While Mechwarrior 4 gave you the chance to pilot your own mech, now is your chance to command a whole squadron of mercenaries and earn loads of money while killing your opponents.
In Mechcommander 2 you’re a mercenary who commands a bunch of pilots and tries to earn a few bucks by offering his services to he who gives you the most money.
During the game you’ll see yourself in service of Steiner and Liao forces, to finally liberate the planet of Carver V in service of the people of the planet (I don’t mind telling this since after a few missions you would have to be a complete fool not to know what’s going to happen).
The story is simple and straight-forward but believable although I doubt you’ll find many mercenaries in times of war who’ll not do it for the money but out of sheer sympathy.
The game is divided into 3 campaigns, each having different missions varying from destroying all enemy forces, capturing bases and covoys and protecting allied forces (after which you have to destroy all enemies).
When starting a mission you have a bit of money with you (never the total amount of money on your bank account) which gives you the possibility to get a repair truck which has the capability to repair your damaged mechs or send in a salvage craft that gives you the possibility to take control of a damaged enemy mech and use him to complete your mission.
There are a few other possibilities for which you can use the money like sending a scout helicopter to check out enemy territory or you can drop a sensor probe somewhere and you can even put some air defense up, but you won’t be needing these to complete your mission. It’s best to stick with salvage crafts and repair trucks since those are the most efficient ways of spending the little amount of money you get on a mission.
The gameplay is that of a standard real-time strategy game but way too slow. Once you’ve completed a mission you have to get to an extraction point, and if that’s on the other side of the map you can easily smoke a cigarette before your mechs arrive there and that’s quite annoying if you’ve already destroyed all enemy forces and there’s nothing to do anymore.
Also, when starting a mission, you’ll get way points to target where your mission objectives are located but you can take care of each objective in any way you want. It’s not obligatory to first go to number 1 and then number 2, but it does create funny settings sometimes like on one mission where you have to rendez-vous with another mech which tells you that his sensors see a heavy fortified base which needs to be destroyed. Pretty stupid if you’ve just destroyed that base but that’s the disadvantage of pre-scripted events…
The AI and path-finding of Mechcommander 2 is nothing to brag about.
In the manual is stated that you’ld better make sure that your mechs surround their targets to get maximum damage on them but there’s no need to micromanage that since your units will take care of that themselves.
Not that that’s so necessary because the enemies are pretty stupid. They’ll just go rushing in on you and rather use their force than AI to try and kill your units. No surrounding to be found on enemy mechs.
Path-finding is a terribly pain in the ass. You’ll often find your units going to a way point while 1 stupid mech goes following another route which for instance leads him to an uncrossable sea. The same with the repair bays.
You can send in 2 mechs into a repair bay (one by one) but once 2 mechs have been repaired you’ll have to move them otherwise the third mech will say that his path is blocked although nothing is to be found in the surroundings that might block his path…
Graphically, Mechcommander 2 tries to keep up with the latest RTS games like Emperor which uses 3D but it fails in this goal.
The zoom-function is even worse than in Emperor:Battle for Dune and and the only notice of 3D that you get is your camera viewpoint going up and down a bit while crossing mountains.
Although… this going up and down rather looks like the camera is sitting on a balloon and jumping a bit rather than actually mounting a mountain.
Last but not least is the sound. Sound can add great atmosphere to a game, but there’s not much addition to be found in Mechcommander 2.
when a mech or fuel station explodes you get an enormous bang which makes you think you’ve just turned up the volume to full since for the rest of the time, the sound is pretty boring.
OK, you do get to hear a tree falling when your mech thinks he can’t go round it, but even when houses get shot you won’t get the idea that the Empire State Building is collapsing. Compared with the sound of an exploding mech, this is like a rock falling on the ground…
All in all, Mechcommander 2 is a nice standard RTS game which brings you back into the Battletech universe and can keep you busy for a few weeks while you wait for something better to get released.
If you’re not sure wether you want to buy MC2 or not, and you don’t have too much money to spend, you might want to skip this one since there are better alternatives on the market as we speak.