Mech Assault

Mech Assault

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 11/8/2002 for Xbox  

Take everything you’ve ever learned about mechs and throw it out the window because Microsoft’s Mech Assault has taken the ‘sim’ out of Mech Simulator and in its place, has injected a heavy dosage of arcade-style gameplay. Thus we have Mech Assault, the heavily trimmed down take on FASA’s BattleTech series that looks to change the way that we think about action games.

Forget about power management, weapons outfitting and mech building because you’ll be sorely disappointed. This is all about action in the highest regard. Not one piece of the environment is safe from the dangerous clutches of your lumbering mechs. Trees, buildings, boats, vehicles and infantry act as mere fodder in this ultimate power trip. The sense of power and size is just amazing, you don’t just look like you’re the size of a giant, you’ll often feel like it as well.

The main attraction of the game is the campaign mode in which you assume the role of a mech commander aboard the dropship Icarus. After your ship crash-lands you’ll be placed into the field to investigate a band of rogues who are terrorizing the locals. As you delve deeper into the game’s plot you’ll uncover a hidden agenda that leads to a storyline that is much deeper than one would initially expect. Now I would have been content had the game just thrust me into the midst of battlefield and ordered me to unleash hell upon anything and everything that happened to be moving, but the addition of an excellent campaign mode really fleshes this game out quite nicely. There are about 20 missions that encompass quite a wide variety of objectives and goals. One moment you may be razing an entire city while the next moment you’ll have to defend some friendly units. No matter the objective, you’ll often find yourself having quite a great time. The campaign mode is pretty intriguing and will take quite a large chunk of time to complete.

In order to add more replay value to the game the designers added some excellent multiplayer modes. Among there grinder, are a mode where you and your human opponents fight against an endless onslaught of AI mechs in a battle to see who can survive for the longest amount of time, destruction and team destruction, the game’s take on death match and team death match, last man standing, a mode where you are given only one life, and not it, a variation on the king of the hill mode. There is some excellent variety to be had here and although the game only supports two players per Xbox, you’ll be able to play against your friends via system link as well as Xbox Live. Currently, the two-player multiplayer is extremely addictive, at the time there aren't too many people to play against on the Xbox Live Network. I can’t imagine how amazing it will be when the Xbox Live gets up and running.

At the onset of every mission you’ll be greeted by an excellent briefing session. During this time, you’ll receive an outline of your general mission goals as well as a description of exactly what it is you need to do. Though I wish that the designers would have included a map of the mission area so that I could get a heads up on things. You’ll get a nice voice over that shows you images of your targets instead and although these do a good job of getting the point across it really caters to the arcade-ish nature of the game.
Heat plays a crucial role in limiting the amount of firepower that can be expelled at any given time. It takes quite an effort to ge the mech to shutdown a la MechWarrior as they cool down fairly quickly. A heat indicator resides alongside the health meter that helps track the amount of heat you're building up. When it gets full you'll have to wait for it to cool down again before you can fire your weapons. Salvage has also taken a secondary role, basically acting as health packets that will replenish your mech’s health. Destroying an enemy mech or a specific type of building will yield you a stack of salvage to help repair your mech. Your firepower is unlimited although you can pick up packets of ammo that will increase their power for a limited amount of time.

The most impressive aspect of the game resides in the combat system and more importantly, the destruction and devastation of entire cities and facilities. Instead of showing some generic damage animations, buildings will actually flame and crumple in the areas that you are targeting. Most buildings even have objects on them that can be destroyed such air conditioning units and radar devices that fall off when they’re hit. The effects are nothing to scoff at either, just watching the destruction of each and every building is amazing. Destroying entire cities will randomly be included as part of the required objectives but if you’re like me, you’ll find time for it anyways. This game gave me such a huge power trip that I felt like the American version of Godzilla. Foot soldiers were running from me left and right as I decimated their cities with the slightest of ease. I now know what it feels like to be God.

This is a very beautiful games that takes advantage of the Xbox’s excellent graphical horsepower. The artists have dedicated massive amounts of time to assure of us an excellent graphical experience and it’s readily apparent from the start. Everything is rendered with high amounts of details and your eyes will be thankful for it. Mechs look great thanks to the refinement in their designs and structures. Much effort was put into the mechs to allow us to differentiate between them simply by looking at them. You won’t soon be mistaking the Cougar for the Atlas any time soon.

This game really should have been released on the 4th of July because it provides one of the most impressive fireworks displays that you’ll ever see. Enemies don’t just simply fall down and vanish when you’re through with them, they’ll spark, catch on fire and eventually, will erupt into a mass of metal and fire. There is no such thing as a casual explosion here as every single one of them is highly detailed and eye-catching. You’ll see chunks of metal fly accompanied by huge blazes of flame and smoke culminating in one hell of a graphical showcase. Not one weapon in the game yields modest results; lasers emit brilliant flashes of light while missiles are accompanied by an impressive smoke trail. Environments are rendered quite nicely as well. Each of the cities features buildings that seem entirely unique to the area, urban areas will feature smaller buildings while the larger cities will feature skyscrapers and office buildings. If flashy visuals and bright lights are your bag then you’ll definitely want to check this one out.

For a towering hunk of steel, each mech handles quite well. The game controls much like a console first person shooter; the left analog stick controls the feet while the right analog stick controls the turret. Instead of outfitting your mechs with various weapons, they already come preset with three different weapons that serve different purposes. Usually you’ll have a power weapon, a lock-on weapon and a weapon designed to take out infantry and such. The right trigger is used to fire the weapons while the left trigger scrolls through your available weapons. Suppressing the left analog stick will activate the jumpjets while pressing the right analog stick will activate the mech’s specific defense mechanism. There are a few hitches with the controls such as they often have a tendency to be nice and tight at one moment only to become painfully sluggish a few moments later. This is only a rare occurrence, however, and the controls remained fairly intuitive for the majority of the time.
Yet another aspect of the game that must be commended is the excellent audio that features excellent usage of Dolby Digital 5.1 technology. If you’ve got the hardware it’s noticeable right from the start as one of your teammates yells at you from behind, your instinct is to turn around and see who it is. Of course the camera will pan around, along with the sound, to show that it was one of your squadmates who was trying to get your attention. War is often waged on a grand scale and since you’re a huge mech, you’ll take fire from a number of directions. Amazingly, all of this has been captured quite well as you’ll become immersed in all of the sounds of combat and war. All of the sounds streams are rendered with amazing clarity as well, the sounds of combat are highly realistic. Everything has a unique sound effect that really brings the combat to life. In addition to the clear sound effects you’ll get window-shattering bass to accompany some of the more destructive components of the game.

This game isn’t perfect, however, and there are a few problems that really hinder the gameplay. First and foremost is the structure of the missions. Though they are well-designed and well paced they have to completed in one sitting. There are no way points or regeneration points, if you die you’ll have to start it from the beginning. Some of them are rather long and feature some extremely difficult obstacles that aren’t explained in the briefing. An early mission has me destroying a supply depot in hopes of crippling their lines of defense. After the objective is destroyed I realize that the depot contained two medium-sized mechs that I will now have to dispose of. This happens about 20 minutes into the mission, can you imagine having to start all over from the beginning if you were to succumb to this unexpected threat? Including waypoints or giving me the option of finding another ride would have been two easy solutions to remedy this problem.

I also wish that there were more variety in the game, I need some customization options. As a diehard fan of the MechWarrior series it’s in my veins to want to customize and build to my heart’s content. Though I understand the pre-designed mechs, it would have been nice to have been able to outfit them with weapons to my liking. Having the option to play the game from the vantage point of the cockpit would have also been a nice addition. As it stands though, these are only minor gripes that can be forgiven due to the nature of the game. There’s not much to hate here and believe me, there’s a whole lot to love.

Mech Assault is definitely a worthy pickup for any Xbox owner out there and is the first “must-own” Xbox game of this holiday season. If you’re in the market for a game that is easy to pickup and is a blast to play then Mech Assault should find a place near the top of your list. Sure there’s another mech game coming out in the coming weeks but why bother when you’ve got this excellent title?


Having trouble making scrap metal of your enemies? Gaming Nexus recommends you pick up Prima Games' official strategy guide to help you trounce your opponents.
High voltage Mech-based combat comes to the Xbox in an arcade style shooter that is not only beautiful to look at, but also fun to play. One of the year’s most surprising hits, this is a definite pickup for mech lovers and action fans alike.

Rating: 9.1 Excellent

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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