Updated Preview: Get out of my dreams?and into my mech?
When Xbox Live launched in November of 2002 there was no doubt that MechAssault would be my first online enabled purchase. In fact, I picked the game up on Wednesday of that week, and played the single player until Friday ? the 15th of November. With my pre-ordered Live kit in hand, I set up my tag and immediately jumped into a Destruction game in River City. After 15 minutes worth of crumbling buildings, PPC fire and the screaming whine of white-hot mechs going critical, I was hooked. MA looked amazing, and played just as well. Everything I'd hoped for had come to fruition. The community that subsequently built up around the game was nothing short of incredible. Microsoft's official forums were soon filled with clans, challenges, discussions of weapons and tactics, and the sounds of hundreds of mech pilots looking for competition. Gamer groups like ChaoticHarmony and TUGG grew out of that initial community, as did clans like BoG and the infamous RoC. Cut to 22 months later, and in many ways this title is still going strong. Enter MechAssault 2?..
Day1 has gone back to the drawing board and enhanced the new MA in ways that will take the competition to the next level. Instead of simply providing more of the same, the new title will feature additional vehicles (besides the Mechs), and new play mechanics.
Once you take the battlefield in MA2, you'll be able to pilot the mech of your choice, a tank, or a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing Craft). In addition, the Elemental (an essentially useless battle armor in the first game) has been reborn as a force to be reckoned with. Not so much because of its power, but because you can use it to jack an enemy mech. That's right ? like that Mad Cat on the opposing team? Hitch a ride on a VTOL and have your pilot drop you onto the back of the Cat. Fire into the cockpit and if the Cat pilot can't knock you loose, you've got yourself a new ride! Once a BattleArmor locks onto an enemy mech, a small sub-screen will pop up, and prompt you and your opponent to hit a series of buttons. Whoever hits them fastest will win the contest. The updated BattleArmor will also sport a Pulse Laser, Mortar Cannon and a Power Claw, which can be used to scale buildings or attach to Mechs and VTOLs (in fact, you'll be able to ferry troops to and from the battlefield utilizing this vehicle. In addition, you can surreptitiously fly a PowerArmor equipped teammate into battle, since the heat signature is masked by the VTOL's. In other words, only the VTOL shows up on radar. Nice and sneaky, ain't it?). The VTOL can also carry cargo -- in this case, power-ups and mobile turrets, which can be placed strategically around the map. The turrets each feature a different weapon ? one has an Auto-Cannon and the other a Pulse Laser. The VTOL itself is defensively equipped with Crossbow missiles.
Another new vehicle is the Rommel MK2 tank. This monster will feature two heavy cannons, and have the ability to move forward, backward, and strafe -- all while the turret moves and fires independently. Essentially, what we're looking at here is a huge expansion on the play style of the first game. While 8 mechs tearing each other up was great fun, MA2 promises to expand that factor exponentially, and open up the battlefield to new strategies and tactics. For instance, imagine going into a conflict with your team. As the mechs make their way out of the spawn point, your VTOL pilot takes a BattleArmor out toward the enemy. Dropping him onto a nearby Catapult, he begins the process of jacking the mech. Meanwhile, the VTOL takes off toward a nearby deserted base to grab some power-ups. Rocketing back toward the fight he drops the candy for his team ? but wait, an enemy BattleArmor has surreptitiously moved into position near one of your mechs. At this point, your teammate in the Rommel Tank blasts the BattleArmor to pieces, clearing the way for your squad to grab the goodies, and avoiding a jacking at the same time. As Cartman would say: That sounds pretty kewl?.
All of the popular BattleMechs from the first game will appear here as well, though some of them will have been tweaked to improve performance, or modify the weapon loadout. Day 1 has revealed one new machine however: the Raptor. A light scout best suited to recon and support, the Raptor sports Twin Machineguns, one javelin LRM, and a Flame Thrower. It also comes equipped with Null-Signature and Jump Jets. Obviously this mech will be hugely popular among the chicken lovers (Munky, Rational, Ferret?I'm looking in your direction) and will be a huge distraction to the opposing team as it sneaks in behind enemy lines while cloaked.
The single player campaign will consist of numerous missions (some issued on the fly) and will look to further immerse the player into 31st Century battle. Your character will come into contact with various NPCs, and the story will be presented using in-game engine cutscenes. The plot revolves around the nefarious Blake Empire's attempts to create a massive army of technology -- mostly by using hijacked manufacturing centers. However, their singular defeat at the hands of the Wolf Dragoons still haunts them, as the Data-Core that was central to the first game's narrative continues to elude them. Of course, you've got said Data-Core as the new game begins?..
Another big addition to Lone Wolf is the new Conquest Mode. Taking advantage of the new Live 3.0 features, Conquest Mode will feature an online universe comprised of 45 planets partitioned between five different houses from the BattleTech world. Once you log on to MA2, you'll be directed to pick a house to join. At this point, you can form a clan that will be part of that particular house. You'll then be able to take your team into battle against other houses, vying for domination of those 45 planets. You can only attack planets that border your team's territory, and each one will have a point value assigned to it. You'll need to take enough points to win that world, then you can move on to another. Obviously this is very exciting news for clans, and aficionados of the BattleTech universe.
For those of you disappointed by "kill stealing" in the first game, MA2 tracks not only your kills, but also your overall play. Your ranking will be tallied up through Battle Points ? earned by defending damaged teammates, supplying your clan with power-ups, and assisting in killing enemy mechs. Good news for guys who pumped round after round of Gauss and Crossbows into an opponent, only to have someone else land the killing blow.
Graphically and aurally, MechAssault 2 looks to be the cream of the Xbox crop. The first game was a tour de force of visuals and sound, but the new graphics engine appears to surpass even that masterpiece. Everything has more detail and refinement, and the massive explosions and incredible particle effects from the first title are in full effect here. Except for one thing ? they're even better. No doubt, MA2 will have few equals in the looks department.
As you can see, Day1 is implementing full clan support for the game, and you'll be able to add custom insignia to the mechs and vehicles on your team, and assign ranks to your players. In addition, the developers are including several new gametypes, as well as online support for up to 16 players. Not to mention the fact that every gametype from the original, as well as the downloaded content, are included in Lone Wolf. Are you swooning with excitement yet? I know I am.