Review by Frost X

"Big Robots + Xbox Live = Fun"

Forget what you knew about online gaming. Forget keyboards. Forget pressing a button for computer controlled commands. Forget wishing that you could have told that jerk you have for a team mate that it pissed you off when he grabbed that power up when you needed it more. Xbox Live, and more specifically, MechAssault, has arrived.
Let’s get the nit picking out of the way right now. MechAssault is in no way the prettiest game on the Xbox. It’s not DOA3 quality, no where near Panzer Dragoon Orta quality, and the lighting effects may be decent, but let’s try to avoid even making a comparison of them to Splinter Cell’s. It isn’t the worst either, mind you. MechAssault features bar none the best explosions you’ll ever find in any game on the market right now. All of the special effects are well rounded, and the textures are very acceptable in nearly every place you look. Lasers and missiles and all other means of firepower are done beautifully, and the ‘Mech’s themselves look spectacular. So overall, it’s only a few steps behind a game like Halo, which, being said, is a big compliment.
If there is anything that makes up for the lack of Xbox-expected quality, it’s the sheer overwhelming quantity of the levels and maps. Huge, sprawling worlds await you, with countless buildings, towers, enemies, trees, rivers, and more. The maps, in addition to being immersively huge, are also excellently detailed. Watching a “tiny” tractor trailer drive past you as you stomp past a highway really puts you in the perspective of how big your machine really is. And I absolutely couldn’t write this without giving incredible props to Day 1 Studios and Microsoft for making every map completely and totally destructible in nearly every aspect. Remember that tractor trailer? Well, if you don’t like it, use it as a football. Think that sky scraper needs some remodeling? Remodel it with your Particle Projectile Cannon. Or, just flat out drop a bridge on an enemy’s head. It’s totally up to you, and this kind of freedom can lead to hours of just running around for the sake of blowing things up.
But what about sound, you ask? Perfect. Every cut in from your commander, every briefing, every explosion, is well suited and won’t leave you asking “Why did they say that?”. Buildings blowing up sound just like buildings blowing up. Missiles impacting on their target sound like a real life F-16 fight. And I bet that if we had giant, 40-story walking robots in this day and age, they’d sound like the ones in MechAssault.
The background music is done in a scheme that I particularly enjoy myself. When you’re traipsing through the woods in a Cougar ‘Mech in the first level, it really isn’t a big threat to see a platoon of soldiers firing MP5’s at you. Thankfully, MechAssault realizes this, and will keep the music down to a soothing tone that will give you more of a taste for discovering your new world than just mashing everything in sight. However, when action picks up, and it will, so do the tunes. Taking on one ‘Mech in a fire fight is one tough cookie, and MechAssault lets you know it as the music quickly picks up pace. In this way, you get the best of both worlds, keeping your heart from exploding as you just walk past a brook, but nearly giving you a stroke when you have two enemy Atlas ‘Mech’s wanting you dead.
MechAssault does an excellent job of getting you into the game with it’s controller scheme and gameplay. Although a button customization option would have been nice, I never really missed it. Piloting your 50-foot monster is a snap, and you’ll have it down after just a few frags. Firing and moving works together perfectly, and you better get good at it, or you’re a dead man. Plus, thanks to a brilliantly conceived defensive option exclusive to certain ‘Mechs, strategy abounds. You just won’t find a better mix of gameplay available right now.
Now that we have all those irritating details out of the way, let’s get down to the real meat and potatoes. The visuals, the sound, the gameplay…forget all of it. You haven’t played this game if you haven’t played it online, and when you’re online, nothing else matters except for the fact that you’re in a 3-on-4 handicap match in River City, and those punks on the Red Team have you by 1 kill with a minute and forty to go. I have never had more fun playing an online game. It is so involving, so fun, so brilliantly, flawlessly done that the sound, the visuals, the fact that your house is on fire, everything melts away and you are in that ‘Mech. The fact that the game alone is so fun that you’ll never need another Mech game is good enough, but when you add live voice chat, it takes the cake. What do you want to tell that guy that just fragged you? That he got a lucky shot? Or that he’s an awesome player and you want to add him to your friend list? How about coordinating tactics to your team mates? Not a problem with Xbox Live. Without question, this is the must have game on Xbox right now if you have Xbox Live. The only weak points MechAssault has online are that you can’t toggle between team and universal chat (you must hold down the black button) and that you have less than ten maps to choose from. But, even that can’t be picked at too much, thanks to the downloadable content feature. Maps, ‘Mechs, and more are coming, and the only question left to ask is, are you? My Gamertag is Frost X, and yes, that is a challenge.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 11/19/02, Updated 11/19/02

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