RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jul 26th 2014 at 08:49:29 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under MechAssault, MechWarrior, BattleTech, FASA, Xbox, original



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).


Video Created By TheMechGamer

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Todays game was played upon The Fun Table.  While not quite in my main "game cave" area, this location allows me easy access to my the other floors in my house for quick running-down of my children in emergency situations. C64 and original Xbox permanently live here, with occasional visits from the Dreamcast, PS2, and NES.


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Comments
 
I've enjoyed the Battletech franchise since the initial board games.  In fact, MechWarrior was the first pen-and-paper RPG I ever played.  The IP has had many ups and downs, and the MechAssault Xbox exclusives fall squarely in the middle for me.  Stripped-down arcade fun has its place, and the 8 player LAN gaming is particularly entertaining.  If you're not looking for the complexity of the MechWarrior PC games (but something with a touch more substance than the SNES oddity) the MechAssault series is fun.  Thanks for the write-up!
 
This was a great read! This was one of my Favorites within the Xbox library of games.
 
I have this game in my collection and picked it up after watching several videos on what games are a must for XBox owners. Looks like a lot of fun and can't wait to pop it in some day. I'm curious, does the sequel hold up?
 
The sequel is not as fun, unfortunately. I spent many days playing MechAssault online when I first purchased my Xbox, and purchased Lone Wolf as a first-day purchase. It was ambitious, but just didn't have the fun the first one did and I dropped it after a week.
 
@singlebanana: Overall, yes.  While the basic gameplay remains unchanged, there are slightly more varied missions with more strategy. although you are still just blowing stuff up to accomplish your ends. The "neuro-hack" feature is a bit annoying and the game is short (compared to the first one), but overall fun.  You can tell that their budget was better for this title.  Also, it works on the 360 (though I haven't tried it).
 
your C64 setup is hot.
 
@noiseredux: Thanks. I do love me some C64, and that does seem the perfect place for it.
 
Just wanted to comment that my wife was looking up BattleTech/MechWarrior manuals this morning to get a game going. That is all.

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