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.
The variety of modes and maps is good enough to keep you going for quite some time, and the action is fun. While its presence in the campaign is minimal, the addition of a VTOL aircraft allows players to take on a support role by carrying other players to the front lines or dropping power-ups to resupply teammates. And, with the ability to steal other mechs still intact in multiplayer, you're never really sure which mech you're going to be bringing into battle. The game has a variety of mech designs and weapon loadouts, ranging from basic tanks and little Elemental armor suits all the way up to gigantic, PPC-spewing machines. All this gives the game an interesting, unpredictable feel, because you'll have to be adept with more than just one or two mechs to truly succeed in MechAssault 2. This is a great change from the first game, where you selected a mech prior to the match, and were stuck with it throughout the whole match. Now, you can't even select a mech--the map determines which vehicles are available on the battlefield. While that may sound a little limiting, it actually adds more variety and makes the game feel a little more balanced.
You can play all of these modes on their own using the standard Xbox Live game finding and configuration, or you can dig into the game's new conquest mode, which attempts to wrap all of these different modes together into one meaningful conflict. In conquest mode, you associate yourself with one of the houses of the inner sphere, and you attempt to sweep across all of the planets to rule as much of the inner sphere as possible. This gives you a big map, with color-coordinated planets to show who currently controls them. Each planet has its own map and game rules, so you'll get a chance to play through all of the game's team modes here. When you log in and look at the conquest map, it'll show you which planets are currently under attack and it will let you get involved in any of your house's current conflicts. This is a pretty cool, unique idea that should go a long way with fans of MechAssault's team-based modes. MechAssault 2 also has downloadable content support, allowing for the possibility of new maps, modes, and mechs.
Visually, MechAssault 2 does great work with explosions and other destruction-related effects. The best part about the game is when an errant shot strikes a nearby building, causing a great deal of glass to shatter out of the windows. Slightly more-focused pounding will send buildings crashing to the ground in a similarly impressive fashion. Exploding mechs detonate in a blinding flash that warps the area around it in a really cool way. Additionally, the mech models look good, and the game also does a pretty good job at showcasing the sense of scale between man and machine in the few times that you're on foot or using the smaller battle armor suit. Aside from these things, though, MechAssault 2 doesn't look all that great. The environments are decent, but many of the textures used are fairly blurry. Fortunately, the game mostly runs at a smooth frame rate.
While you stomp around and blow stuff up, you'll be treated to the game's rocking soundtrack, which features songs from both Papa Roach and Korn. If you're a fan of either of those bands, chances are you'll like the game's faux hard guitar rock. The music sounds like it's trying to add a little extra aggression to the mix, but it comes across like it's trying a little too hard. Boss fights are punctuated by the licensed songs, and you'll also get to hear one over the game's attract mode video and end credits. Most of the game's sound effects are great. The punch of weapons fire, explosions, jump jets, and the stomp of your mechs walking around all sound as they should. The lone missing effect is a good, deep bass hit when your jump-jetting mech crashes to the ground. The game makes heavy use of voice acting in the campaign, and most of this work is pretty bad.
The first MechAssault was a superb game in its day, but it also benefited from being the first awesome multiplayer game available for the system. Now that some time has passed, and things like "quickmatch" and "optimatch" are synonymous with the multiplayer experience on the Xbox, MechAssault 2 isn't quite as impressive. The mech-jacking and the variety of team-based modes available are cool, but the relatively slow pace makes the rest of the game feel like a plodding, fairly standard third-person shooter.