Review by Nightfall

"A great shooter, but it's just not Mechwarrior"

This review deals only with the single player game, because I do not have Xbox Live. Everything I've heard about the online experience is good, so all of you out there who are lucky enough to have your Xbox in the same room as your PC, enjoy. I am not that fortunate. What's that, you say, get a wireless router and wireless bridge? Do you wanna give me the estimated 300 dollars it will cost me to buy that equipment, flyboy? Didn't think so. So on we go to my review of the single player experience only. If you have lots of friends with Xbox Live, go read a different review.

The main thing anyone needs to know about Mechassault is that it is an attempt to make the old school Mechwarrior series of games more accessible to the general gaming pubic by a process of simplification, while at the same time trying to preserve some of the qualities and elements of the traditional Mechwarrior style. Being a fan of the old school Mech games, I was a bit taken aback and disappointed when I began playing Mechassault. When you first start out in that light Cougar mech, the game is nothing short of a very fast paced blast-fest, with a feeling similar to Gunmetal or Halo. The only similarity to the Mechwarrior games of old is the look of your mech. Your view is locked behind your mech (no first person view this time, folks), and rather than lumbering around like the walking tank you are, you will be dancing like a 40 foot tall Micheal Flatley with his feet on fire. Lovers of action/shooter games who have no acquaintance with the Mechwarriors of the past will have no problem with this, but if the slow-moving, sim aspect of earlier Mechwarrior games is what you like, you're going to have to do some adjusting here. That being said, I have to tip my hat to the developer for still trying to preserve some of that old Mechwarrior style, which comes through mainly in the later missions when you get to the heavier, slower moving mechs. It's obvious they didn't want to completely abandon the classic Mechwarrior gameplay. They even included a level in which you have to trudge through water to pursue your targets, thus slowing you down. I got the feeling they were saying, ''see, this is what it used to be like. It's still fun, isn't it!'' That old Mechwarrior charm isn't completely dead in this game, it's just been subverted a bit. The developers were probably thinking something like this: ''people don't want to have to learn a whole keyboard of buttons to play a game; they want fast-paced action with simple controls.'' That is understandable, especially with today's fascination with extremely fast moving action games in which the player has little time to pause for a break. However, I must point out that Mechassault's developer went a little too far in the simplification process. Even for an action/shooter, the game doesn't have much depth. There is absolutely no customization of your mech. You have no lancemates. No Mobile Field Repair units. No satellite map, no weapon groupings, no ......I think you get the picture. There isn't much more to it than being very fast with the aiming stick and the trigger. There are some strategic elements, such as using the environments to your advantage, leveling up your weapons (in-mission only), and taking advantage of your defensive equipment, but make no mistake this is primarily a shooter in which he who can dance the best with the quickest trigger finger wins the day. Go into the game knowing this, and you will probably be very pleased with this game.

Whewwww.....the obligatory warning that this is not classic Mechwarrior gameplay now out of the way, let's go into what makes this a great game. Everything about this game screams, ''I am in a giant robot with very powerful weapons and I am blowing the living crap out of everything!'' The game does a very good job of giving you the feeling that you are stomping around in a giant battlemech with a very formidable arsenal of weapons at your disposal. The weapon and explosion effects are astounding, and so are the sounds that go along with them. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING, is more satisfying in this game than seeing an enemy mech go down. The mech kind of breaks apart from the inside, with blinding light from the core breach shining through all the break points, and the sound is incredible. I don't know how else to describe it, other than it is the sound of failing metal. The sound of all the brilliant work that went into building that battlemech being erased out of existence. Destroying buildings, tanks, copters, and trucks is equally satisfying, although not quite as spectacular as an enemy mech going down. With buildings you can see glass shattering and fires being started where you hit them. When that sucker finally goes down it's pretty impressive, with the ground rumbling and the force feedback and all, but you better make sure you're not standing next to it.

The game is a graphical feast in everything except the landscapes themselves. Most of these are pretty bland looking, especially the lava levels later in the game. The landscapes have very little detail, but I suspect that is because most of the detail has been reserved for the mechs, buildings, tanks, copters, and gun implacements. It's not a really big deal. The mechs alone look good enough to keep anyone happy. You can even see blinking lights and spinning servos (whatever a servo is). As mentioned earlier, the weapon effects are extremely cool, especially the PPC, the Gauss rifle, and the Autocannon. You can feel the punch they deliver. Rain and snow effects are very convincing, as are the plumes of smoke that escape out the back of your missile pods when they are launched. I wish the landscapes had more detail in them (after all, this is the Xbox), but I guess you can't have everything.

Control is a piece of cake. If you've played Halo, you will be adept at controlling your battlemech. All you need to remember is the blue, yellow, and red buttons are your weapon selection, and if you don't want to take your finger off that right aiming stick to select a weapon, the left trigger will cycle through them for you. Right stick button is defense, left stick button is jump jet. Green button and right trigger are both fire. Piece of cake. The white and black buttons only have functions in multiplayer, of which I have no experience.

My only real beef with the game is its oversimplification of the whole mechwarrior experience. At the end of a mission there is no tally screen showing you how many mechs, tanks, copters and buildings you took out, no pick-up total, no points for good performance, and of course no salvage summary, because there is no customization in this game. And why is there no penalty for hitting friendly targets in this game? There are some missions with friendly buildings, vehicles, and mechs, and you suffer no consequences at all for destroying them.(There is one mission in which you need to steal a mech, and destroying that one will end the mission, but that is the only instance where you are required to act responsibly). The whole thing is just too bare bones for me. It's a fun shooter, but the legacy of Mechwarrior is that it has always been much more than just a shooter. If I want just a shooter, I'll play Halo. Even a simple ranking system at the end of each mission showing you how well you performed would have been nice. Or putting hidden objects in the game, with a challenge to find them all, and unlock new skins or mechs. The only reason to replay any of the missions after beating them is to try out a higher difficulty setting. And speaking of new mechs, there are several mechs shown in the game sleeve which you never get to pilot in the single player missions. I'm assuming these mechs are only accessible in mulitplayer mode, or online. To finish off my gripes, there is a bug in the game involving the last mech the player gets to pilot. This bug renders one weapon unselectable using the buttons. It has to be cycled to with the left trigger. Not a huge deal, but annoying, and something that should have been caught by the testers.

In closing comments, I would recommend this game to anyone who is not hoping for a more in depth mechwarrior experience. If you're an action/shooter junky and don't really care about stats or customization, this game is up your ally. You just shoot, shoot, shoot. But if you're hoping to find classic Mechwarrior simulation, you won't find it. If the term ''dumbed down'' doesn't apply to this game, it doesn't apply to anything. I think the only way this game can be a real keeper is if you have Xbox Live and are able to play against other mechwarriors from around the world. I don't, so I'll probably be trading this one in after beating it a couple times. Too bad, because I've had the Playstation version of Mechwarrior 2 for years, and I still love it, horrible graphics and all.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 12/12/02, Updated 12/12/02

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