Halo was the so-called centerpiece that came with the launch of the Xbox and now, with the launch of Xbox Live the designated piece-de-resistance is MechAssault. Generally speaking Mechgames aren’t my cup of tea, but when I saw the astounding graphics of MechAssault I threw my prejudices straight out the window. So it was with great anticipation that I popped this title in my Xbox and it took me a long time before I could break away from it to write this review.
First things first: a Mech is a gigantic futuristic warmachine that doesn’t drive or fly… it walks. It’s kind of an ultramodern tank with a range of weaponery that would even make cowboy Bush blush. The good thing is that this tank is driven by just one person: you! All right, that was Asqwanka’s definition of a Mech, all you gamers out there will now understand what I’ll be talking about in this review.
MechAssault’s gameplay is primarily focused on the Xbox Live online gaming aspect, but you can also play against friends and family on your own console. In Multiplay you have the choice between four modes, one of which, Grinder, can be played through a splitscreen. In this mode, the objective is to avoid getting killed by the computer controlled Mech-bots. Furthermore you get the Destruction mode, which comes down to a classic deathmatch mode and can be played in teams. Last Man Standing pretty much speaks for itself… it’s a question of survival. But hang on! There is something new here: the “Not it” mode whereby one player gets be be ‘it’ and he is the only one that can score points by forcing other players to the ground. The one who can destroy ‘it’ gets to be ‘it’ and can start scoring some points. Reminds you of elementary school, doesn’t it?
The Single player action is pretty good and even excellent from time to time. The campaign consists of 20 missions that have to be brought to a good end. The central theme that intertwines the missions is pretty simple: you were quietly travelling along, minding your own business on board a high-tech spaceship. A serie of chaotic events force the ship to crash land in an extremely hostile area. In other words: you will encounter no less thean 20 enemy army bases. Sounds good, doesn’t it? But what’s really unfortunate about this campaign is that you can’t save during missions. If you die, you’ll have to play the whole mission again… which gets frustrating after some time. On a good note, however, the AI is good: the computercontrolled Mechs don’t do freaky unnatural moves and they react pretty ‘normal’ in combat.
Now, Mech games on the pc platform are renowned for their endless, entangling and confusing keyboardcombinations. Luckily, the Xbox controller doesn’t lend itself to such complex frivolities and in the end this simply enhances the gameplay. The simplicity of the controler comes down to: less hastle, more fun. Players who already have some experience with Halo will have no trouble at all at mastering the Mech. Less experienced players will have to get used to operating the large chunck of steel, but after grinding some groundtroops into the dirt, you’ll get the hang of it. Each Mech possesses three kinds of weaponary, two of which function with the aid of auto-aim. The third weapon you’ll have to completely control yourself. There is a variety in choice of Mechs, from fastpaced ones that litteraly run across a battlefield to the slow and heavy machines that can take a serious beating.
The graphics of MechAssault are awesome. Not only the Mechs themselves are rich in detail, the battlefields and surrounding areas are nicely worked out too. Some examples: it’s really brilliant to fire a rocket against a building because the inflicted damage is very believable. If you hit a building with lots of windows, you’ll get a haze of little pieces of glass fluttering around like snow. When those little glass snowflakes hit the ground, you’ll hear thousands of little mirrors shattering. Smaller buildings tend to collapse pretty quick, but larger buildings will have to be hit a couple of times on specific critical points. And once such a building caves in, your eyes will be treated to an amazing visual feast. It’s simply awesome how much polygons they used here. Unfortunately from time to time things get too heavy for Microsofts little black box and the framerates drop to a low level.
The sound in MechAssault is of a very high quality. Every detail can be heard, if you walk through trees, you’ll hear branches screetching against the metal of your Mech. Good stuff, but what really tops things of is the excellent metal soundtrack!
In conclusion: MechAssault has its turn-offs, but you will have to look hard to find them. In my opinion, MechAssault is a great game which will provide hours of online console gaming pleasure to legions of players. The game is easy accesible to gamers of all levels and everyone will feel right at home when driving his gigantic metal warrior. Up till now, the Xbox was immediately linked with Halo, but as from now, you can be assured that MechAssault will be right up there in the Hall of Xbox Fame.