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MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf

Preview By: Tim Mitchell

Developer:   Day 1 Studios
Publisher:   Microsoft
Genre:   Action
Est. Release:   12-28-04
Date Posted:  

9-23-04

The original MechAssault was the game to have for Xbox Live. It practically sold the service. There was just something simple and beautiful about signing on, choosing a mech and blasting the hell out of your buddies right in your living room. Buildings crumbling around you, missiles flying overhead, that moment of terror when you see the glowing beneath your hull plating that signifies your mechís final momentsÖit just worked. But there really wasnít that much variety, beyond choosing a large, medium or small mech (I was always a Belial jockey myself). Microsoft and developer Day 1 Studios are taking aim at changing that this coming January, with MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. I got a chance to sit down and play with it a bit at PAX, and I definitely came away impressed. How did they manage such dramatic improvements to such a basic gameplay concept? By opening up the cockpit door.

In Lone Wolf, you can leave the safety of your hulking mech at any time, and run around as your puny little self. Itís not the most effective method of taking on the enemy though, so youíll want to procure a new conveyance as soon as possible. Luckily, the choices are many and all useful. For instance, myself and the rest of the mighty Red Team didnít even start in mechs. Instead we all spawned as unprotected pilots on a plateau with our flag and a host of unmanned vehicles to choose from. There were of course several mechs available, but also some high-powered, stationary defensive turrets, battle armor, and tanks. The latter have gotten a definite upgrade over the last game, as they stand just below mechs in firepower and are quick, maneuverable and harder to hit due to their smaller profile. The battle armor is even more interesting. Similar to the Elemental mech from the first game, itís just a step up from walking around unprotected. Youíre still rather vulnerable, but with stronger weapons and the ever-useful jump jets. Battle armor is also used for one of the coolest new features - Mech jacking. Latch onto the back of an enemy mech, and you might be able to kick him out and take over his firepower. Donít worry if you find yourself in a mech with a sudden piggy backer though, as some careful button mashing will bail you out.

But my personal favorite new addition has got to be the VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft. I played this most of our game, and even without too many kills I pulled off some pretty cool stuff. The heart of the VTOLís awesomeness is its cargo-carrying abilities. Got a mech ready to bulldoze the enemy base? Pick up some weapon upgrades from across the map and power him up. You can give a lift to your tank or battle armor drivení buddies, to drop them off for a sneak attack or airlift them out of a hot zone. You can even reposition your teamís defensive turrets for a tactical advantage. If youíre ever done with your cargo hauling duties, donít worry, you can provide air support for your ground-pounding allies with crossbow missiles. Overall, the VTOL is an incredibly versatile addition to gameplay. With so much to do, this game takes strategic teamwork to a new level. Thereís much more to it now than ďYou guys get the flag, Iíll guard ours.Ē Keeping your teammates informed on your position and vehicle will be critical. I canít wait to play it with the Live headset.

MechAssault 2 is looking to be the first great Live game of the new year, improving on the original in every fashion. Aside from the significant gameplay enhancements, there are updated graphics and a brand new single player story spanning multiple worlds. With new mechs and weapons along with an assortment of supporting vehicles, thereís something for everyone. Iíll see you on the killing fields; Iíll be the one dropping a turret in front of you.

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