MAX: Mechanized Assault and eXploration
Review by Al Giovetti
Price: $50
Genre: strategy
Release: October 1996
Developer: Tachyon Studios
Producer: Ali Atabek, Gus Smedstad and Paul Kellner
Publisher: Interplay
Phone: 714-553-6678
Website: http://www.interplay.com/
Requirements: PC with 486-66 CPU or faster, 8mb of RAM (Pentium 90 recommended), double-speed CD-ROM drive, 16-bit Sound Blaster compatible sound card, SVGA video card required, mouse required, 8 MB RAM, 22 MB hard disk space.

History: Years ago in a private phone call to then the old Mindcraft director, Ali Atabeck, I was promised by Ali that he would kill himself if the next Magic Candle game was not finished by the next promised and much delayed deadline. The Magic Candle series was one of the best selling games of the time and an enjoyable series of role playing game with top down perspective. I was not the only magazine editor who received this combination pledge and desperate cry for help.

Company line: YOUR MISSION:colonize new worlds on distant planets. As the Mission Commander, you and the Mechanized Assault & Exploration (M.A.X.) Force you lead are the first ones in. Mining stations, power plants, tactical combat vehicle factories, habitats - it's up to you to plan and construct them.

The entire new colony? You create it. The resources you find there? Control them. Enemies? Crush 'em! And there will be enemies. You're not the only Mission Commander trying to colonize the planets. You'll have to push yourself to the limit to survive the ultimate showdown in strategic warfare.

It's espionage, heavy artillery, offensives, counter offensives, and intelligence - all with maximum consequences!

Plot: Well now it is years later, and Ali is working on his eighteenth, or was that nineteenth, project, called Mechanized Assault and Exploration (MAX). Part of the game involves having your brain removed, placed into a robotic body, and teleported (read transported faster than light - Ed.) to an alien galaxy to begin anew. I sense an autobiographical reference in this new plot.

Coincidentally, four cyborg colonies are started on the planet you transport to. Human colonists are committed to arriving within a set period of time. And the game player is locked into a four way race to dominate the planet.

Company line: War, famine and pestilence have combined with ecological collapse, genetic manipulation and tectonic disaster to bring about the demise of the world we now know. The aftermath of this destruction has caused mankind to splinter into eight opposing clans and necessitated the construction of huge spaceships to search the galaxy for habitable planets. Once a planet has been deemed habitable, a mechanized commander, a brain in an android body, must be sent down to the planet to survey, colonize and defend the planet for the arrival of the clan.

YOUR MISSION:colonize new worlds on distant planets. As the Mission Commander, you and the Mechanized Assault & Exploration (M.A.X.) Force you lead are the first ones in. Mining stations, power plants, tactical combat vehicle factories, habitats - it's up to you to plan and construct them.

The entire new colony? You create it. The resources you find there? Control them. Enemies? Crush 'em! And there will be enemies. You're not the only Mission Commander trying to colonize the planets. You'll have to push yourself to the limit to survive the ultimate showdown in strategic warfare.

It's espionage, heavy artillery, offensives, counter offensives, and intelligence - all with maximum consequences!

Gameplay: MAX is another in a series of real-time, turn-based strategy games, that are really turn-based but they play like real-time in order to prevent the boredom of waiting to take your turn. While this sounds like double talk to an old time gamer, it simply means that things happen in real-time, after you take your turns. I donít ever remember being bored by good games, no matter whether they were turn-based or real-time. The key is not the features but how they are combined to make the complete package.

This is basically a top-down or overhead perspective combined turn-based strategy robot war game (rock em sock em robots - Ed.) with all the basic elements of the real-time strategy genre as laid out in Westwood's Command and Conquer and Blizzard's Warcraft. Start building structures, mining resources, building war units, and fight a war for supremacy. The war machines travel in on land, over sea, and in the air.

The real time turn sequence is different than seen in other games since it is a combination of phased and real-time. Each player issues orders in the order phase and then the action is played out in real time. There is a time limit on the two phases of the turn so that while the phased turn is used, the commands are still fast and furious. The real time combat is optional and can be replaced with a true turn or phase based game play.

One of the nice features is the surveyor drones that locate resources and enemies to help plan battles. The game involves eight Factions, over fifty land, sea, and air units. Research involves upgrade your armor, speed, and range. Campaign and custom missions.

Interface: MAX has three-fourths of the screen on the right in a top-down third-person map perspective. Structures look like they are from simcity. On the left one-fourth of the screen are the control panels where commands are given to selected units and data gathered on progress on commands. Two convenient arrow buttons cycle through items as yet uncommanded. The upper left hand display shows the selected unit and the lower display shows the entire battlefield map in miniature.

Play involves deploying troops,researching for technical upgrades up to thirty different levels per item, constructing habitats, 50 land, sea, and air units, and factories, mining for gold, fuel, raw materials, and a chemical named Monopol, on a map of the entire world. Monopol will cause aliens to provide your group with special units based upon alien technology that cannot be invented or constructed by your outpost. Time limits for turn are set by the game players to lengths they prefer.

Modes: A 12 mission campaign, single mission on a selection of 24 pre-designed maps (different worlds), or a pre-built mission. M.A.X. features twenty-four different worlds and eight different clans. A tutorial and user-friendly interface with pop-up menus detailing individual unit functions and abilities and a optional on-screen mechanical assistant which illustrates the "best move available" allows players of all skill levels to plunge into the fast-paced action. A training mode makes learning the game easier.

Combat: M.A.X.: Mechanized Assault & Exploration is the only concurrent turn-based strategy wargame that combines over 50 fully-customizable vehicles with "top-down" SVGA graphics, diverse campaigns and multi-player action. In M.A.X. the fast play of a real-time game is blended with the depth and variety of a turn-based game through the use of a customizable "turn timer" and "concurrent play" to provide a truly addictive and engrossing experience. The game does not use real-time combat like many of the other strategy games currently in vogue.

Editors: Replayability is enhanced by customizable units, battlefields, scenarios and campaigns.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): Each clan has its own way of thinking, a unique AI set to respond differently to what you do. The artificial intelligence is smarter than that seen in the average strategy game.

Graphics: Top-down SVGA graphics using 3-D rendered models gives the game a very good look when combined with the bright colors adn crisp designs for buildings and craft. The three dimensional modelling is not readily evident in the top down mode. A fixed camera can make even spectacular three dimensional graphics appear two dimensional. A free floating camera option would have shown off the graphics better.

Animation: MAX uses cinematic cut scenes well in a way that does not intrude on game play. The cinematics also help to explain and move along the plot in the campaign mode of the game. Explosions are especially nice clouds of red tinged yellow with all shades in between that billow and move realistically - you can almost feel the heat radiating.

Music score: Dolby surround-sound movies and 16-bit stereo sound effects further enhance the compelling gameplay of M.A.X.

Sound Effects:

Voice Actors:

Multiplayer: Any combination of up to four human or computer opponents can wage war. Battle over a network or clash head-to-head via modem. Four person play is supported on hotseat and LAN. Two person play is supported on phone modem and direct connect (serial modem).

Utilities: Five difficulty levels makes the gameplay continually challenging as skill increases. Unfortunately, the lowest difficulty settings are still pretty hard due to the good artificial intelligence. Limited fog of war makes playing the game seem more like a wargame than a typical strategy title. If you had troble with the Matrox video card or other glitches, a 1.03 version patch is available on the Interplay MAX Web Site.

Comparative titles: Missionforce: Cyberstorm, Command & Conquer, and Warcraft.

Hints, Tips, and Cheats MAX Hints Page

  • MAX Cheats

    Journalists: This game seems to be universally loved by Journalists. This is usually a good sign that the game is a good one. Mike Giovetti said the game is too slow for him, but keeps on playing it.

    Please send us your review or preview text by email to publish right here.

    References:
    Interplay MAX Web Site
    Magic Candle II, Apart News, May, 1992, pg. 6-8.
    Magic Candle II: The Four and Forty, QuestBusters, volume 9, number 5, May, 1992, pg. 1, 14.
    Interplay MAX Web Site
    Trent Ward, Game Spot Preview
    Peter Smith, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 70, September, 1996, pg.48.
    Glenn Broderick, Computer Player, volume 3, number 5, October, 1996, pg. 28.
    PC Zone Magazine
    Patrick C. Millar, Computer Gaming World, issue 154, May, 1997, pg. 166-168, 80%.
    Daniel Morris, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 86, 88%.
    Alan Dunkin, Computer & Net Player, volume 3, number 1, April, 1997, pg. 82, 90%.
    Kevin Adkins, Happy Puppy, 26 March 1997, 82%.
    Dan Bennett, PC Gamer, volume 4, number 4, April, 1997, pg. 124-125, 90%.
    Kevin Mical, GameSpot Review, 86%.

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