MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf Review
While the increased competition for Xbox Live shooters makes Lone Wolf look a little more like one of the pack than its predecessor, the core action is still simple and fun.
- Lots of online modes
- Cool destruction effects
- Conquest mode is an interesting addition.
- Bad voice acting
- Blurry, uninspired terrain graphics.
Back before all the Ghost Recons, Halo 2s, and Crimson Skies, there was one superb standout for Microsoft's Xbox Live service: MechAssault. Day 1 Studios' big mech third-person shooter was among the first games available for online play on the Xbox, and for quite some time it was one of the best. Now, Day 1 is back for a second round with MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. While the increased competition for Xbox Live shooters makes Lone Wolf look a little more like one of the pack, the core action is still simple and fun.
The single-player campaign in MechAssault 2 comes across as a bit larger in scope than that of the original game, but as you play through it, it feels more and more limited. You play as the MechWarrior, a silent tough guy who's rolling around the universe in a dropship with a female commanding officer and a hyperannoying technical whiz kid-brother type. As fate would have it, you get caught up in a war surrounding a series of powerful data cores that, as you might expect, have the ability to power a massively devastating weapon if they fall into the wrong hands. In MechAssault 2's case, the wrong hands belong to a fanatical cult called the Word of Blake. Throughout the game you'll stomp out several Blake encampments, blow apart a bunch of mechs, step on a billion tanks, and blast away at tunnels to stop the flow of reinforcements.
Lone Wolf's single-player campaign feels pretty short, and a big part of that feel is because you're basically doing the same thing from start to finish. Most of the time, you're merely moving from point A to point B, taking out all opposition as you go. Your opposition comes in the form of turrets that barely hurt you, tanks that you can kill with a quick stomp from your mech or two or three shots from just about any weapon, and enemy mechs, which are easy to beat provided you don't take on more than two of them at a time. On top of that, destroyed mechs leave behind health and weapon power-ups, meaning that there's rarely any real need to employ tactics beyond circle-strafing to succeed. Even the game's final boss is merely a basic exercise in precision shooting while strafing. The only interesting tactical enhancement to the game also seriously upsets the campaign's balance.
The big new thing in MechAssault 2 is the barely-larger-than-human-sized battle armor. This suit may be dwarfed by the game's other, bigger mechs, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in speed and a neat little twist: the neurohack. Neurohacking lets you grab onto an enemy mech, and then by following a series of button presses, you can disable that mech, jettisoning its pilot and sending it crashing to the ground. At that point, you can hop out of your battle armor and into the new mech, if you wish, but neurohacking is the sort of devious fun that you'll want to do again and again. The battle armor comes up in several spots during the single-player campaign, and while the game's characters are always telling you to neurohack one mech so you can trade up for some firepower, it's actually much easier to just run around the map and jack every single enemy mech to quickly eliminate your most powerful opposition. As a result, the battle armor feels overpowered when you're playing alone. But playing alone hasn't really been the strong suit in either of the two MechAssault games.
MechAssault 2's biggest draw is its multiplayer. The modes and basic structure from the first game return here, and you can play multiplayer via system link, split-screen, or Xbox Live with up to 12 players. Modes include destruction (deathmatch); team destruction (team deathmatch); last man standing; last team standing; not it (where only one player scores points for kills, and the other players attempt to gang up on that player to become "it"); capture the flag; check it (where you must capture and defend a series of checkpoints); snatch it (collect a series of items and bring them to your base); and base war (a generator in each team's base must be protected from enemy attack). Offline, you can play in grinder mode, which is a co-op gameplay type that pits players against a never-ending stream of enemies.