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Overview

Heavy Gear II's Main Menu

Released in mid-1999 by publisher and developer Activision, Heavy Gear II is the sequel to 1997's Heavy Gear, also developed and published by Activision, and the second video game to be set within Dream Pod 9's Heavy Gear universe. Played from the first-person perspective, Heavy Gear II is a mech simulation game with a heavy emphasis on combat; the titular Gears of Heavy Gear II, piloted by the player in all missions, are essentially large humanoid tanks (generally between three to five meters in height), and being able to effectively manage and utilize the various systems and capabilities inherent to these Gears is one of the game's major focal points. Unlike Heavy Gear, which inherited the graphics engine used in Activision's earlier mech simulation game, MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, Heavy Gear II uses newly-developed graphics technology referred to as the Dark Side engine. In addition to its graphical upgrade, Heavy Gear II features a number of gameplay mechanics not present in the first game, such as stealth mechanics and missions that require navigation within weightless environments. Single-player modes in Heavy Gear II include a linear campaign with a narrative focus, an instant action mode for customizable battles against waves of enemy Gears, and a historical mode where players can take on a number of stand-alone missions based on significant events within the Heavy Gear universe. Heavy Gear II also features a multiplayer component with support for up to eight players; players are allowed to restrict certain weapon types in multiplayer matches, and modes of play include deathmatch, capture the flag, steal the beacon, duelist (i.e., one-on-one deathmatch), and strategic, in which two teams of Gears must defend a base while destroying their opponents'.

Plot

The majority of Heavy Gear II takes place on Caprice, seen here.

In contrast to the original Heavy Gear, which pitted the Confederated Northern City-States (CNCS) and the Allied Southern Territories (AST) against each other, Heavy Gear II sees the two warring Terra Novan factions cooperating with one another after the reemergence of an old enemy: the New Earth Concordat (NEC). The impetus for this ceasefire is an antimatter explosion in the Badlands city of Peace River, whose origin is traced back to the NEC; agreeing to set aside their differences for the time being, the CNCS and AST begin assembling an elite special forces group called the Black Talons, a group composed of the best Gear pilots from the North, South, and the Badlands. This newly-formed Terra Novan coalition is to serve as a first strike and reconnaissance group, travelling through the Tannhauser Gate to the nearby NEC world of Caprice where their primary objective will be to ascertain what information they can about the intentions and capabilities of their enemies before ultimately returning to Terra Nova to report their findings and plan their next move.

Upon reaching Caprice, the Black Talons, led by the player, join forces with a local rebel group known as the Liberati in hopes that the two groups will be able to help each other discern the nature of the NEC's activities on the planet. After the Terra Novans rescue the Liberati leader from an NEC prison, the rebels help the Black Talons uncover details concerning an NEC research facility on Caprice. As the Terra Novans, aided by the Liberati, continue to investigate this research facility, they begin to encounter previously unseen NEC war machines, which they dub Frames. These bipedal Frames are quite similar in construction to the Terra Novans' Gears, and the Talons recognize that they could potentially negate any militay advantage they currently possess. In spite of the appearance of these new foes, the Black Talons are able to find and destroy the NEC's research facility and infiltrate their Frame production facility within the city of Gomorrah, gathering further information on their enemies' activities. As the Talons make ready to leave Caprice and report their findings, however, their ship, the Fury, is unexpectedly attacked and destroyed by the NEC.

The gateship being accosted by shrapnel

With the loss of their own ship, the Black Talons are forced to commandeer an NEC dropship in order to leave the planet. Setting course for a nearby NEC asteroid shipyard, the Talons abandon their dropship in favor of a vessel with gate capability; at the same time, they proceed to sabotage the other NEC ships in order to prevent them from reaching their intended destination: Terra Nova. As they prepare to return home, the Talons stumble upon an NEC mass driver, which their enemy undoubtedly intends to use as a weapon by hurling asteroids at Terra Nova with lethal force. Fearing the implications were such a device to be left intact, the Black Talons board the station in order to destroy it. Equipped with a small tactical nuke, the commander of the Black Talons travels deep within the station, attaching the device to an asteroid stored within it. As the Talons leave, the mass driver is destroyed by the fragmentation of the asteroid as it attempts to fire it. The Terra Novans are able to gate home just as the shattered asteroid collides with the gateship, destroying it and closing the gate behind them.

Gameplay

The core gameplay conceit of Heavy Gear II is the operation of colossal bipedal combat vehicles called Heavy Gears. These Gears have a number of unique properties, and above all else it is the player's imperative to understand the functionality of their Gears in order to successfully pilot them throughout the game's various missions. In this respect Heavy Gear II can be thought of as a simulation game along the lines of games such as MechWarrior 3, its most direct contemporary in the mech action genre; unlike the mechs of the BattleTech franchise, however, which can reach upwards of seventeen meters in height, Gears are relatively small in stature, generally under six meters, and as such are more maneuverable. Gears have the ability to behave as a human soldier would in many respects, including their ability to run, jump, duck, and go prone. In addition, Gears in most instances are equipped with a Secondary Movement System (SMS) in the form of wheels or treads attached to their feet; when a Gear's SMS is activated, it can travel much more rapidly, though at the expense of reduced maneuverability. All Gears can also move their upper bodies and lower bodies independently of one another, allowing them, for example, to fire in one direction while moving in another.

Non-Gear enemies such as these hovertanks are common throughout.

Apart from their basic movement capabilities, Gears also come equipped with a number of more specialized systems that may be of use in more specific circumstances. Gear radar systems can be toggled at any time between active and passive modes; active mode is intended mostly for use in detecting and targeting enemies, whereas passive mode allows a Gear to maintain a smaller signature, thus making it easier to avoid being detected. A Gear's detectability by hostiles is also affected by other factors such as its profile. A prone Gear, for instance, is much harder to detect than one that is standing. On occasion a Gear pilot may also be called upon to perform their duties within a weightless environment. In these scenarios Gear navigation is quite different, as a number of thrusters attached to its frame allows the Gear to move freely in three-dimensional space. Inertia becomes a crucial consideration in these deep space missions, since a Gear is required to use their thrusters both to increase and decrease their momentum. In terms of martial capabilities, Gears are typically possessed of both fixed weapons, i.e., those that are attached to their chassis, and carried weapons which can be discarded or swapped out for others. In close combat, Gears can also use melee weapons to subdue enemies or engage in hand-to-hand combat.

Squad mates can be lost and gained over the course of the game.

While in many missions the player is required to complete their objectives alone, a large number of Heavy Gear II's scenarios allow the player to command between one and four squad mates as well. The game allows a fair degree of control over allied Gears while in the field, which extends to both their general behavior and specific actions. Squad mates can be ordered to fire when fired upon, fire at will, or hold their fire entirely, and the player can also dictate whether or not their subordinates will attempt to flank an enemy when attacking, and if so, from what side. The player may also delineate which targets their A.I. compatriots are to go for first (weakest, strongest, closest, or the player's), and when travelling Gears can be placed into a number of different formations with adjustable spacing between them. Players can also issue much more specific orders, such as scouting a designated point on the map, defending an important target, or following a path of the player's choosing. In order to enable better control of one's squad, Heavy Gear II incorporates an overhead tactical map which the player can switch to at any time to give orders. Over the course of the campaign the player can gain access to new pilots, however it is also possible to lose pilots permanently during missions.

Prior to the commencement of a mission, in addition to choosing what squad mates will accompany them, if applicable, players are able to customize both their own Gear and those of any of their allies. This includes selecting which weapons these Gears will carry in addition to any perks and flaws they might have. Perks include additional benefits such as jump jets or thicker armor in certain areas, whereas flaws represent specific disadvantages like weakened armor or an unreliable fire control system. The latter customization option is useful primarily due to the threat system, which governs all pre-mission Gear customization. While players are free to customize their Gears as they see fit, each mission has a predetermined maximum threat level for both individual Gears and the squad as a whole. If either of these caps are exceeded during customization, the player will not be able to proceed to the mission proper until their threat level is lowered to within the proscribed threshold. Advanced weapons and perks will increase a Gear's threat level, whereas flaws will lower it. Using this system, it is possible to sacrifice certain aspect of a Gear's performance in order to gain significant advantages in other areas, or to build a well-rounded Gear with no glaring weaknesses or overwhelming strengths.

Gears

Upon starting the game's main campaign, players are allowed to choose from one of the six Black Talon Gears, which will then function as their vehicle for the entirety of the story. Players may customize this Gear extensively, but they may not select a different chassis without starting a new campaign. Similarly, squad members pilot specific Gear models, and these may only be customized within the confines in of that chassis. In instant action, historical, and multiplayer modes, the player has much greater freedom to select their chassis and those of their squad, gaining access to several additional models affiliated with the CNCS, AST, and the Badlands. While most of the original game's Gears make an appearance, the larger Strider class Gears, namely the Mammoth and the Naga, are conspicuously absent. In spite of these omissions, Heavy Gear II still features four different weight classes (light, medium, heavy, and assault), with those at the lighter end generally being faster and more maneuverable, and those of the heavier classes being noticeably more lethal.

Black Talon

AppearanceStatistics & Description
Dark Cheetah

Dark Cheetah

  • Type: Light Gear
  • Height: 4.1 m
  • Armor: 20 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 60 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 90 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
Like most other Light Gears, the Dark Cheetah emphasizes speed and agility over staying power and lethality. It is commonly thought of as a reconnaissance vehicle, and for this reason it is often outfitted with advanced sensory equipment, electronic warfare options, and stealth amplification gear, allowing it to perform its role more efficiently with minimal chance of detection.
Dark Jaguar

Dark Jaguar

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 51 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
Adapted from the Northern Guard's Jaguar, the Dark Jaguar is a well-rounded combat Gear much like the chassis it was derived from. This includes respectable speed, maneuverability, and offensive potential. Of particular note is the fact that the Dark Jaguar enjoys slightly better sensory equipment than most Gears of its type, allowing it to fill in for more dedicated reconnaissance Gears.
Dark Mamba

Dark Mamba

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 56 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
The Dark Mamba is an iterative advancement on the Southern MILICIA's Black Mamba, incorporating new technology while keeping the overall design and strengths of the original Gear intact. The Dark Mamba is a versatile Gear that does not lack for speed, agility, or offense, and it benefits even further from increased modularity thanks to the advancements of the Black Talon project.
Dark Warrior

Dark Warrior

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 50 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 69 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 90 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
The Dark Warrior is based on the rarefied Warrior Elite chassis that was rendered all but extinct due to the NEC's bombing of Peace River. Its predecessor was developed specifically to serve as the first of a new class of Gears, and the Dark Warrior inherits many of its strengths, including its exceptional speed for a Gear of its size. The Black Talon program improved a few other areas as well, including stealth.
Dark Cobra

Dark Cobra

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.0 m
  • Armor: 90 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
The Dark Cobra, being descended no doubt from the Southern MILICIA's Cobra Gear lineage, is primarily a fire support Gear. It is substantial enough to carry and deploy a large amount of long-range ballistic weaponry, and while it certainly possesses the armor to wade into close combat situations, the slow speed of the Dark Cobra in comparison to other Gears is often a liability.
Dark Kodiak

Dark Kodiak

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.2 m
  • Armor: 80 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 60 kph

Default Weapons

  • None (6 Hardpoints)
A modification of the Northern Guard's Kodiak Assault Gear, the Dark Kodiak is a weapons platform through and through. Featuring an impressive potential for deadly weaponry and an extremely thick exterior, it is ideally suited for heavy combat scenarios. It is somewhat less well-adapted when mobility is required, and faster foes may be able to overwhelm it if it is left unsupported.

Northern Guard

AppearanceStatistics & Description
Cheetah

Cheetah

  • Type: Light Gear
  • Height: 4.3 m
  • Armor: 20 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 66 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 90 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 Light Autocannon
  • 2 RP-109 Pepperbox
  • 4 M-2A Hand Grenades
The Northern Guard's Cheetah is the quintessential Light Gear, having next to nothing in the way of damage mitigation and a somewhat lackluster weapon loadout, to say the least, but with a top speed that is second to none. The Cheetah is usually the CNCS's first choice when it comes to reconnaissance duties and light guerrilla operations, but its usefulness declines outside of these roles.
Hunter

Hunter

  • Type: Medium Gear
  • Height: 4.3 m
  • Armor: 45 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 42 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 72 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 M222 Autocannon Rifle
  • 1 RP-109 Pepperbox
  • 1 MK IV Grenade Launcher
  • 3 M-2A Hand Grenades
The Hunter is a historically significant Gear that has seen widespread production and distribution, not to mention frequent imitation by engineers from both the North and South. It is neither the toughest nor the fastest of the Northern Guard's Gears, but its simple, balanced design has made it quite popular; the Hunter may not excel in any particular category, but neither is it lacking.
Jaguar

Jaguar

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 51 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 MR25 Machinecannon Rifle
  • 1 RP-111 Pepperbox II
  • 1 MK IV Grenade Launcher
  • 6 M-2A Hand Grenades
Designed from the ground up to replace the long-running and beloved Hunter chassis, the Jaguar is more advanced than its predecessor on almost all counts. These improvements include thicker armor, greater speed, and the capacity to carry heavier weaponry. Unfortunately, the Jaguar never reached the level of popularity achieved by its inspiration, in part due to its general expense.
Grizzly

Grizzly

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.1 m
  • Armor: 70 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 42 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 M225 Heavy Autocannon
  • 2 GH-8 Rocket Pods
  • 1 GU-10 Gatling Gun
  • 1 TD-76 Mortar Unit
The CNCS's Grizzly is a true Assault Gear, having the frame to support an incredibly heavy weapon load and the protection to weather enemy fire for a significant period of time. It has decent foot speed for a Gear within its class, though it is still sluggish in comparison to other classes. By default it is something of a brawler, however it can be outfitted to perform admirably as a fire support Gear.
Kodiak

Kodiak

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.2 m
  • Armor: 80 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 XPA-001 Accelerator
  • 1 GH-16 Rocket Pod
  • 1 Guided Missile Launcher
  • 2 GU-10 Gatling Guns
  • 1 MK IV Grenade Launcher
  • 6 MK IV Hand Grenades
Aside from Strider class Gears such as the Mammoth, the Kodiak is the pinnacle of the Northern City-States' mobile weapons technology. There are very few Gear pilots that can emerge unscathed from an encounter with a Kodiak, as it can carry more than half a dozen weapons at once. It is also plenty durable, ensuring that it has ample time to use these weapons before being destroyed.

Southern MILICIA

AppearanceStatistics & Description
Iguana

Iguana

  • Type: Light Gear
  • Height: 4.1 m
  • Armor: 40 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 Light Autocannon
  • 1 Vogel-7 Rocket Pod
The Iguana is one of the more modest Gears native to the South, having a relatively slight armor allotment and fairly meager weaponry compared to most. What it does possess in greater abundance than other Gears within its faction is speed and agility. An Iguana pilot may not last long while under fire, but it is small enough and quick enough to accomplish its task before this becomes an issue.
Gila

Gila

  • Type: Light Gear
  • Height: 3.9 m
  • Armor: 50 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 AK-86 Heavy Autocannon
  • 1 Hargon-C Rocket Launcher
  • 3 Heavy Hand Grenades
While the Iguana chassis forms the foundation for the Gila's design, the two Gears are quite different in terms of functionality. Whereas the Iguana is at its best outside or on the periphery of combat, the Gila prefers to be in the thick of things. To this end, is is equipped with enough armor to shield a Medium class Gear and weaponry that is deadly effective, particularly at close ranges.
Jäger

Jäger

  • Type: Medium Gear
  • Height: 4.3 m
  • Armor: 45 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 42 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 72 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 PR-25 Autocannon
  • 1 Vogel-6 Rocket Pod
  • 1 HLB-16 AP Launcher
  • 6 HG-2 Hand Grenades
For all intents and purposes, the Southern MILICIA's Jäger is identical to the CNCS's well-known Hunter chassis. This similarity is far from coincidental, as it was produced using stolen Hunter designs some one hundred years ago. As one might expect given its lineage, the Jäger is also a reliable, well-rounded Gear that combines solid firepower and decent armor with a fair amount of speed and agility.
Black Mamba

Black Mamba

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 56 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 54 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 84 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 PR-25 Autocannon
  • 1 Vogel-8 Rocket Pod
  • 2 GL-01 Grenade Launchers
  • 6 HG-C4 Hand Grenades
The Black Mamba is something of an upgrade to the Jäger, having the same emphasis on general-purpose use, though with better capabilities all around. It is worth noting though that unlike the Jäger, the Mamba was the product of original research rather than outright thievery. It is better armored and better armed than the Jäger, backed up by a significant boost in speed and maneuverability as well.
Spitting Cobra

Spitting Cobra

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.0 m
  • Armor: 90 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 60 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 MR60 Autocannon
  • 1 FSRP-36 Rocket Pod
  • 1 SCRP-98 Rocket Pod
  • 1 MGU-77 Minigun
  • 6 HG-2 Hand Grenades
The Spitting Cobra is one of the AST's more recognizable Assault Gears, and it has all of the strengths and weaknesses that its class entails. While it is decidedly slow to move, the Spitting Cobra features incredibly thick armor and houses a not-insubstantial amount of weaponry. It is often relegated to the role of fire support, though with the proper loadout it can also do well up close.
King Cobra

King Cobra

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.2 m
  • Armor: 92 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 SRWI PA-2X Accelerator
  • 1 Vogel H-27 Rocket Pod
  • 1 FLRP-74 Rocket Pod
  • 1 SRWI G-11 Gatling Gun
  • 1 TA-12 Guided Mortar
  • 1 HLB-16 Grenade Launcher
  • 6 Hand Grenades
Bristling with about as many weapons as a Gear can carry, the King Cobra is one of the deadliest sights on the battlefield. Perhaps more impressive than the sheer number of weapons on display is their variety, as the King Cobra has effective armaments for all ranges: short, medium, or long. While its speed leaves something to be desired, its armor gives it significant staying power.

Badlands

AppearanceStatistics & Description
Warrior Elite

Warrior Elite

  • Type: Heavy Gear
  • Height: 4.6 m
  • Armor: 54 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 60 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 90 kph
Default Weapons
  • 1 MR25 Machinecannon Rifle
  • 1 RP-10S Rocket Pod
  • 1 VS-2 Vibrorapier
Built to surpass its contemporaries in the Northern and Southern armies (i.e., the Jaguar and the Black Mamba), the Warrior Elite is an extremely advanced design that combines the durability and firepower of a Heavy Gear with the speed and agility of a much smaller chassis. The results speak for themselves, as the Warrior Elite is closer in speed to the Cheetah than to other Heavy Gears.
Myrmidon

Myrmidon

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.0 m
  • Armor: 80 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 42 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 RGU-25X Heavy Autocannon
  • 2 PR-25LX Linked Autocannons
  • 1 RP-10M Rocket Pod
  • 1 FM-6 Light Field Mortar
  • 1 VK-6 Vibroblade
The first design to follow in the wake of the successful Warrior Elite chassis, the Myrmidon is a similarly advanced Assault Gear built specifically with defensive deployment in mind. In particular, the designers of the Myrmidon took special care to ensure that the operators of the Gear would be well protected. Being that it was conceived as a defensive Gear, the Myrmidon has fairly low maneuverability.
Agamemnon

Agamemnon

  • Type: Assault Gear
  • Height: 5.1 m
  • Armor: 85 mm
  • Max. Running Speed: 36 kph
  • Max. Rolling Speed: 66 kph

Default Weapons

  • 1 SW-12X Field Gun
  • 1 AW-3X Pulse Laser
  • 1 RP-10M Rocket Pod
  • 1 FM-6 Light Field Mortar
  • 1 FG-9 Frag Cannon
  • 1 VBA-3 Vibroaxe
Much like the Myrmidon, the Agamemnon was built to stand its ground, and as such it was given very heavy armor and enough weaponry to to push back a substantial attack force. The Agamemnon comes standard with a good variety of arms, including a field gun, a rocket pod, a mortar, an anti-infantry cannon, and even a vibroaxe for close encounters. It has a regretable tendency to overheat, however.

Reception

Heavy Gear II enjoyed a markedly better reception upon its release than the original game received, earning high marks from several publications and additional "Editors' Choice" awards from the likes of GameSpot and PC Gamer. Reviewers were generally appreciative of the new graphics engine, the game's emphasis on squad tactics, and the perceived intelligence of its squad and enemy A.I.; it was also praised for being innovative within the mech action genre, especially when compared to MechWarrior 3 (released around the same time), which many critics viewed as a more conservative game. The relative agility of Heavy Gear II's vehicles was often highlighted as a novel experience in a genre typified by slow, tank-like mechs, and drew comparisons from some to Looking Glass' earlier Terra Nova. GameSpot's Denny Atkin went as far as to call it "the most impressive game yet in the giant robot genre," and PC Gamer's T. Liam McDonald similarly touted that "Heavy Gear II takes the robotic combat genre into new territory."

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