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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Majesco

 

Developer

Rage Software

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

August 2002

 

 

- Arcade feel
- Loads of action
- Solid soundtrack
- 25 levels offer enough challenge

 

 

- Lots of sloooooooow dowwwwwn resulting in an increased difficulty
- Some iffy control
- Where are the cutscenes

 

 

Review: MechAssault (XBox)

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Gun Metal

Score: 6.6 / 10

 

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Taking control of a big transforming robot sounds cool – even cooler when said robot is equipped with an assortment of high-explosive projectiles and energy weapons. This is why it’s so sad to see Gun Metal (GM) fall short even though it's still fun in short controlled bursts.

The premise and backstory are as straightforward as they come: blow up the bad guys in the far-flung future. There’s no political intrigue, no plot twists and a near-total lack of cutscnenes. GM is all about the action, whether you’re running escort, defending a base, or obliterating the opposition. In true form, you have token back-up but it’s all for naught – you are a one-robot army. Like almost every game Rage has developed (that I can think of), there’s a distinct emphasis on bright lights, big

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explosions and neat-o lighting effects, and mostly fun gameplay.

Controlling your big ‘bot is also straightforward, in either robot or jet mode. But there’s a problem switching between the two. Hitting the Y-button results in a second or two of no visible response. Then it leaps into the air and hits the afterburners. It’s as if the ‘bot is mustering up the courage to soar with the eagles. Or like a

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weightlifter attempting a truly gargantuan clean-and-jerk. Hesitation, then “UUMPHH!” all the blood vessels in his neck pop. There’s a good selection of weapons to be accessed in both ‘bot and jet form, and most of them have their own pros and cons. My favorite, a torpedo that hugs the ground, means you can sit behind a hill for cover and destroy enemy tanks on the other side.

What nearly kills GM are the horrendous drops in framerate. Imagine playing all the way through Halo under the same framerate found in the climatic escape in the Warthog. (For those of you that don’t know, everything slowed right down – not stuttering like PC gamers get used to as their rigs age, just slow.) That speed is cut nearly in half with GM. Face off against more than a half-dozen on-screen enemies and suddenly it feels like you’re fighting through the effects of a black hole covered in molasses after consuming half a mickey of rum. There’s an optimistic part of me that thinks this would make it easier to dodge incoming fire. No, it doesn’t. You simply get to watch your ‘bot die slower as the enemy has this nasty tendency to pinpoint you with deadly accuracy. All this while your button presses don’t seem to register.

It’s in these situations – your shield gone, taking heavy damage, and fighting the effects of the molasses – that a quick exit is entirely necessary. Unfortunately, shifting to jet mode leaves you open to quite a few shots and because you’re in molasses and it takes a couple of seconds for the ‘bot to jump into the air, you’ll die before you can make it to a recharge station to restore your health and shield.

 

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Difficulty is uneven. I often breezed through four or five missions on the first try then got totally stuck on the sixth for a few days. Some of this was owed to the molasses effect, but more often it was the result of overwhelming numbers. Other times it was the result of the targeting system, which can be switched from auto to manual at the press of a button. Auto targeting doesn’t target well enough – enemies flying in over you don’t even get a second glance while they pound you with missiles – and manual targeting is rendered even tougher to handle during the periods of molasses. Being able to switch between them so easily does take away some of the frustration but each seem to go only half way. (I suppose, combined, they go all the way.)

Graphically, GM is pretty nice to look at – believe me, you have time to notice the smalls things like smoke trails, human infantry being squashed, small explosions, dirt being kicked up from “small arms” fire, etc. Most of this graphical splendor happens while in robot mode. When whooshing around as the jet the world just zooms by, almost too fast, but the sense of speed is achieved. (More so when you’ve just blasted out of molasses.) GM looks great most of the time, but the speed trade-off just isn’t worth it. (I think Rage set out to choke the Xbox: "Let's see if it can handle this and this and THIS!")

This might be a nit more than anything but I found it kind of off-putting that there were no cutscenes. The opening movie is nice to watch but whatever happened to in-between mission flicks? Even the briefings are pretty lifeless, with some angry disembodied voice shouting orders. (The voice booms throughout each mission, mostly shouting, “Use your missiles!”) The music is actually decent though.

Gun Metal could have been so much more with a bit more time. The arcade action is a nice diversion (and fun) for half hour stretches but any long-term involvement is not likely – it’s just not deep enough. And the speed issues… rent it and see for yourself.

- Omni
(September 9, 2002)

 

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