MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf

Day 1 Studios follows up on Xbox Live's first real success story, but have they done enough to do the same in Live's current incarnation?

Day 1 Studios

By Kikizo Staff

Not everyone can appreciate the intricacies of mech games. The mech suits themselves are usually plodding in design and methodical in operation, which ends up drawing in a crowd with the sort of overzealous attention to detail that, frankly, most of us just don't have. But Day 1 Studios hasn't designed its MechAssault games for these folks - well, at least not just for them. Rather, it's you and us the company has in mind for its fast-paced series that distils the concept down to its most fun components.

Not that the attention to details isn't there, mind you. The mechs in Day 1's latest game, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, are as intricate as they are varied, and there are enough of them to have obsessive mech aficionados firing up their spreadsheet programs to keep track of each one. The mechs vary in size, firepower, strength and weapon types, and you're not stuck with the ones you start levels out with either (see below). You'll be able to pilot other vehicles too, including tanks and VTOL aircraft. Part of the fun is figuring out which mechs are best for which situation. This is useful during the story mode, but absolutely vital on Xbox Live.

One of the new additions to the game is a mech hijacking ability that lets you boost near a mech and take command of it. To do this you have to perform a Quick Time Event-like series of button presses, which, when successful powers down the enemy mech so that you can hop in and use it for yourself. It's a relatively straightforward system that's not too taxing on the reflexes and the rewards are well worth it, as you'll often be able to trade up to a more powerful suit. In multiplayer modes, you can hijack your opponents, provided you can tap in the required sequence faster than your prey.

Piloting the mechs is simplicity itself and makes the button-and-switch-heavy mechanics of games like Steel Battalion feel like the lumbering, overly complex systems they are. The emphasis here is on simplicity and immediate thrills and it works. Mechs are by their very nature sludgy beasts but MechAssault 2 makes them feel positively zippy. But for true agility it's the BattleArmor that wins. This new piece of gear is basically a second, metal skin that provides limited protection and surprisingly effective firepower. It won't shield you for very long, but it's worth getting to know its ins-n-outs as soon as possible.

Where the game does start to fall apart though is when you realize that there is only so much stuff that you can blow up. If you're the sort of person that can follow map directions and gleefully smash up mechs, tanks, buildings and the like ad nauseam, then this is the game for you. If, though, you want something a bit more cerebral, this might not be the best place to start. For the people like us who can't get by on orgies of metallic devastation alone, there's the BattleTech-rich plot attached to the campaign mode to look forward to. This is great if you a fan of the long-running series, but it won't be as clear-cut if you approach the series as an absolute novice.

But - and this is a big but - that's hardly the point of MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. Despite the extra attention given to the singleplayer campaign mode, like its predecessor, this is a game largely built around the multiplayer experience and Day 1 has gone all out to include as many modes as possible. All the gameplay types that have become standard in action games of late (deathmatch, team deathmatch, capture the flag, etc.) are included, and you'll be able to battle it out over Xbox Live, through system link or split-screen multiplayer on 15 maps.

To break up the monotony of the fast-paced, instant-reward nature of most of the online gameplay types, Day 1 has also included a new, more methodical mode called Conquest. Here you join one of the BattleMech planetary houses and battle together with other players to take over opposing houses. There's a lot of sitting around involved though, as you have to wait for your guys to be ready and for the other houses to have mounted some sort of feasible defence as well.

But, with some notable exceptions, this is still largely the same online experience that MechAssault gave us back in 2002 when it was one of the first games to start using Xbox Live's capabilities. What potentially hurts MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf is that online play has changed considerably over the past couple years and with recent top-tier games like Halo 2 and Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow vying for attention, the series might not be able to garner the impressive statistics it did first time around.

Graphics Sound Gameplay Depth Presentation OVERALL
8.0 7.0 8.0 8.0 8.0 8.0

Whether MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf is a 'Must Buy' depends on whether you have Xbox Live or not. The singleplayer campaign is fun and the story will keep you entertained, especially if you are already a fan of the BattleTech universe, but the online components are the real draw here. Take the game online and all of a sudden you'll be whiling away the hours, getting yourself into all sorts of real-world problems due to missed engagements. Not that we did that, of course.

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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf
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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf
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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf
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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf
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