoming start as you’re thrust into a hulking boss fight against a burly attack chopper, teaching you to be thrown into the fireworks of a ballistic whirlybird and be expected to overcome its relentless onrush by getting up-close and personal, an approach that’ll serve you very well as you proceed through the game’s five chapters, no need for caution when you can go for the gusto here.

This aggressive start may put many off, as a tutorial is meant to ease you into a gaming experience, not tempt you to step away from it. However, if you collect yourself and figure out how to dispose of the chopper, you’ll be rewarded with a game that’s rife with explosiveness as a vista-heavy juggernaut packing in all the mechanized firepower you can handle.   

The missions act like contracts you must complete to advance the story and there are a decent variety of them. They seem cut and dry at first as you retrieve logs from fallen units and wipe out hostiles and their equipment, but sometimes you’re tasked with scaling and dismantling a monolithic strider, incorporating platforming and raucous machinegun fire to destroy electrical vents and an eyeball core that’s exacting and deadly.

Part of the unbridled pleasure of taking the reigns of a formidable mech in Armored Core 6, is the breezy targeting system that affords you maximum and snappy precision, where you can effortlessly emit blazing rounds of chaos without the hassle of prolonged aiming. You can therefore spend more time unleashing a torrent of evisceration and less time hiding or trying to avoid the onslaughts coming back at you.

At its best, Armored Core 6 enables players to feel like they’re wielding a body of impenetrable titanium, letting them get up close and personal with targets and dolling out humongous swathes of brutality direct to their metal-thick skulls, and watching them explode in a blaze of glory, electricity, and biomechanical fibres. Nothing can contend with the feeling of embodying a visceral war machine, and Armored Core 6 successfully translates the heaviness and the swiftness of these mechanical beasts into the gameplay, compiling ample doses of satisfaction in the process.

You’re by no means invincible and impenetrable though. While you can easily dispatch punier mechs with your artillery, the bulkier and burlier variants will prove to be devastating adversaries who’ll utilize their energy beams and relentless blitzkriegs to decimate you. The dangers you face can force you to strategize and prioritise your survival. With only three repair kits at your disposal, you need to be mindful of when it’s best to equip them to regenerate health. Fires of Rubicon is easier to get to grips with than Dark Souls, but make no mistake it is definitely not a cakewalk.

And much like a cake you can paint, decorate and add lethal augmentations to, Fires of Rubicon is bursting with customization options for your AC. You can equip all kinds of weapons, shields and thrusters to the front and back of your mech, swap out the legs for tank-like treads enabling you to rapidly whizz about while reigning down heavy fire, as well as the ability to don the power of a tetrapod and rain down bullets from above for a sumptuous vertical advantage. Adding Decals and part-swapping is a synch, so you can truly design the most badass AC that’d make Bay’s Transformers wet themselves, where sharing your creations online will no doubt be a barnstormer and a mech fan’s ultimate indulgence.

Fires of Rubicon looks every bit as good scenery-wise as it does when you’re caught up in the middle of exhilarating mech warfare. Environments hush with gushing winds and diverse climates that are impressively realized. The framerate and freakish zippiness of the action is a true sight to behold, as is the enormity of it all. It’s a truly spectacular game to look at and a dynamite tour de force to play, a riveting blunt-force buffet of brilliant sights and sounds that’ll ignite the senses in all the right ways.

Conclusion

After laying dormant for a while, Armored Core has returned to light up the stage on hardware that makes the most of its grandeur.  Fires of Rubicon feels exciting to play, it looks superb, it’s fast and furious, it’s devastating and badass, it’s all you could imagine a modern Armored Core game to be. Sure, humans are absent and all the codenames and straightforward characters make it rather unrelatable, but when you’re caught up in thrilling tussles with all manner of mechanised robots, nothing else will matter. If Fires of Rubicon is a glimpse at what the future holds for Armored Core, it’s a very exciting one indeed.

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This game was reviewed based on Xbox S|X review code, using an Xbox S|X console. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.

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Good
  • Thrilling mech action
  • Superb audio and visual design
  • Outstanding customization options
Bad
  • Might be too easy for seasoned Fromsoftware fans
  • Not very relatable
8.9
Great
Written by
Although the genesis of my videogame addiction began with a PS1 and an N64 in the mid-late 90s as a widdle boy, Xbox has managed to hook me in and consume most of my videogame time thanks to its hardcore multiplayer fanaticism and consistency. I tend to play anything from shooters and action adventures to genres I'm not so good at like sports, RTS and puzzle games.

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