It’s understandable that the true die-hard “Mech Warrior” fans have shunned the series’ major change on the XBox. The game has pretty much been stripped clean to work in a console environment and optimized for fast paced online play. For the rest of us, it works. This is a blazing hot blast-a-thon all the way through, but it’s a shame that it’s so geared for online play. Single player has suffered in the process.
Though it’s called “MechAssault,” players control a variety of vehicles during gameplay. Obviously the giant bi-pedal metal machines are the focus. Still, as the game goes on, you’ll have the opportunity to plow through enemy forces in tanks, dive bomb them in a jet (called a VTOL, a true life saver in multi-player), and even take part in some on foot action.
That’s the games most uneven aspect. Yes, you can now get out of your vehicle, leaving you completely vulnerable to just about any weapon that can be shot at you. You have no way of firing back. The developers have added in some stealth missions and it seems like they’re only there because stealth is such a hot commodity this generation. Enemies are blind in one eye and can’t see out of the other. Unless you’re directly in front of them, you’re safe.
Giving players a little room to work is battle armor, a much better addition. Getting in this smaller (and of course easier to blow up) suit allows players to hack into opposing mechs. Once down, you can exit the armor and plop right into the enemy mech to perform your own grisly deeds. In some missions it’s absolutely required, especially during the particularly cool final match-up against the Word of Blake leader.
All of this is seemingly over far too soon, coming in at around 10 hours. It’s a fast trip too, hardly seeming like that much time has passed. Worse, you earn practically nothing new for finishing the single player mode. It’s obvious where the focus of this one lies.
Online play is unique for a number of reasons. All of the mechs are initially scattered around the battlefield, so it’s a mad dash to get in and start blasting. No one has the unfair advantage of just selecting the most powerful mech from the start. This makes it easy on newcomers. Secondly, the Conquest mode is a fantastic idea as it involves the five major clans battling it out for territory over countless planets. Each time there’s a different way to play.
The graphics engine has received a significant make over, now filled with bump mapping, better lighting, and some solid cinematics that add at least a little human drama to the action. Exploding mechs produce a wild warping effect that looks incredible. Particle effects as buildings drop are just as spectacular as they were in the first game. Combined with the added overall detail, it’s even prettier this time out. The console manages it all fine with barely any moments of slowdown.
Every voice actor from the original returns, still solid if unspectacular. Enemies going down in flames produce an incredible shot of bass that really sends home the impact while the licensed soundtrack from Papa Roach and Korn gets the adrenalin pumping during the bigger encounters. Those with 5.1 systems are in for a treat as is usually the case on the console.
This is a wonderful experience, a solid, easy to pick up and play shooter that does everything right that a sequel should. System link play means the game will have life long after XBox Live finally shuts down and the single player can hold its own in short bursts. If you enjoy blowing stuff up, this series is a requirement.