Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Xbox)

Microsoft's follow-up to their critically acclaimed robotic title, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf expands the player's options with new mechs, weapons, and enhanced abilities. While the game still emphasizes action and destruction, new features have been added to make the game even better. Players can now exit their mech and run around, take over other mechs by jacking into them and more. The single player experience is excellent but the improved online mode is outstanding. Going on Xbox Live allows players to participate in massive campaigns across the galaxy with large clans. This makes for some quite intense, immersive battles. While it's not a true mech sim, the arcade approach works nicely, making MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf is a solid sequel fans of the original won't want to miss.

The first MechAssault title for the Xbox released two years ago, was an excellent game that offered a solidly entertaining, arcade style spin on the traditionally sim-oriented mech genre. While it didn't set sales records, it developed a solid cult following on the console. Developed by Day 1 Studios in association with FASA, the title also offered an excellent online component that made it quite popular among Xbox Live early adopters. The sequel has finally arrived. Lone Wolf offers a number of upgraded elements that make for a much more satisfying game. The game offers a decent selection of single and multiplayer modes such as basic arcade style modes, deep mission play and many multiplayer modes for both co-operative and Xbox Live. The basic premise is largely unchanged but the developers have built a deeper storyline that gives you more background than the previous game. MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf places you in the role of a legendary, yet unnamed MechWarrior, who's the leader of a small band of resistance fighters. Your mission is to pilot a mech or other similar vehicle through each area, looking to destroy any enemy forces who stand in your way. Along the way, you can find a variety of health, systems and, weapons power-ups which are revealed when you destroy certain storage structures. Defeating certain enemies will also unlock power-ups as well. Enemies come in several different varieties, ranging from mechs and tanks. You can find their locations on your radar. In addition, your radar allows you to see where the enemy has placed gun turrets and missile launchers. However, what you see at the beginning of each level isn't always the complete army of foes you'll face. In many areas, the enemies will attack you by moving through tunnels. You can to destroy these in order to stop these invading forces. Each level offers a unique environment that can feature a variety of hills, drops and buildings. The action is relentless and brutal, meaning you have to stay aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on the radar at all times.

MechAssault 2 also features an increased number and type of mechs. There are several distinct classes of Mechs in the game: Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault with more than a dozen available in all. Each type of mech offers its own unique set of controls and weapons systems. The mechs come equipped with a variety of weapons such as missiles, lasers, pulse rifles, grenades and even flame throwers. There are many types of these available, and some are more effective against enemies than others. How they perform depends on their battle armor, what type of shield they have enabled and their specifications. You can equip more than one of these at a single time, and switch between them easily adding to your combat effectiveness. In addition to standard mechs, several new vehicles such as tanks and planes are available. This adds more variety and makes the multiplayer and online modes more exciting. In addition, players can take control of turrets and missile launchers. These new vehicles and weapons definitely add a lot to the gameplay. For example, the tanks are heavily armored, but move much slower than other vehicles. In all, players will have the opportunity to control more than a dozen different mechs and other vehicles in the game, with additional armor becoming available via download on Xbox Live, which means there's plenty of replay value in the game. Once you get on the battlefield, you'll find that the mechs themselves have been upgraded with several new features.

The most impressive of these upgrades are the Mechs' new claw ability that allows them to latch onto the sides of buildings and other mechs. In combination with Mechs' jumping ability, this allows you to reach the top of structures much easier, though you need to time your jumps or risk falling off the sides. This impressive feature is smartly implemented with the other controls and lets you reach the top of buildings much faster. Players can also hack into or jack an opponents' mech and take it over. This is accomplished by hitting a button sequence quicker than your opponent. However, the biggest change is the ability of the player to jump out of the mech and run around in each area, dodging gunfire while running around. When on-foot, players can run to terminals and hack them in order to open doors, or disable security systems and also jump into unoccupied mechs. This new ability to go outside the mechs makes the game feel much more realistic and opens up new mission types and gameplay mechanics. From a gameplay standpoint, this makes for a much more varied experience.

Despite these new additions, MechAssault 2 is still an action-oriented game at heart, and you'll spend the majority of your time in combat. This approach also extends to the controls, which are far simpler than in many mech titles, making it an extremely accessible title. Controlling the mechs is remarkably easy, thanks to MechAssault 2's intuitive interface that allows you to command your machines without the usual steep learning curve. The button mapping is straightforward making it easy to fire, switch weapons and control movement easily. Moving outside the vehicle or climbing into one is also simple, requiring only a single press of the button. The default camera angles are generally excellent, but players can also switch views easily with the left analog sticks. MechAssault 2's simplified approach to gameplay and controls makes it an instantly accessible game that should appeal to a broad audience. This broad appeal is further enhanced by the single-player game's straightforward structure. MechAssault 2's missions are relatively simple with most objectives spelled out clearly in pre-game briefings and reinforced during the game itself by your companions. This streamlined approach allows you to concentrate on your current objective without being distracted. The missions themselves are quite challenging, and many can be quite long taking up to half an hour to complete. Unfortunately, while they are well designed, the short length means the game is over before you can get into it. .

Fortunately, this short length is mitigated somewhat by the single-player game's sheer fun factor and MechAssault 2's extensive online and multiplayer modes. The game offers a number of options and modes to choose from once players are connected including the usual capture the flag, last man standing, grab it and one on one death-matches. MechAssault 2's online modes offer players the ability to play either solo or in teams across multiple maps, with both co-operative missions and fierce battles. These modes are quite enjoyable but they pale against the game's Conquest mode, which is a large interplanetary struggle for control of the entire MechAssault galaxy. Here, players can join large clans, and battle it out planet to planet for domination against rival clans or houses. The battles in this mode can become quite intense and the sheer scale and size of this massive online campaign is breathtaking. As you progress through the ranks and begin to take more control of the action, the Conquest mode really begins to shine, making it one of the game's highlights. Overall, MechAssault 2's Xbox Live experience is one of the best on the console to date because it creates an immersive, exciting world that seems to act on its own.

From a visual standpoint, MechAssault 2 implements some impressive technical features that bring the player right into the action. From an aesthetic standpoint, MechAssault 2 improves on the first game dramatically, creating a richer and deeper gameplay experience. It also has a more cinematic feel, thanks to the extensive cut-scenes used which flesh out the storyline effectively. The game's environmental effects are quite impressive with a range of combat environments that range from dense urban locales to outdoor areas. The developers have done a good job and each environment seems realistic with plenty of destructible objects to interact with. The game engine uses extensive weather and lighting effects to enhance the feel even more. Some of the weapons look impressive when fired, marking each shot with an impressive glow. Obviously, the mech designs are excellent and fit in with the MechWarrior world to create a cohesive, believable universe. The graphics engine is sharp and solid with smooth animation and an excellent frame rate that create a smooth appearance throughout. Unfortunately, the game's hard rock soundtrack is distracting and doesn't fit the mood of the game very well. The good news is that you can turn it off, so it's no big deal. Overall, MechAssault 2's slick production values are excellent and showcase the console's graphical powers effectively.

Even though MechAssault 2 isn't perfect, it's still a solidly entertaining title that should please fans of the genre. The single player missions are challenging and fun, but there aren't enough of them. However, the new abilities such as the ability to jump out of the mech, Climbing and latching onto building and hacking other mechs adds an entirely new level of challenge to the game. It's not as accurate or realistic as some of the simulations on the market, but it's intuitive controls, straightforward mission structure and fantastic visuals make for an accessible and challenging game. Obviously, the main appeals of MechAssault has been its online play, and the game delivers one of the more robust and immersive Xbox Live experiences to date with a number of exciting modes and a deeply challenging, satisfying and intense Conquest mode that worth the price of admission alone. While its not as deep as some of the mech simulation games on the market, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf offers a solidly entertaining, challenging, and action-packed title that will definitely satisfy any gamer's need for intense combat and fun gameplay.

- Michael Palisano

Grade: B+

> Related Reviews

MechAssault (Xbox)
Zone of the Enders (PS2)
Zone of the Enders: The Second Runner (PS2)

< Home