If you’re a fan of mech games, then look no further than MechAssault for your next giant robot combat fix. Mech games have been popular in the gaming industry for over ten years now, and this latest entry into the mech combat arena does an excellent job of continuing the tradition. I have personally been a fan of the Mechwarrior series for the PC, as well as a fan of the tabletop miniature game Battletech, since high school.
Let’s take a look at what Day 1 Studio’s and Microsoft’s Xbox version of the Mechwarrior series has to offer!
We’ll start by taking a look at the basic features of the game.
- 20 Single player missions in campaign modes
- Dolby 5.1 Digital Sound
- 22 Mech Designs
- Split Screen, System-Link multiplayer modes
- 5 Multiplayer game modes
- Xbox Live enabled with downloadable content
- Variable Difficulty Settings
The fact that MechAssault is online-enabled through Xbox live should help to make the game an instant hit for mech Xbox fans, but before they play online they’re going to need to take a look at the overall gameplay itself.
The greatest single comparison that can be made about MechAssault’s playability is that it reminds me very much of Halo. I can honestly say that the gameplay is easy to learn and simple to control. Long-time mech fans may be put off by a lack of controls, buttons, knobs, switches, pedals, or whatever, but for new players this is an asset. There is nothing like jumping into a game without having to read a manual first. MechAssault’s controls are simple enough for Luddites to master. It is this minimalist approach to controls that allows the player to jump right in and get immersed into the game’s storyline.
Throughout MechAssault you pilot a variety of mechs. Each is armed with a combination of infantry shredding, tank busting, and mech dueling weaponry. Usual configurations include one or more ballistic, missile, or laser weapons. Additionally, some mechs have extra features that provide noticeable advantages in game play. A mech can be outfitted with jump jets, radar jamming, chaff, and something akin to a stealth ability (which makes the mech fade from view for short periods of time). Each of these advantages is predetermined by mech design. All are quite useful, and it is important that all would-be mech pilots practice in their use. Mech selection is an important part of the game. There are only a couple of missions in the game where you do not get to choose a mech to pilot. This usually relates to storyline.
The single player game includes 20 missions, which on green difficulty were quite a challenge. Missions vary from simple seek and destroy to base assault, infiltration, and raiding for supplies. Each mission is suitably unique and offers different vehicles, defensive structures, mechs, and terrain for you to destroy. It is quite impressive to pilot and fight in mechs in the snow, rain, and through lava fields. Given the variety of terrain and opponents, it is important that you become familiar with the maps for strategic purposes and power-ups.
Power-ups are an essential part of game play. When you destroy buildings, vehicles, mechs, and terrain you are rewarded with a variety of power-ups. Armor power-ups are the key to survival in this game. All mech kills produce armor power-ups. Players can also find temporary weapon upgrades, which considerably upgrade the firepower of your mech. These upgrades are limited to a number of shots before you return to normal weapon mode. You can find power-ups for each of the weapon types used by mechs in the game. My personal favorites include upgraded Gauss Rifles and Autocannon that can knock mechs over with a good hit. Upgraded lasers fire faster, generate more heat, and cause a lot more damage. For ranged combat, upgraded missiles can mean that your enemy doesn’t even get close enough to attack you. Power-ups are key in defeating many enemies in the single player game but offer a greater advantage in multiplayer games.
MechAssault’s multiplayer levels are pretty basic. You can duel it out in a variety of terrains and climates. Multiplayer can be played using split-screen or system link. Split-screen can be especially difficult if you have a smaller television. Now, if I can only convince the wife to let me buy a 32-inch television, I could play in grand style…
One of the biggest selling points of MechAssault is that it is Xbox Live enabled. So all of you LAN junkies go out and buy an Xbox, the Xbox Live package, and MechAssault to have yourself one heck of a thumb numbing mech duel. From what I have investigated, MechAssault has been a hit online. Interestingly, since the Xbox has a hard drive, players who have Xbox Live will be able to download new maps, mechs, and weapons for play. This is an awesome use of the technology. Additionally, much of Xbox Live utilizes voice commands and communication in game. This would provide for an excellent gaming interface and helps to immerse the player into the multiplayer world.
Mechassault has some awesome graphics. The overall environment of the game is outstanding. Mech’s used in snow missions are covered with snow. Non-mech targets are small in comparison and well rendered to provide an excellent sense of scale.
What impressed me the most about the graphics were the weapon animations. When you fire missiles, you see vapor trails, flashes, and smoke issuing forth from vents. Lasers and PPC’s flash brightly. The PPC has an even more impressive animation as you charge them up; they vibrate the controller and certain parts on the mech glow with energy. Ballistic weapons have a punchy feel. Your controller vibrates quickly, and your mech rocks slightly. When larger ballistic weapons impact, they explode with a puff of smoke and shell fragments.
The game boasts of a fully destructible environment. It comes through well in this regard. All of the game’s explosions are intense, fiery and impressive. Buildings show damage quite well. As a test, I used machine guns to blast away at a glass building. A slight vibration in the controller accompanies all the sounds of glass shattering, the flickering fire, and a view of what the building looks like inside. A variety of terrain features can also be annihilated by your overzealous desire to destroy. Bridges, rock and ice formations, lava cones, and trees round out the terrain you can pulverize.
The game boasts 5.1 Digital Dolby sound, which produces great sound effects and highlights the excellent musical score during play. My television’s speakers are not that great, so I feel much of the sound quality may have been lost. However, as crappy as my speakers are, the game sound effects and musical composition kept me into it. Every sound effect is intense and combined with suitable vibration of the controller to enhance the overall realism of the sound. Mechs explode in spectacular audio and visual fashion creating something akin to a small nuclear detonation that is clearly audible and bright.
Summary and Final Score
I have played through the single player campaign, as well as experimented with the multiplayer modes. This is an exceptionally good game in the Mech series and not to be taken lightly. Having been a longtime fan of Mech games, this arcade version is as appealing and entertaining as any I have played. Overall playability is tremendous, and its additional multiplayer features makes this a game for the must have list.
I do have few criticisms of the game. First, I would have liked to have seen more movie cut sequences and deeper storylines that take advantage of the awesome graphics. The plot reminds me a lot of the Mechwarrior 3 and 4 storyline. Secondly, I would have really liked the ability to customize the mechs more. I think that is one of the features of earlier Mech installments that I enjoyed the most. Lastly, I would have liked to see some of the older classic mech designs in the game for nostalgia purposes. I can’t help but wonder how awesome it would be to see a Warhammer, Rifleman, Marauder, Locust, and Battlemaster rendered in such outstanding graphics. After all, they do let you pilot an Atlas. In the old tabletop miniature game, this was a sure sign of a butt kicking if one of them showed up.
If you are tired of first person shooters and seek a serious level of destruction, pick this game up and coerce your friends to play too. Long live Mech games, huzzah!!!!!!!!
9.5 out of 10 for sheer carnage and destruct-o’licious fun!!