History: Somewhere back 6 years prior to the release of the current title, Activision created a series of games with the FASA title Mechwarrior and Battletech. One game that stood out was a real-time, first-person perspective monster robot combat game. It had the feel of a game that allowed you to go toe to toe with a team of four (one human and three computer artificial intelligences) against four other giant robots piloted by artificial intelligences.
Woven into the story was an optional plot line that placed you as the son of a noble house within the five noble houses of the inner sphere of planets. Your planet was attacked and your mother and father killed by a group of rogue mercenary Mech robot pilots. Your job was to track down the perpetrators and expose them so that you could regain your planet and your people. To do this you had to turn mercenary, earn enough cash, hire other pilots, purchase mech robots, and equip the robots with the latest weapons.
Plot: After all this time Activision returns to the arena and after surviving virtual death as a company to bring us the life of a Mechwarrior pilot of the clans. The clans exist outside the inner sphere, which they first left and then later returned to on a mission of conquest. You pick one of two clans to battle your way through the outer planets of the inner sphere. Along the way you rise through the ranks of the Jade Falcon or Wolf Clan from the rank of recruit trainee up to the mighty Khan.
Game play: In a word intense. The game play of this monster is nothing short of heart-pounding, in-your-face action. You control a variety of weapons and you must use them to effectively cripple all enemy mechs while keeping systems online long enough to complete your mission. One of the ending missions involves a very difficult assault. The activision team shared with me their thoughts on how long it took to get the engine and game play to have a realistic you-are-there feel. Congratulations guys, you achieved it!
You can climb over mountains, kick enemy mechs, target at long range, and many other fun things while you blow up everything on the landscape from enemy mechs to civilian buildings. When compared to EarthSiege 1 and 2, the game does not have the same type of missions, especially the uplinking of viruses or the down-linking of data from enemy bases. EarthSiege 2 also employs salvage in the game play.
Missions and Scenarios: As in the original game, you have 15 missions for each of 2 clans including base destroy and protect, escort, intercept, capture, and assault missions. In between all these missions are arena enclosed trials by combat to determine succession to higher ranks and access to better mechs and weaponry. Another aspect of game play is the customization of the mechs with available parts. But the game world will have to wait for Activision to implement the all important role of salvage.
Unique training missions permit you to learn how to use the mech, while in the capable hands of instructors. Taking out the mech for the first time, feels just like you are a rookie responding to a trainer of superior rank. Not only that, the missions actually train you as to what you will be doing in the missions and the commands that you really use.
Unfortunately the game does not permit targeting of certain body parts as seen in EarthSiege 2 and the original Mechwarrior. One of the most fun parts of the game was to shoot off the legs of mechs and watch them fall causing additional damage. Or the marksman’s kill was to shoot out the head where the pilot of the mech resided, which was faster and provides more salvage. But with the increase in the speed of the action, targeting specific components is made exponentially more difficult, loosing one of the tactical elements of gameplay.
Graphics: The movies are strikingly beautiful, especially the beginning movie which never fails to impress even after many showings to everyone willing to sit through it. Texture-mapped polygons were left out of the gam to improve speed on lesser machines. The three resolutions include 320x200, 640x480, and 1024x786 pixels. The highest resolution is really impressive but it is a PC killer and will slow a Pentium 90 to a crawl.
Interface: The controls are laid out a little more easy to play than EarthSiege and others. You use the joystick to aim or reprogram to other functions. The torso turn is easy with the Microsoft Sidewinder you simply turn the stick (twist it to the left or right in the socket using your wrist - Ed.) to turn it. The speed is controlled by a throttle rather than pushing the stick forward as seen in may other games of this type.
Many keys control multiple views, wing person commands, and other system functions. The piloting of a mech resembles piloting a flight simulator more than a real-time combat game like doom. There are definite tactics that resemble those of fighter combat and the commands match the commands and controls of a fighter cockpit as well. For example, the Chuck Yeager invisible cockpit mode is available.
Voice actors: Various places, especially at the training level, employ voice cues for various commands and other notices in the heat of battle.
Musical score: Good quality movie score type music sets the stage and mood
Sound effects: Explosions, guns, engines, beam weapons, and other sounds really help you get into the mood.
Multi-player: Already other companies are coming out with web versions of this game, such as Kesmai’s new Multiplayer Battletech. (And the first Multiplayer Battletech is still not out of beta - Ed.) Unfortunately the Mechwarrior 2 does not have a cooperative mission mode. The game can be played as a head-to-head game with up to eight human players (four vs four) over network, null and phone modem, and internet on the various multiplayer boards. The first time I experienced the eight player on a network was at Microsoft’s Judgement Day in Redmond Washington on October 31, 1995. My son and I filmed the Activision developers which has been broadcast on my television show.
Conclusions: I agree with everyone else on this including myself, buy this one.
Shane Mooney, PC Games, volume 3, number 9, September, 1996, pg. 37-38
Dan Kinchen, www.gamesdomain.co.uk/gdreview/zones/reviews/pc/august/mech2rev.html
Jeff Ammons, www.infinity.america.net/archive/feb96/mech.htm
Rod White, www.mortimer.com/users/pcme/action/mw2win95/mw2win95.htm, 90%
Rod White, www.mortimer.com/users/pcme/action/gbl/gbl.htm
Brent Hegerty, http://cypher.turbonet.com/GAMES/1TITLE/M/MECH21/REVIEW/GBL_REV.STM
John C. Dvorak, http://zeppo.cnet.com/Content/Reviews/Cdcentral/Dvorak/0,52,173,00.html
Al Giovetti, Genie’s Muliplayer Battletech, Personal Computer Combat Simulations, volume 2, number 3, July-August, 1994, pg. 54-56, 59-61,70.
Al Giovetti, EarthSiege, with Michael Giovetti, Personal Computer Combat Simulations, volume 2, number 4, September-October, 1994, pg. 49.