Everyone knew that FromSoftware’s latest game would be another punishing lesson in what it means to ‘git gud’, but Armored Core 6 has wasted less time than expected in putting players through their paces. Now a helicopter has become the internet’s latest nightmare. Is it all too much to expect of the modern gamer?
In the Line of Fire
Before players get access to the much praised Garage where they can start customizing their mech, they first have to complete a short tutorial area. Rather than the kind of hand-holding experience that people looking for a fun new robot shoot-em-up might’ve expected though, a few short explanations of the game’s basic controls are all players are offered before things get real.
Most of the tutorial is easy enough thanks to the game’s buttery smooth piloting controls, but all that changes when you’re pitted against the game’s first boss, the HC Helicopter. Unlike the enemies encountered throughout the rest of the tutorial, this thing hits hard and fast, almost immediately wiping out anybody not familiar with the franchise’s signature difficulty.
Several ‘Not Recommended’ Steam reviews are from players who have tapped out after the first fight. User ‘chosentripster’ asked “Seriously Fromsoft? do you seriously need to put a boss level enemy on the tutorial level?”. Meanwhile, somebody streaming their playthrough took to X to apologize for taking so long to beat the boss.
The series’ long time fans are already having a good laugh at this over on the /r/armoredcore subreddit, but even some people in the comments are claiming that it took them a fair few tries before they were able to down the thing. Naturally others are using it as an excuse to brag about how easy it was, and how rubbish everyone else is at games.
If this is all sounding a little bit needlessly cruel to you then well, that’s because it’s supposed to be. For right or wrong, FromSoftware have stood by their long-held philosophy that games should be allowed to be hard – even in an age where most other studios are working diligently to incorporate accessibility options allowing everyone to experience the game as they want to.
The choice to pit players against such a difficult boss so early makes a lot of sense in this context. People will only complain of difficulty spikes otherwise. By letting players know right out of the gate what they’re getting themselves into, they’re forcing them into a mindset that’s required to counter more difficult threats down the line.
This tutorial level didn’t guide me gently through the game’s mechanics, but after a few swift deaths just pointing my gun and hammering down on the trigger I was shifted into thinking about the game the way it wanted – no, needed – me to think.
Each time I respawned I recalled one of the techniques I’d just been told about minutes earlier but for my sins had instantly disregarded. I knew I had far from mastered these techniques, but by the time I downed the boss, I was hiding, sliding, and gliding around, safe in the knowledge that even though this was going to be one seriously tough game I had all the moves I needed to beat it. If I wanted to.
Armored Core 6 is a good looking game. Its bleak hellscape of a world decimated by corporate greed looks gorgeous even if you’d never want to visit it yourself. Once that first boss fight has taught you have to move, handling your mech feels so smooth and natural that it’s an almost zen-like experience. Everything is impeccably sleek, modern, and polished.
So it was strange that all I could think about during the opening few hours of the game was that I felt the way I used to feel playing games on the original PlayStation.
Back then it wasn’t uncommon for games to throw you in at the deep end with no clue of what you were doing. Where you’d die within the first few minutes, try a few more times then throw in the towel. Only to come back another day with a new perspective and make it a little further before getting stuck again.
Sometimes that would be because the games were just rubbish. Other games like that would go on to become some of my all time favourites.
A lot has changed since then with regards to both how games are built, and how we play them. Back then many of the games I loved most were ones I never came close to beating. Nowadays that seems like a bizarre thing to say. With so many AAA games leaning so hard on their narrative, and offering so many ways to lower the difficulty there’s a weird compulsion to finish a game even if you’re not enjoying it that much.
My first few hours in Armored Core 6 – defined by that initial boss encounter – threw me back into that mindset for the first time in years. It felt unlikely that I’d ever get around to finishing the game. Yet, I wanted to keep playing regardless. The game is too fun – too damn satisfying – not to keep heading back to try something new, to embody my inner mech, and yes, to ‘git gud’.
For that reason I’d implore anybody who has thrown their controller across the room at this fight not to give up on Armored Core 6 just yet. As it happens, the fight is actually pretty easy once you know the trick. Having trouble yourself? We’ve got you covered with our comprehensive guide to beating the HC Helicopter.