marino's MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Xbox) review

An Xbox Live Pioneer Returns

The original MechAssault defined what Xbox Live was all about and now Microsoft Games Studios and Day 1 have brought us a sequel in Lone Wolf.  Not a whole lot has changed since the first one, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but after two years of Xbox Live, MechAssault isn't as fresh and exciting as it originally was.  At it's core it's an online-only game, and if you don't have Xbox Live, there's not much reason at all to pick this one up.  Lone Wolf adds a few things to MechAssault experience, but thanks to an already star-studded Xbox Live shooter library, it fails to make the same impact that the first one made.     
 
 
Graphics 
The scale is what is stunning here.  So much stuff is going on in MechAssault that it's quite amazing that the frame-rate stays crisp.  It never gets old watching forty-story buildings will come crumbling down after a few shots of mortars.  But environment effects aren't the only graphical stars of the game.  The special effects such as blurring heat and all the different variations of explosions and bursts of light are quite good as well.  The only problem with all the effects is that sometimes you can't see what the fuck is going on.  Some of the textures are a little fuzzy, but the character models are decent, and the sheer amount of action on screen is quite impressive.     
 
 
Control 
Not a whole lot has changed, which is good.  MechAssault is still a straight-forward, rather simple shooter that anyone can pick up and play.  Learning the finer points of each mech may take you a few rounds in multiplayer, but within 30 minutes you'll be strategizing with the best of them (getting your teammates to cooperate with you is another story though).  The biggest new addition is the BattleArmor, which is not really a mech but allows you to quickly hover around areas and sneak up on the larger mechs.  If you get close enough you can GTA your opponents via a quick button-pressing mini-game.  If you enter the combination first, the mech's pilot will get ejected into the stratusphere and die as the mech collapses to the ground.  You can then either continue on in your Armor or drop the suit to hijack the mech.  In single player it's actually easier to continue in the Armor once the pilot is dispatched, but in multiplayer you're probably going to want to take the mech.  The game's controls are simple while the choices are immensely diverse, which is a strangely satisfying combination.     
 
 
Sound 
The production value is high and exemplifies great use of surround sound, but the voice acting is more than a shade on the cheesey side.  The basic background music is just that...basic.  And what definitely kills it is the presence of KoRn and Papa Roach, unless you like them I guess.  I fail to understand why these games try to forcefully push licensed music into the game's score when it's completely unnecessary. 
 
 
Replay Value 
Forget the campaign.  It's short, weak, and repetitive as all hell.  It's basically an endless string of go here, kill this, go here, blow this up, all barked at you by a rather annoyingly bitchy Major Natalia.  I shouldn't say endless, since it's not very long at all, but it feels like it, in a bad way.  As stated before, Lone Wolf is all about the multiplayer.  The game features 10 different game types including the ambitious Conquest mode.  In Conquest, the goal is to capture as many planets as possible with your team.  Yes, planets.  And since each planet has its own sets of rules, you will be playing through all the various team multiplayer modes along the way.  The game offers alot for the Xbox Live gamer, but the slow pace of the mechs may be a turn-off to many gamers who have half a dozen other choices when it comes to stellar shooters online.     
 
 
Conclusion 
MechAssault 2 takes the original and adds a few more bells and whistles, but it's essentially the same game.  The addition of BattleArmor is cool, and the combinations of things you can do with it and the other vehicles is a plus.  Picking up the guy who just took your flag and holding him in the air over your base for your friends to use as target practice is ridiculously fun.  The clan support is nice for those who were hardcore fans of the first one, and the downloadable content is always good.  The action isn't as fast paced as most shooters, but there's always something going on.  The fact is two years ago MechAssault set the standard for Xbox Live gaming, but now it's just part of the crowd.  It simply isn't as exciting as it originally was.  But for those that thoroughly enjoyed the original (and of course have Live), Lone Wolf is a worthy sequel.     
 
 
*** This review was written for Flamevault.com shortly after the game's release. ***
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