by Al Giovetti
Genre: Combat Simulation
Release: Fall 1997
Producer: Jack Mimais
History: Activision made a name for itself back in the early days of gaming, but the name at that time was Infocom. Later in the 8-bit gaming years of the late 1980s, Activision published and Dynamix developed the first person perspective massive robot combat hit game MechWarrior. Activision also published two role playing overhead perspective adventure games developed by Westwood. All three games were based upon the FASA MechWarrior and BattleTech universe. In the middle 1990's Activision brought out MechWarrior 2, Ghost Bear's Legacy, and Mercenaries to rave reviews and high sales figures.
In 1995, FASA announced they would not be renewing Activision's license and would be developing games inhouse. MechWarrior 3 will not be an Activision product. Activision took the game engine they lovingly created for MechWarrior and enhanced it to make it the basis for the upcoming and highly anticipated Interstate 76. This latest deal shows that Activision is committed to the robot combat model and will now continue to enhance their system with the Heavy Gear game world invented by Dream Pod 9.
Dynamix has been acquired by Sierra and is now producing the EarthSiege games. Westwood continued to develop their ability in the graphic animated and role playing adventure areas, but have not really followed up their early robot game successes. Westwood carved a nitche with the first real time strategy game, Command and Conquer, a series of graphic animated adventures based upon the world of Kyrandia, and first person role playing games with Strategic Simulations and later under their own label with Virgin.
When we visited with Activision in earlier in 1996, we discussed the loss of license and the possibility of obtaining another robot license from another role playing company, since there are a plethora of these types of games on the market. Activision did not admit it but it now appears they were already thinking along those lines. The current deal with Target Games shows the level of commitment.
As discussed with Activision, one of the real plusses of the MechWarrior universe is the rich history of the inner sphere with its clans and ranking system that game players can really sink their teeth into. Activision plans to develop a similarly rich game playing world with the help of Target and Role Playing designers Dream Pod 9. Heavy Gear is one of the fastest growing role playing game series in the market. Very little is known about the early games in this series.
Company line: Having firmly established its position as a leader in the combat-action genre with its best- selling MechWarrior(R) products, Activision, Inc. (Nasdaq: ATVI) has entered into a long-term license agreement with Target Games to acquire the exclusive worldwide interactive rights to the Heavy Gear giant-robot role-playing universe. According to the November issue of Comics Retailer Magazine, Heavy Gear was ranked the fourth largest role-playing game series in the marketplace.
Under the terms of the agreement with Target, Activision will acquire all interactive rights to the Heavy Gear universe for ten years with two additional five year options. Additionally, the agreement allows Activision to develop an unlimited number of titles for a variety of platforms. The Company expects to release its first Heavy Gear-based title in Fall 1997. Activision also will continue to garner revenues and market share in the 3-D combat simulation genre through technical and visual enhancements to its broad catalogue of MechWarrior products.
The first Heavy Gear game will be developed by many of the key designers, programmers and animators who contributed to the success of Activision's MechWarrior products. The first title will build upon Activision's market-proven proprietary 3-D real-time engine technology used to develop the MechWarrior products and will feature significant enhancements that will deliver explosive non-stop gameplay to engulf players in full-scale mega-ton warfare.
"Our Heavy Gear-based games will be the next generation of giant-robot simulation games," stated Bobby Kotick, Chairman and CEO, Activision, Inc. "This agreement gives us the flexibility to continue expanding and refining the combat-action genre over an extended time period. Additionally, we will now be able to help shape a very robust giant-robot universe that is only beginning its mass marketing campaign."
"Activision will spearhead and contribute to the marketing plans that Target Games has for the Heavy Gear property, which includes animated and live action entertainment, novelizations and comic book publishing as well as merchandising collectible toys," stated Fredrik Malmberg, president, Target Games.
Scripted Plot: Based on the popular Heavy Gear role-playing games created by Dream Pod 9, the first title will be set on planet Terra Nova, a planet populated by expatriates from Earth, in ther year 6132 AD. In an effort to successfully colonize the new land, the expatriates had developed innovative technology known as the Heavy Gears - utilitarian mechanized chassis that were used for construction and industry. Eventually, the Gears found their way into military service and were instrumental in repelling Earth's attempt to reclaim Terra Nova. Now, many years after Earth's attack, the tensions between the Northern, Confederated Northern City States or CNCS, and Southern, Allied Southern Territories or AST, governments of Terra Nova, loosely formed confederations of the original ten city states, threaten to lead to full scale war. The CNCS fight in heavy gears named after carnivors like Grizzlies and Jaguars, while the AST fight in gears namedd after reptiles, like Iguanas and Maambas.
Players must embark on a crusade of heavy-metal mechanical combat in the opening chapter of this epic confrontation. You escape when your unit is captured by the enemy, and you bring help too late to prevent your comrades' executions. Your character is branded coward and traitor, and are held responsible for causing the death of your commander's son, who was a member of your unit.
Your girlfriend is the only one who still believes in you at the base. Unfortunately, she is also a heavy gear pilot and she is captured by the enemy shortly after your return.
Game play: Right now Activision is not talking about much that goes on here, but we are sure of several things even this early in production. This game will involve building structures and warfare amoung groups of dissimilar characters with different advantages and disadvantages in classic real-time strategy format.
Game play is enhanced by scripted cut scenes which explain and elaborate on the relation between the plot elements and the combat sequences. The same people who appear in the cut scenes will be piloting the gears (The large robots that were called Mechs in Activision's MechWarrior are called Gears in Heavy Gear.)
Each Gear has two types of locomotion, bipedal for the open, broken terrain, and wheels or treads for flat terrain. Gears resemble Transformers slightlyl in their abilty to reconfigure to use either bipedal locomotion or run on wheels.
Views: Views are always important where a simulator is involved. One of the toughest things to do is to simulate the distance vision or depth of vision that one has in the real world through a display. The new first person cockpit display will totally go over to the Chuck Yeager Air Combat invisable cockpit mode.
The reason for the full screen is that the Gear pilot is sitting in the vehicle chest looking at a view screen which is produced by the Gear sensors. Within the display are various new features such as the new compas display which will appear in the upper left screen. Damage your sensor array and you will find yourself peering through a small slit out of the vehicle chest.
Other control displays will overlay the full screen view to provide a less obstructed view than seen with previous MechWarrior games. One of the new displays will be the wire frame damage display that will overlay a wire frame on the robot that you can look at to determine the damage of various body parts. One thing I noticed was that the wire fram worked well when in close proximity to the enemy Gear but was almost useful when far away, and totally useful when the mech was beyond visual range.
Gear construction and modification: You will construct mechs with a cut and paste type interface that replaces and exchanges robot body parts. Once construced, what you see within the special mech modification interface will be exactly what the mech looks like in the game.
Another useful feature is the way weapons are treated. Weapons can be picked and used like human weapons up by special robot claws at the end of special appendages that resemble arms when in bipedal mode. These "analog weapons" make for easy changes in armament without any special cost or modifications.
Graphics: Graphics are not the thing in strategy games that tend to be rather spartain in this and the areas of animation, voice, music, and sound effects. We are sure there will be a strategy title and a head's up robot war action product. The robot war product will he a highly enhanced version of the very excellent Mechwarrior 2: Mercinaries game engine.
The new graphics engine support 640 x 480 pixel resolution, Direct 3D, MMX, and 3D cards as shipped. Rolling terrain, terrain interaction, and terrain deformation is supported. The game world is more highly detailed with more buildings and cover to duck and hide behind.
The graphics used for parts of the game will be based upon Japanese Anime which Jack Mamais feels will enhance the entire experience. Anime are a popular Japanese animation style that uses very large eyed and scantily-clad, well-endowed women and often largely-proportioned and slightly grotesque men. The style uses exagerration of physical features and of elements of the world to sensationalize the plot. RoboTech and other Anime titles can be found on television programs and selected video tape rental stores.
Animation: The scripted plot will be portrayed by animated cut scenes in between the combat action, briefings and debriefings.
Voice actors: The voice actors that you hear in the cut scenes will be the same voice actors that you will hear over the communication links piloting the gear robots.
Multi-player: These games are ripe for mult-player features and Activision assures me that this game will be no exception.
Future plans: Activision assures me they will take an active part in developing this rapidly expanding game world. In fact, Activision will have a new role in writing plots which will be used as the basis for the Heavy Gear paperback universe. FASA had restricted Activision to using plots which had already been written, restricting the game company's creativity. This will not be the case with Heavy Gear.
Cheats, Hints, and Walkthroughs:
Brady Games: Official Heavy Gear Strategy Guide
Al Giovetti, Genie's Muliplayer Battletech, Personal Computer Combat Simulations, volume 2, number 3, July-August, 1994, pg. 54 - 56, 59-61,70.
Johnny L. Wilson, Computer Gaming World, issue 153, April, 1997, pg. 48 - 52.
Emil Pagliarulo, Adrenaline Vault, John Hoskins, Game Stats, 7/10 (70%). Chris Taormina, Gamezilla, 93%. Tom Chick, CD Magazine Online Preview David Crowhurst, RPG Net Review Heavy Gear Review Update PCGR Reader Reviews Index to Heavy Gear online interviews Grendels Gaming Lair Heavy Gear History Heavy Gear Online Role Playing Heavy Gear Preview