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Platform

Xbox

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Microsoft

 

Developer

Day 1 Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

January 2005

 

 

- Next to Halo, the best first-party franchise on the Xbox gets even better than the stellar original
- Gorgeous visuals, particularly fuselage flames
- Fits-like-a-glove responsive controls
- Ability to jack Mechs is a great new addition

 

 

- Playing online is next to impossible for newbies
- Graphics lose their beauty and sharpness online
- Single-player campaign has some choke points that lower the enjoyment a bit

 

 

Review: MechAssault (XB)

Review: Halo (XB)

Review: Halo 2 (XB)

Review: Metal Arms - Glitch in the System (XB)

 

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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf

Score: 9.2 / 10

 

mechassault 2 xbox review          mechassault 2 xbox review

 

Contrary to what some people may say, (all those Sony and Nintendo fanboys, you know who you are!) there are other A+ first-party franchises for the Xbox besides Halo. Yes, itís hard not to get caught in the overwhelming shadow of the magnificent Halo 2, but the MechAssault series is a great first-party member of the Xbox library in its own right. The original was at the very genesis of showing off the quality of Xbox Live gaming. Its sequel, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (MA2), travels the same path of the Halo line: great first game followed by a follow-up that improves on the original in so many ways it creates a solidly spectacular video game.

Just like Halo 2, MA2 takes all the goodness of the first game and exponentially adds to every category: better graphics, better action, bigger selection of Mechs, more rigorous challenge level, the innovative Mech jacking addition, and most importantly, improved online play with the bonus of clan building features that allow clans to fight for control of planets, have their progress saved, and move onto the

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next sphere, all in a quest for universal conquest.

If you first take on the gameís single-player game traversing 20 missions, you will be placed in a sequel immediately following the events of the original game, only this time around youíll be facing off against the enemies of the 31st Century as a force of only three to start, including a solitary Mech

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pilot (hence the subtitle of the game, Lone Wolf). This time around, the single-player mission gives a much more taxing challenge (that borders on frustratingly hard at times). The game has a better save system to a point, saving the gameís progress at certain junctures, but a few more in-between would have saved a necessity for a wee bit too much backtracking.

Youíll have a much better array of Mechs at your disposal this time around, from all the different size and strength classes. In addition, you can also now operate other non-Mech vehicles, including a tank and flying crafts. You can also hitchhike a ride (or give a ride to teammates online) on the VTOL aircraft that serves as a battle armor transport.

Speaking of battle armor, you can employ the man-sized armor to give yourself a functional suit of armor that serves as a weapon with, because of its smaller stature, much more maneuverability than Mechs you are fighting. The downside is that the battle armor isnít very durable against the much, much more powerful Mechs, so that any Mech that gets you locked into its sights will dispatch you rather quickly compared to if you were fighting in a Mech yourself.

But the biggest ability you have with the battle armor, and the gameís biggest innovation, it the opportunity to jack other Mechs while you are in battle armor. If you get close enough to a Mech, you can grab a hold of the back of it, and a display showing all your Xbox controller keys (A, B, Y, X, right trigger, and left trigger) appears. The objective is to hit the random key pattern before your Mech-operating opponent pilot can (either A.I. or human controlled).


If you are the faster key-code pusher, you will eject the Mech pilot and be able to claim the Mech for your own usage. Of course, if youíre not as quick on the key-punching, you will be thrown from the Mech and momentarily knocked out of commission, giving your opponent a distinct advantage in a fight. Accomplishing successful jacks is an especially telling test of your gaming skills while online against human players.

 

mechassault 2 xbox review          mechassault 2 xbox review


The ability to destroy practically everything in the playing field returns with a vengeance. Go ahead, blow the hell out of every building you can see, if you want to get your destruction groove on. There are 15 levels of blasting delight to adventure through. And even with the presence of the ďfog of warĒ that is used to mask pop-up visuals on the horizon, MA2 is a graphical treat, noticeably improved from the first title. The most impressive visual is the flames spewing from the jump-jet packs of the Mechs that have the ability to rocket into the air using said jump-jet packs.

The fuselage-induced fire and heat is just a magnificent showing off of the Xboxís impressive graphical abilities. Youíll also be impressed with the particle effects of the weapons fire and its resultant powerful obliteration of anything in its path. In general, every aspect of MA2 benefits from a vibrant, neon-inspired color palette. Only when you play online do the graphics drop in quality and crispness, but itís the required tradeoff for lag-free online gaming where at times everything onscreen is under weapons attack or burning in a combination of a smoldering pile of twisted Mech metal and the charred flesh of dead Mech pilots.

Sound is on par with the first gameís better-than-average effects, especially from the above-mentioned jump-jet packs, which sound completely authentic. What voice acting there is in MA2 is okay, and music includes selections from hard rockers Korn and Papa Roach.

Another highlight is the responsive controls that fit the third-person action like a glove. And the control schematic is customizable, so players like me who prefer the Y axis controls to be changed can do so.

MechAssault was the first title to really show the full potential of Xbox Live. MA2 follows in the lineage of its original with another very good online experience. The game setup isnít as easily navigated as Halo 2ís, but offers a somewhat unique way of finding matches. Either by joining match or starting one, you and the other players that join can be seen as Mech pilots, and you can even control your pilotís movements on the deck of the spacestation that serves as the matchmaking arena. You can wave to other players, or menacingly smack your fist into your palm in a ďbring it on, suckaĒ challenge that can be carried over to the field of battle.

But one extremely important piece of advice I would like to extend to all that decide to play MA2 online: this is one tough game for newbies! Donít expect any sympathy from experienced MechWarriors, who take gleeful delight in annihilating those novices who come in their path. Get a good knowledge of what each Mech offers as an offensive weapon and learn the advantage of the arsenal of weaponry on each of them before heading online and suffering destruction at the hands of merciless veterans of the MechAssault gaming realm.

Sorry, Sony and Nintendo fanboys, despite your denials and attempts to slam down on the Xbox as a one-hit first-party wonder, there are other top-notch franchises on the Xbox, and MechAssault 2 proves it without a doubt. Xbox owners, enjoy having a viable alternative to Halo 2 for hardcore online gaming. Itís not as perfect as Halo 2, but MA2 is a great game worthy of your Xbox Live time.

- Lee Cieniawa
lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(February 21, 2005)
 

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