MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Limited Edition)
Someone screwed with my MechAssault.
I was an enormous MechAssault fan back in the day when it ruled Xbox Live. The first outing of the game was rather lame on single player, but it was glorious in multi-player battles. I couldn't get enough of the slower speed and longer shooting matches offered over faster frag-fests like Unreal Tournament. I was full of hope and excitement as I put in MechAssault 2 in my good ole Xbox. I held out hope against hope that the sequel had fixed the flaws of the first game and would provide an even better game all around. Sadly, I was rather let down.
MechAssault 2 stays faithful to the first game by having a weak plot. It involves the need for collecting some electronic do-dads to create a super weapon. This is hardly original and pretty boring. The cut-scenes looked pretty good, but don't offer anything in the way of drama and the voice acting is simply horrible. In addition to the lackluster story, the campaign is short. How short? Ungodly short. It even felt shorter than the first MechAssault, which was notorious for its average single player campaign. MechAssault 2's single player campaign was even more disappointing because I thought that more attention would be paid to it. Its fun to play, but it's the same thing we've seen before in the original MechAssault.
The entire game isn't a let down, however. There are almost too many improvements or additions to the first MechAssault in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics to mention. Mechs look better than ever and the explosions are bigger and badder. All of your favorite mechs are back and they are joined by a few new ones as well. One of the best additions is the battle suit that allows you to latch onto enemy mechs, eject the pilot, and take over that mech. This battle suit also adds a needed sense of scale to the game. Once you get that perspective of how big the mechs actually are, it heightens some of the fun factor knowing your piloting a gigantic walking tank. In the graphics department, everything from terrain, to the jump jets, to explosions received a great boost. Many of the effects, especially water and lighting, are spectacular. Sadly, the game is a lot like its predecessor in the fact that the environments look and feel like they are rather enclosed. The cities and other outdoor areas look a lot prettier but still feel like they take place in a box.
One of the best improvements to the original game is the sound. There have been a lot of additional sound effects added that really help round out the game experience. You can hear the enemy pilots yelling over the intercom and this additional chatter helps create the effect that you are battling hordes of real people instead of robots. Many of the familiar sounds are back and a lot of them are improved. The Gauss rifle has an amazing and satisfying crack in surround sound when it's powered to the maximum. There are some new sound effects in Lone Wolf that help you know the status of your mech so you don't have to look away from the action. One of the most noticeable is a beeping noise that indicates your level of damage. The more damaged you are the more intense the beeping. This heightens the tension as the indicator goes nuts, but it also can be highly annoying as well.
My nomination for worst use of licensed music should go to MechAssault 2. It makes use of licensed music, sort of. There are only two songs among the generic butt-rock tracks that loop during the game. These two songs, by Papa Roach and Korn, are crappy to begin with, but having to listen to them loop during two boss battles complete with lyrics was enough to make me sick. Luckily, you can turn off the background music without much hassle.
The replayability is limited to a campaign run that really isn't worth playing once it is beaten, but the core of the game design is focused around multiplayer anyway. The original MechAssault was the king of Xbox Live and Lone Wolf is an attempt to keep that crown. With even better online games like Halo 2 though, it's a futile effort. Although it's good, I was disappointed with the experience. I don't know how to go on with this part of the review without stressing that I loved the first MechAssault so much that I think it really biased my opinion of Lone Wolf. There are things about the multiplayer in this game that bothered me a lot, but might not have even been an issue if I hadn't loved the original MechAssault so much.
There are two methods of multiplayer. There is the standard quick-match/optimatch stuff and the new Conquest mode. The Conquest mode differs from regular multiplayer in that you join a “house” and try to take over the galaxy. It sounds cool and sort of is, but the main problem with it is that there is no reward for taking over the galaxy other than some bragging rights. There should be some unlockable mech or surname that would be added to your gamer tag or something to make it worthwhile. There are numerous other problems I've found more in this mode than in the standard multiplayer as well. Now, I'm not sure if it will always be this way, but during the time I was playing for this review it took me an extraordinarily long period of time to get into a game. The problem is that in the game selection screen it tells you how many players are in the game, such as 6/12, but it doesn't tell you how many your house needs for an even match. You end up going into rooms where there are way too many of your side and not enough of the other or vice versa. You also can run into the problem of waiting in a room for awhile for a game to start, the room then fills with too many people on your side, to which you are rewarded for patiently waiting by being booted out. This was so frustrating that I had a “throw my controller on the floor" moment.
In the few matches I could play, I found that all the new mechs, turrets, battle suits, and VTOLs all work well within the structure of the multi-player game. The VTOL and the battle suit add a lot of strategy to the team games that was missing from the original. The problem with MechAssault 2 is that I don't like this new "run to your mech" stuff. You see, when the match starts you begin as a puny little pilot and have to run to the nearest mech or what have you to get into action. In the old days you could pick whatever the hell mech you wanted and go with it. You could have a team battle of up to 8 Mad Cats and while it might not have been exactly fun, it was an option. This time you are forced to go with what you can grab or what the map has waiting for you. If someone calls a mech or doesn't respect your dibs on a mech you are screwed into getting whatever else is available. I don't understand how the developers at Day One Studios thought this was an improvement. Most of the fun of playing the original MechAssault was pitting various mechs against each other and getting good at certain ones that you could pick at your own free will. For example, I loved the Bowman after I got used to it. Guess what? I barely see it anymore.
The rest of the Xbox Live experience is almost exactly like the old MechAssault with options such as optimatch still present. I found it a lot easier to find a game to play in rather than in conquest mode, but maybe that's just me. The problem with mech selection is still present, however, so either mode doesn't appeal to me anymore.
The initial release copy of MechAssault 2 comes with a limited edition bonus disc. This disc is actually really cool, considering there are two extra multiplayer maps available on it. It also features a G4TechTV mini-documentary that was an enjoyable watch, so if intend on buying MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, then this is the one to get.
As much as I loved the first game and as much as I really wanted to like this game I can't. I might play it to get my money's worth, but I have a feeling I'm going to be putting the original in for my real fun.