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MechAssault
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Console: Microsoft Xbox
Region:U
Year: 2002
RFG ID #: U-075-S-01840-A
Part #: Q03-00001
UPC: 805529097704
Developer: Day 1 Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Rating:
T (ESRB): Blood , Violence

Genre: Shooter
Sub-genre: Mecha
Players: 1-8
Controller: Standard Controller
Media Format: DVD
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Collection Stats:

  • 285 of 7339 collectors (3.8%) have this game in their collection
  • 5 of 7339 collectors (0%) have this game in their wishlist.
  • 4 of 7339 collectors (0%) have this game for sale or trade.
Review:

The MechAssault games released on the original Xbox represent one of the last pushes of the BattleTech franchise towards mainstream popularity. With all past successful games released on PC, it seems obvious that publisher Microsoft and developer Day 1 Studios (with some input by FASA Interactive) wanted a fresh reboot in the form of a new francise, one that would be playable only one Microsoft's new Xbox console system. But would this even be possible in a market that seemingly didn't give a rip about Western-style robot sims? The first step was to take the game out of it's sim roots and make the game a bit more action-oriented. Taking away a lot of the micromanagement and customization options in favor of more streamlined weapon and mech organization (no giving teammates orders, for example) was a great start to this end. All mechs come with a prepackaged set of weapons organized into three categories (ballistic, energy, and missile), with no switching; if you want a particular weapon load-out you have to use that particular mech. A nice addition (and also maddening to sim purists, I imagine) are power-ups. You can upgrade each weapons two additional times (up to a level of three) with power-ups littered through the game. These also add a bit of greatly needed strategy to the game, as unlike the main weapons of each mech, these upgrades have limited ammunition. There are also health power-ups scattered about the landscape, which helps remind you that this is a console game. Video game logic, right? One of the few carry-overs from the PC games is the need to manage heat buildup. While I never really noticed this until near the end of the game, it nonetheless necessitates your attention, especially when you consider the basic weapons of each mech have unlimited ammunition. Environment plays a part in this as well, as walking into a body of water will help cool you mech off, while fighting on "lava worlds" will cause you to overheat much more quickly. Luckily powered up weapons build up heat a a much slower rate than your basic weapons. Again, video game logic rules. The visuals in this game, while not stunning by todays standards, nonetheless still manage to hold up, despite some blurriness There are plenty of details and visual treats to be had here. Shoot at a building and see glass explode in tiny shards from the windows, and watch as mechs take gradual damage then light up in a satisfying explosion, which also affects the buildings, equipment, and terrain around them. Sound is equally impressive, with great weapon sounds and explosions to be heard. If your sound system has a sub-woofer you will also feel them a bit. But with all of this there has to be faults, right? Indeed there are. The weapons, fully powered up are very unbalanced. Once might think that the slower and heavier weapons (PPCs and mortors) would be the most powerful, but you are much more served wading into battle with your regular machine guns powered up to the maximum. Also, while taking away the big choices the PC games had to offer surely makes for a more simple experience, it also introduces another problem, that when one takes away the customization and general mech options (powering down, dumping coolant, grouping weapons), it lays bare the main fault that the entire MechWarrior franchise has: At its heart the games are about walking around your enemies in a circle and shooting them. This is less true in MechAssault, but only in that you zig-zag instead of circle-strafe. But the greatest issue with this game is the camera. Released only a few years before Resident Evil 4 innovated the over-the-shoulder camera, in MechAssault our view is a few dozen feet behind and above the mech. While this simplifies aiming lock-on, it makes anything behind the mech fair game to obscure the action. Smoke and slightly shorter buildings are pretty common culprits. Lastly, I would like to mention the multiplayer. Despite this being released in beginnings of Xbox Live online multiplayer, MechAssault has some pretty robust offline multiplayer. Either by split-screen or by link cable (remember those?), fun can be had by all, or at least a few people at a time. It's really too bad that this was overshadowed by multiplayer via a fledgling Xbox Live service, which for the time was great (console online multiplayer in 2002!), but is now completely dead, as Microsoft saw fit to shut down the original service in 2010. All in all, I really enjoyed playing this game from beginning to end. While single mech-to-mech combat is a little bit simple, mixing it up with two, three, or more mechs becomes a great exercise in tactical combat, especially taking into account the splash damage the destruction of mechs causes, sometimes allowing you to chain two, three, or even four mech explosions. The game, while a bit easy, managed to entertain me throughout, even though I pretty much skipped the entire story. Something about a crazy cult of mech-driving psychos. With the strength of the gameplay, it's really no wonder there was a sequel to this game, which I will be starting very soon (once I mop up a few loose ends). So that is that. The game is great and is a definite recommendation to those that enjoy the BattleTech universe, lumbering giant robots, or just third-person shooters in general. It is pretty cheap on ebay and even Amazon (in some cases less than $5), but is mysteriously absent on Xbox On Demand or within the Xbox store. I'm not absolutely sure why, but I'm sure licensing is the main reason. With no backwards compatibility on the 360, playing it requires an original Xbox, which unless you happen to have one on hand they can be prohibitively expensive to ship. Despite this, my recommendation would be to just pick up an original Xbox. Due to the low cost of the MechAssault (and Xbox software in general), picking up an original Xbox to play it would really be negligible. This could be your gateway to play some awesome exclusive Xbox games that will are obscure enough to never appear on another system, and given the null state of Xbox emulation and Microsoft's general sloth, will likely never appear any other way.
Extra Media:

Alternate front cover
"Not for individual sale" back cover
Microsoft Games Booklet
Xbox Live Pamphlet
Manual Back
Variations:

Console Reg. Type Title Publisher Year Genre
Microsoft Xbox A S MechAssault Microsoft Game Studios 2002 Action/Adventure
Microsoft Xbox United Kingdom S MechAssault Microsoft Game Studios 2002 Action/Adventure
Microsoft Xbox U S MechAssault [Platinum Hits] Microsoft 2004 Action/Adventure
Microsoft Xbox U S MechAssault [Best of Platinum Hits] Microsoft 2004 Action/Adventure
Microsoft Xbox U S MechAssault [GOTY Seal] Microsoft 2002 Shooter
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