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Games Revisited: Mechassault and Mechassault 2

Chicks dig giant robots! As well they should because everyone digs giant robots. This is why Battletech, Mechwarrior, Mechassault, Mechtechwarriorassault, what have you has been an extremely popular board game, role playing game, card game, multiple computer game series, cartoon, and toy line. Granted the company, originally owned by FASA, now by WizKids, has gone through some set backs (like being sued by the makers of Macross/Robotech), the classic computer games have always been popular. And I did get suckered into the cliqs game. So, how will the video games based on this well developed series go? Put it this way, I picked up the sequel, which is two disks for under $6 at Game Stop. What does that tell you?

First off, when doing a Mech game, there are two paths the designer can go: either start with everything at a human based scale, and thus make the robots 50 ft tall; or start with the 50 ft robot as the basic unit and scale down. The problem is that the series does the latter, and it makes it seem like everything is small. Even in the sequel, when you can exit the mech and run around, you get a feeling that everything is still small, just scaled big.

The first game starts with a mercenary band of the Wolf’s Dragoons crash landing on a planet and all the good mechs being destroyed one way or the other. Thus you start from the lightest of light mechs all the way up to the uber-powerful Ragnarok. This is tedious and does not make game play enjoyable, because from the get go you wonder why on earth they would have half of these crappy light mechs around, when most of the heavy and assault mechs can just step on them. Oh, but its okay, because the levels you are in one, the only enemy mechs you fight are also stupid light mechs. Wow! Lucky me.

The storyline and game play is: land somewhere, defend/attack something, then defend/attack another thing, step on humans (which is a redeeming quality), destroy turrets, shoot down helicopters, get swarmed by tanks, and oh yeah, fight mechs equal in your size. Well, there is also something to do with the Word of Blake, a group of fanatics (I’m not drawing any similarities to the name Blake easily being changed to Jesus or Muhammod), who are just screwing with everything on this planet. Eventually you get better mechs, generally through stealing somehow, and eventually stop the faceless enemy. Also, there is almost no replayability. Every level is exactly the same, the enemies come the same way, and there is only so much squishing of handful o’ pixel humans one can take before it gets old. Game play is pretty simple: right trigger = fire; left trigger = change weapons; right thumbstick in is special (jumpjets, cloak, armor), and that’s about it. A third person run and gun. Tracking abilities are with almost any weapon, however your enemy will often times jump over your head, and you just can’t angle up.

The first game also had multiplayer, which wasn’t that fun. On the XBox, a system known for having up to 4 players on one screen, the makers decided to go with the thrilling 2 per screen. This means you need more XBoxs and more copies to play with friends. As the game wasn’t that good, this was quite rare to get more than 4 people playing. Anyways, the maps are all big arenas where you charge at your opponents and kill them. For another Moment of Stupidity, they allow you to pick from light mechs to assault mechs. In a battle royal NO ONE PICKS LIGHT MECHS. Well, a friend of mine did, and he died in about two hits from my Mad Cat/Timber Wolf. His only option was charging and hoping his exploding wreckage would catch mine. So the game ends up being huge fights amongst the the assault mechs, which again, isn’t all that fun.

The second was a direct sequel, except now your mechpilot has a face (still no name though), and the Major gets more hair and more attractive (for a CGI model). This time you start in powerarmor which has the neat feature of hacking into an enemy mech to eject the pilot and then you can steal it. Okay, this is a nice gimmick, except when they make you do it on every level. And oh yeah, being in power armor and trying to hack heavy mechs isn’t fun when they kill you in 2 hits (huh, so that’s what it must have been like for my friend). You also can get in tanks and helicopters to add diversity. However you still have that everything feels small factor of the first game, even when you are the same size as them. Trust me, the first level when you are running around people they look extremely tiny, just blown up in photoshop. The single player gives you more options, but they all suck.  One level you have to pilot the helicopter which has horrible controls and no weapons.  Another has you defending a site for 2 minutes in a turret.  A Bloody Turret!  Oh, and another has you on foot sneaking past tanks and mechs into an abandoned mech which gets shredded the second you turn it on.  I found myself on almost every level screaming “Just give me a goddamn Mad Cat!”  Again the game suffers from the lack of replayability as the first, but you can run around the ship a bit, oh Boy!

As for Multiplayer, well that was its major selling point: when you sign up, you choose a faction, and then fight over control of planets for your faction with other people online. Again, cool idea, but most hardcore mech enthusiasts were already doing that with Steel Battalion, and if you were willing to chock $200 for a 36 button controller, you weren’t going to settle for the cheap Malaysian knockoff. Few people ended up playing online as far as I know, and fans of the miniature game went back to the tabletop, and fans of the original Mechwarrior Series pulled their old copies out and played a far better game.

Mechassualts were games that had potential, but failed for a number of reasons. Who knows if a third is in store for Xbox360 (I don’t feel like looking it up right now), but if they change a lot of the problems, I would probably be willing to pick it up used, after it has gone down in price. If you are a hardcore Mech fan, I say pick it up just to run around in hopefully your favorite mech, but if third person combat is your thing, stick with something by Tom Clancy.

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