It is unfortunate that Mech games haven’t really taken off as much in this generation than in prior ones. Yes, we have Titanfall, but back in the day there were mountains of these games, like Zone of the Enders, MechAssault, Armored Core, Front Mission and so on. I decided to take a look at Microsoft’s foray into the genre, a little title called MechAssault, and man was I surprised; in a good way. For the record, sometimes it is very difficult to jump back two generations in a console and attempt to play a game. What we are used to in the current generation are rarities in games only about thirteen years old. Just think: not every game was built with a player controlled camera. Luckily, Microsoft was smart enough to include this in MechAssault, but another game I’m reviewing on the PlayStation doesn’t have it, and man does that take some getting used to. Microsoft’s take on Mech fighting is a pretty great entry into the genre and I’m excited to play the sequel in the coming months.
The story isn’t as grandiose as the likes of Halo or Quantum Break, but I’m beginning to wonder if writing a good Mech based game is difficult – even the Front Mission on the 360 had a blasé story. You are part of an elite team call the Wolf Dragoons that are heading to Helios to see why communication has been spotty from the planet. Upon entering the planet’s atmosphere, their ship, Icarus, is shot down and crash lands on Helios. This leaves you with very few Mechs to start off as you play, but you unlock them as you progress through the missions and find that a cult called the Word of Blake has attacked Helios. Your job soon changes from survival to ridding the planet of the Word of Blake cult and killing its leader, Commander Strader. Once you do that it’s time to head off-planet and get your mercenary money.
Surprisingly, the controls are very simple to master. I was under the assumption I would have a hard time controlling my Mech, but I was way off. The Right Joystick pivots the torso and basically moves the camera; Left Stick moves the Mech in the direction that you want to go; Right Trigger fires your weapons, while the Left Trigger cycles through them. I found that most Mechs have three types of weapons and you need to pick which Mech is best for the missions as hand. Sometimes you don’t need to be quick, you just need to be a tank laying waste to all in front of you. Left Thumbstick allows you to jump and if you hold it you can fly. However, this runs out quite quickly so use it when you know you’ll have enough juice or you may lose some health. The controls never failed me in this game. Rather, it was my lack of concentration that usually got me killed. Half the time I wasn’t looking at the HUD correctly to see where I was getting shot at. Other than my stupidity though, I felt that the controls handled quite well.
Most of your missions involve razing towns that are under the control of the cult, and fighting other Mechs that come around to stop you. Those are the most challenging fights. What I found that makes them easier is to blow up gas canisters right next to them, then strafing and missile-locking the concussed pilot. You may find another strategy as you play, but I enjoyed mine. For a more successful run against the Word of Blake cultists you need to scour blown up buildings and destroyed Mechs so that you can heal your own and gain better weapons. There are three types of weapons you can upgrade; energy, which upgrades your laser weapons; ballistic, which upgrades your machine guns and whatnot; and the final upgradable are your missiles. Unfortunately, these upgrades only last for a limited amount of time. Once you fire all the upgraded missiles or bullets you are back to your standard shot, so be careful who you use them on. Personally, I saved them for the Mechs that I would eventually battle deeper into the levels.
When I decided to play MechAssault I assumed that I wouldn’t need to wear my glasses due to shoddy graphics – I was incorrect. The first cutscene that greeting me was very well done and the soldiers actually looked like sleek human beings, not a pixelated blotchy mess. That being said, the actual in-game graphics are pretty blocky, but you are driving a Mech and destroying towns, so it makes sense their geometry would be like that of Minecraft. While the cutscenes are a sight to behold for two generations back, in-game graphics are a tad rough, but thankfully that takes nothing away from my enjoyment of the game. For some reason I like the less perfected graphics of that generation and always feel a pang of nostalgia when I fire up one of these titles. The saddest thing about playing this title fourteen years too late is that I missed out on what made people buy it: the multiplayer. Xbox Live was where all the cool MechAssault kids were at, and since I’m not a cool kid I only got to play the campaign. I couldn’t even convince my seventy year old father to pick up a Duke Controller and join me in the ring. So I cannot speak to you of the attributes or the negatives of multiplayer, but I can say that I’m sure this would be a fun party game if you have a few controllers and some willing friends. Move over Mario Party and Fusion Frenzy, MechAssault drunken battles are in the house.
I enjoyed my time with this game. It makes me want to go out and buy Titanfall 2 just so I can trash some hi-def Mechs, but I’ll be content playing the original for awhile until Santa comes. The game looks great, plays great and can be a nice party addition, so what’s not to love? You can even buy it for pretty cheap. This has got to be one of the best Lincoln’s I’ve ever spent and I only got to enjoy the campaign. I do wish I could travel back in time and bring this with me to the early 2000s so my buddies and I could have had some amazing Mech battles while watching the snow fall and drinking beer. Perhaps I should get them all on the Titanfall bandwagon and play them online instead; let’s all hope they have Xbox Ones!