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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RTS

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Microsoft

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

Q2 2001

 

 

- Looks great

- Easy camera and tactical control

- Tactics actually work

- Simple to modify ‘Mechs

- Quite a few missions to fight through

- Many ‘Mechs to learn about

- A quick save feature is better than nothing

- Level editor included

- Tutorial gives the basics

 

 

- ‘Mechs sometimes take off on their own errands

- Artillery must be told what to do

- Some missions are extremely difficult

- Multiplayer is slow going

- Can’t create your own pilot

- Incredible load times

- It’s linear nature limits replayability

 

 

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MechCommander 2

Score: 8.6 / 10

 

There’s something very appealing about 60-ton mechanized warriors blowing things up and making money at the same time, which is why MechCommander 2 (MC2) strikes a chord in me – especially when I don’t have to master the controls of each ‘Mech.

 

mech_commander2-a.jpg (13781 bytes)          mech_commander2-b.jpg (17050 bytes)

 

You’re dropped into the role of a leader of mercenaries <insert A-Team theme here> that take part in battles for money and advanced weapons. There’s a complicated story in the background but who cares when you’re ultimately trying to cover your own ass and make some money? The story progresses via pre-mission briefings and longer cutscenes in-between campaigns. The acting walks the line between over-the-top and bad, and the video quality is on the grainy side and the lips don’t always sync with what’s being said. However, the video quality enhances the feeling that you’re in a hot zone.

 

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As commander of your ‘Mech squad it’s your job to lead them to victory. Victory will only come to those that know their pilots and their ‘Mechs. And since there are over 25 ‘Mechs, each with their own unique characteristics, and a rabble of pilots, each with different abilities, most of the pre-mission time is spent trying match up ‘Mechs and pilots to achieve the most effective combination. You want to pair up a laser specialist with a ‘Mech that has lots of 

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lasers equipped. If the ‘Mech you choose doesn’t have the hardware you have in mind it’s no problem to modify it. There are only two restrictions to modifying your ‘Mech: heat load and weight. The whole process is easy and the default load-out is pretty good so if you don’t like tweaking you don’t have to. (Each modification you make can be saved.) You should know what ‘Mechs are most effective in a given situation – which ‘Mechs can jump, which ones can pile on the long-range projectiles, how fast they are, and, the most important, how heavy they are. (All of this info is displayed on-screen during the pre-mission phase.)

Weight is a real factor when trying to navigate mine fields. Light ‘Mechs don’t weigh enough to trip the mines, which makes them very useful in luring a heavy enemy ‘Mech into the minefield and taking it out (or severely disabling it) without firing a shot. It’s tactics like these that are key to success. Overall, tactics work very well. Taking the high ground, targeting specific areas on enemy ‘Mechs, hit and fade, and strategic strikes should all be considered when approaching any situation. (Plus, you should have an understanding of the enemy ‘Mechs – mostly what kind of firepower they have.)

Here’s an example of how tactics work. Mission 10 requires you to capture a few enemy ‘Mechs, capture a headquarters, do some other dirty work, then get the hell out. Problem comes from the fact you can send in only three ‘Mechs at the most (the initial number of ‘Mechs is decided by how much the deploying crew can carry) and you’re facing a far superior force. They have bases and turrets on the high ground populated by a number of high-powered ‘Mechs. There’s a lot of sneaking involved. After you capture a few ‘Mechs it’s time to take on the bases and capture some resource points. (Resource points allow you to call in fixed artillery, repair vehicles, sensor probes, air strikes, salvage craft, etc.) A frontal assault is suicide – even a massed frontal assault (i.e. a tank rush) won’t work. One section is less defended and therefore a suitable place to position a ‘Mech equipped with jump-jets. Knocking on the front door – blasting it to molten rubble – with the remaining ‘Mechs will attract most, if not all, the defending units to the gate. Quickly get your jump-jet powered ‘Mech over the wall to capture the turret control. Now you’ve got some extra guns and the upper hand. The fact that these kinds of tactics actually work is a huge plus. RTS usually means the one with the most massive force wins. Bigger ‘Mechs and more of them are obviously a plus but you’ll rarely have that opportunity. Superior tactics will get you everywhere.

On the battlefield, your ‘Mechs are huge menacing metal terrors. However, they like to chase things and are easily distracted by shiny objects. When your forces get spread out it’s hard to maintain control of them. It’s not due to the camera, which is very easy to control (zooming in, out, panning, turning), or the interface. In fact 9 out of 10 times, they’ll do what you tell them. But left to their own devices they’ll often take off after a passing enemy. Next time you turn around it will be in an enemy base getting the crap pounded out of it. Then there’s the issue of artillery. The fixed artillery can dish out major damage to all comers but they won’t do it on their own. You’ve got to tell them specifically what targets on which to rain death. It gets annoying when you set them up to defend a base while you take your ‘Mechs to a some higher ground only to have the artillery wiped out without ever firing a shot, leaving you to scramble to get back to defend the base. A bigger gripe is that some missions are maddenly difficult. To alleviate some of the frustration is a quick save feature. Before attempting anything too risky, it’s always a good idea to save. If things go terribly wrong you can hit quick load to take you back to your quick save. Quick load is kind of a misnomer here since load times are incredibly long, especially before missions. In one instance I had time to zap a couple of burritos in the microwave and it was almost done loading! This also applies to multiplayer games. Multiplayer supports LAN, TCP/IP, and Microsoft’s "Zone." Finding a good game in the "Zone" is a painfully slow process. The problem arises with tweakers that hold up the game nigglying with all the details of their ‘Mechs while the rest of the players are bored stiff – waiting, waiting for him to finish customizing so the game could start. More than 50% of the on-line matches I’ve attempted have died due to this. But once a good game is found, there is some fun to be had. (Then there’s the variable of your Internet connection.)  Game types include: Last Man Standing, Elimination (Deathmatch), Capture Base, Territories (kind of like UT's Domination), Last Man on the Hill, and Complex Mission (which presents multiple objectives to each side).

 

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Once everything is loaded up though the action rolls along at a good pace. The graphics are very good no matter what resolution you play at. There are many little touches too that round out MC2. You can change the color of your ‘Mechs and find a more appealing color scheme than the default "Hey, I’m a big yellow pylon!" With a higher-end machine you can turn on pilot videos (on the tactical screen), shadows, footprints, etc. (Which is to say nothing of the varied environments and weather conditions.) Turning down these options you miss some of the graphical splendor but you will get a better framerate. Animation for the ‘Mechs are detailed and fun to watch at a close-up, especially the Atlas and Anubius ‘Mechs. Overall, the game looks and sounds great.

At the end of the day, I recommend MechCommander 2. It’s easy to get into – the difficulty and details, while sometimes on the face of it seem huge, ramp up gradually and there’s quite a bit of fun to be had. Looks great, tactics work, easy interface and camera, and the ability to easily customize your ‘Mech load-out all add up to a solid game. (And the included mission editor coupled with a rabid fan base should spawn lots of new maps to conquer.)

- Omni

 

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