The Xbox is tailoring to all gamers' preferences with the wicked fast Phantom Crash, the slow and methodical Steel Batallion, and Microsoft's very own beauty MechAssault. We've got the full review on MechAssault, the current front runner for mech game of the year.
The graphics of the game obviously took quite awhile to develop and it shows with the loads of polish that is evident in the game. The first thing that you'll notice are the mechs and how crisp and detailed they are. Each mech features its own specific shape and feel. The Atlas is a huge lumbering mech with thick legs and two arms loaded with weapons strapped to its side. The Puma on the other hand is a quick mech that features skinny legs that are good for maneuverability as well as spindly little arms which don't pack a comparable punch. Enemy mechs are rendered with the same amount of detail as your on screen robot, what this means is you'll get a feeling of authenticity as well as danger because enemy mechs truly feel like you're fighting another human player because the Word of Blake (the enemy in the game) uses identical mech types as you and your comrades.
The environments are also something to showcase to your friends. While the grass, trees, and other additions to the environment are fairly lackluster and run of the mill it's the interactivity that can be achieved with the trees, building, bridges, and tunnels that males MechAssault so damn fun. As soon as you enter a level with building be sure to fire a pack of missiles into the bell of one of the many skyscrapers and see what happens. What you'll see are holes with fire forming in them denoting damage to the building. This can be done as much as you like to whatever building you prefer, of course these buildings will eventually fall in an elegant fashion. This portion of the game will be explored later in the gameplay segment of the review but rest assured for now that the effect looks downright amazing.
The weapons in the game all have standard dissimilarities in their look as well as certain similarities. Rockets have three different levels that can be upgraded and have different colors to denote each, this feature is common for a great many of the weapons in the game. The vapor trail left by rockets and the rail gun is quite fun to watch as the bullets shoot off in all their aqua colored glory while leaving behind a trail of smoke. Lasers look… like lasers streaking off in different colors depending on their strength, some leave behind long trails, and others shoot off rather quickly, it all depends on the type and strength but one thing is for sure, you'll know every single type of weapon by heart by the end of the game.
The story of the game is as follows: You play the part of MechWarrior, you and your crew of military personal (consisting of two people) have crash landed on Planet Helios and have found a group of rogue extremists known as the Word of Blake (identified as WOB throughout most of the game). Needless to say you and your group disagree with the extremists and war ensues, your mission is to wipe them out in anyway possible.
Missions in the game one of the many spectacular aspect of MechAssault, the variety that you'll face is staggering and provides you with a huge amount of fun factor. Protection of friendly units, destroying numerous bases ranging from airfields, mech factories, and tank manufacturers. The game obviously has base building in mind which his one of the add-ons that Microsoft has planned for the game in early-mid 2003. At any given time you'll be faced with either tanks, battle armor (small flying, armored infantry), enemy mechs, (in the final level you'll be put up against four or five enemy mechs at the same time) and a few kinds of helicopters.
The game plays amazingly well, featuring fast and furious action that takes place on numerous types of terrain. Unlike in most mech games buildings cannot be used as cover for incoming fire. One player cannot continuously circle a building and doge enemy fire as their weapons recharge, instead the buildings will slowly begin to fall until none remain and you are left with a down and dirty dogfight. The special weapons in the game play a pivotal role in both the single and multiplayer aspects. One of the more important specials revolved around the inability for opponents to lock their weapons onto your mech. This can aid you in fleeing from a battle in need of a health pack if the action gets too hot and your enemy relies heavily on heat seeking missiles. There are other specials in the game including my personal favorite, invisibility, I won't give the rest away, you'll just have to wait and find out for yourself.
The single player is great, in my opinion it's among the most fun that I've ever had the pleasure of experiencing but the focus of MechAssault is obviously with its multiplayer capabilities. Xbox Live is the focus of this title, while split screen and system link play are also available, XBL is where the real appeal is. The game offers five extremely enjoyable game modes. You get Destruction and Team Destruction, your basic deathmatch and team deathmatch that pits you and seven other freaks from around the country against each other in any of the game's chosen worlds. You also get Last Man Standing and Team Last Man Standing which is a slightly less enjoyable form of survivor where the last one alive wins the game. Last but not least get not it where one person is "it" and you are forced to destroy them and become it yourself for points. Each and every mode presents its own method of fun to be had, the only qualm that I had with the XBL system was the fact that the service kicks you out of your game room after each session. A game of Last Man Standing can last a whole of five minutes and then you're kicked back out to the main menu to begin your search for a game anew, it gets a bit tired and tedious after awhile, thankfully the fun factor makes for it.
The graphics of the multiplayer system as well as the lag are easily the best that I have ever seen. When you consider the fact that this game is a launch title, the quality of the Xbox Live service in the game is staggering. Here's an example of a game that I played my first day with the title. I was playing with a group of eight guys in the ice level (the name escapes me), we had seven Elementals (the smallest and wussiest mech available) and one Atlas mech (the biggest of the big). The smart ass Atlas player decides to wait for us all to make our way across the huge ice bridge that resides in the level. As soon as he's got all seven of us on the bridge he unloads his weapon payload into the bridge, forcing it to fall. Thankfully I realized what he was doing before it actually occurred and was able to activate my jump jets and free myself from the fall. On my fall back down tot eh planet I looked down to see the bridge crumble and all six of my teammates fall to their doom. All of this was achieved without a graphical hiccup or an ounce of lag. Granted the graphics are slightly less refined in the multiplayer mode, it is more then made up for in the quality of play.
The sound in the game is acceptable featuring nicely done voice acting from both of your squad mates as well as a very menacing voice over from the leader of the Word Of Blake. Sound effects in the game are amazingly well done with nicely detailed sounds of mechs stomping through each environment, weapons feature identically extraordinary sounds with awesome explosions, most of which come from the mech's bodies. The only qualm that I've got with the audio department is the steady flow of rock and roll music that flows upon engagement from an enemy mech. It's the very same song every damn time you meet a mech and that happens a whole hell of a lot so you'll become very accustomed that same rock tune that the developers whipped up with obvious haste.
Controls in the game are handled virtually identical to the critically acclaimed Halo, with few exceptions. R is used to fire and the two analog sticks are used to maneuver the mech around the screen while looking and strafing. A is another fire button, as L, X, B, and Y are all used to choose a weapon in their own unique way. Jump jetting and the use of special weapons is controlled by the right and left stick buttons respectively.
Customization, an element of mech games that has become common place is the one area in which MechAssault falls flat on its face. There are three weapon types that come on most standard mechanized robots and yet you can customize none of them. They are set for each of the game's mechs and feature no flexibility on combinations, nor specific kinds of weapons, they're limited and quite weak at times. More customization and this game would be damn near perfect.
Overall the game is a work of art that surpasses any mech game that I've ever played despite the lack of customization options. The Xbox Live and single player missions both combine to make an amazingly attractive game for the price of forty-nine dollars and that's without even mentioning the amazing graphics engine.