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Xbox Preview - 'MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf'

by Paul Reith on Aug. 18, 2004 @ 12:57 a.m. PDT

"MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf" continues the massive destructible environments, intense combat and addictive online multiplayer gameplay that gamers have been praising since "MechAssault" first hit Xbox. Continuing in the 31st century, "MechAssault 2" allows gamers to encounter entirely new experiences in the epic BattleTech world. This third-person action/shooter game defines immense destruction taken to another level, as each environment in the game's five worlds is fully destructible.

Genre: Action
Developer : Day 1 Studios
Publisher : Microsoft
Release Date : December 28, 2004

Pre-order 'MECH ASSAULT 2: Lone Wolf': Xbox

This week, Denny Thorley, President of Day 1 Studios, invited us in for a very personal tour of MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf. This long awaited sequel builds off the 2002 title that made Xbox Live a legitimate success. In fact, MechAssault was heralded as one of the best games of 2002 for its multiplayer action – which was incredibly more satisfying than the single player mode. This phenomena led MechAssault to have the largest participation rate on Xbox Live, exceeding 50% of units sold – everyone loved this title for its online gameplay, far exceeding any offering this title had offline. This drove MechAssault to be the most-played retail game on Xbox live, period.

‘nuff said.

Flash forward two years, and through development of a strong partnership with Microsoft, Denny is now on the front lines promoting the game and running operations of Day 1. This doesn’t mean that Day 1 has become bloated; quite to the contrary, their alliance has allowed improved focus. MechAssault 2 was created exclusively for the Xbox with no intentions to port it elsewhere, meaning the console is now submissive to the exploits of the developer. Indeed, Mr. Thorley gave multiple descriptions of how Day 1 exploits every bit of processing power they could squeeze from your favorite black box.

MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf is an independent story contained in 20 chapters, but if you do remember the original, this one picks up right were the first episode left off. Ragnarok technology has raised the stakes in this war of attrition, and we join the battle as it rages more destructive than ever before. This time, the entire scenario is turned on its ear with the ability to climb in and out of mechs – leaving multiple options including a new, lightweight powersuit called BattleArmor.

With mechs existing at 30 feet tall, it becomes rather easy for the environment to feel small. Day 1 has returned perspective to the massive mechs through two new elements. The first is BattleArmor. In this suit, a player is only 12 feet tall and terribly weak compared to a Mech. If we toss in a jet pack, nimble movement, and a top-notch mortar, BattleArmor has potential to hop up to the top of a building and destroy a mech through carefully placed mortar attacks. The crucial tool of BattleArmor is the claw attached to the left arm. This lets BattleArmor grab onto walls, provides a tough melee attack, and most importantly can jack a mech while it is in use. Simply hop on the back of a mech and neurohack the machine through a mini-game of sequential button-pushing, letting the fastest fingers win. If the hacker succeeds, the mech falls to the ground unoccupied, ready for use in the exact state it was won, including power-ups and damage taken. The entire tide of a battle can now change by a half-pint taking over the most powerful mech in a scenario.

If existing as less than half the size of a mech is not enough to put the incredible size of things in perspective, existing without armor is. After winning a mech, a six-foot tall dude with no armor must climb out of the BattleArmor and into the mech in order to take control. Existing as a mere human is a scary thing to be in the world of mechs, and it is something no one should be for long – unless a quick death is the goal.

The game features playable mechs, BattleArmor, tanks and VTOLS. Essentially, MechAssault is now a game where the character is a human with options to choose the right equipment for the job, a great improvement over being stuck solely in a mech for the entire game. This makes for some creative missions and strategy options to advance through the game. MechAssault 2 also features AI teammates as allies in missions to even the odds, but don’t expect these NPCs to carry the weight of the battle on their shoulders.

In MechAssault 2, everything is once again destructible; allowing buildings to register stray shots as actual damage, and a concentrated effort can turn the building into a pile of rubble, although deformable terrain seems to be missing. Combined with the visual enhancements over the original game, the current state of MechAssault 2 seems to indicate Day 1 is heading in the right direction, and with multiplayer enhancements like expanding the number of players per session from eight to 12, we find yet another example of the many improvements in the game.

Day 1 Studios is taking full advantage of the single-platform approach, optimizing every element to make the sequel as good as the Xbox will allow. Of course, everyone wants to know how multiplayer action is shaping up, and very soon we will have a full report on just how good this game can be under live fire. Until then, start practicing your “Simon says” skills to hone up on button-pressing skills for neurojacking opponent mechs – this will be a key skill to domination of the battlefield!

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