I remember having mixed feelings about this game when it came out. I never owned an Xbox, and only played it when over a friend’s house, so it was actually to my benefit that the game was more of an episodic arcade style action shooter. I could leave off practically anywhere. I also remember quite a few MechWarrior and MechCommander purists complaining about the powerups and other unrealistic aspects of the game (including a very non-canon super heavyweight ‘Mech or two in there as well). My main beef with the game is that you can only select one kind of weapon at a time; be it missiles, lasers, etc. They really streamlined the weapons inventory, and with none of that mechlab business fans love so much.
I thought a bit differently than some of my purist friends though. To those of you who have played some of the earlier editions of Shadowrun, FASA made a number of references to BattleTech, one I remember off the top of my head was “Heroes of the Federated Commonwealth”: a Virtual Reality holo game offered in a VR arcade advertised in one of the Shadowrun source books. I thought of that when first playing the game and just thought of MechAssault as the kind of thing gamers of the Inner Sphere might play- and kept it in that context. But regardless, there seemed to have been quite a backlash among traditionalists.
There were some similarities to MechWarrior, however. Starting off with a light chassis and moving on to larger ‘Mechs and weapons seems pretty universal. As does the limited support of the first person games. MechAssault doesn’t feature any lance-mates; which along with the power ups kind of reminds me of BattleTech 3050 for the SNES and Sega Saturn. Only with immersive banter from your commander on your radio to add to plot development.
The player is a nameless rookie member of the Wolf’s Dragoons merc company. The Dragoon dropship is dispatched to the planet Helios to investigate an HPG outage and subsequently shot down in a sequence that reminded me a lot of when the dropship Black Hammer was shot down by Orbital Defense Lasers in MechWarrior 3. The player; as the only uninjured mechwarrior available, is initially tasked with providing security for the downed dropship; naturally leading to plot development and larger and more difficult missions.
MechAssault featured eighteen ‘Mechs, including two only available in multiplayer. Unfortunately there’s really only ten, with each having a variant that uses the same 3D model. As usual, mainly Clan ‘mechs, though with Wolf’s Dragoons, who could also manufacture their own Clantech, I have no issue with this compared to everyone and their brother having a Clan ‘Mech in MechWarrior IV.
Overall, MechAssault is a watered down third-person arcade shooter set in the BattleTech universe. It plays well, has decent graphics for the time, rockin’ soundtrack and I give it a pass.
If you still own an Xbox and can find it, give it a try.
Just try not to rage when you start fighting non-canon superheavy “boss” ‘Mechs.
Well bargained, and done.