MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf (Limited Edition) Xbox
by Microsoft Game Studios
Developed by Day 1 Studios
Release Date: 4th February 2005
The first MechAssault game proved to be very popular and not just because there are a whole load of Mech enthusiasts out there. MechAssault was the first game to really show what Xbox Live could do and it's no surprise that a demo of the Xbox Live side of the game was initially included with the Xbox Live starter kits. If there was one major disappointment with MechAssault though it was the lack of provision for deaf gamers. Mech fans will have hoped that wasn't going to be the case with MechAssault 2, but sadly it is and although there's some great new features and an impressive assortment of Xbox Live modes, deaf gamers will feel short changed again.
MechAssault 2 sees you playing through the fairly short single-player campaign as the Lone Wolf, the only survivor of his decimated Dragoon. This time around the developers have attempted to create a more 'realistic' experience with the emphasis being on giving the gamer a greater sense of scale than they would have had in the first game. To achieve this you'll actually leave your Mech from time to time, for a wide range of reasons such as hacking security panels and tasks that simply can't be done from inside a Mech. Seeing a small human climb out of the cockpit (which is only a very small part of most Mechs) really does hammer home how big some of these Mechs are meant to be. It also does away with the illusion that the game is made up of fighting robots and shows that Mechs are indeed advanced armoured vehicles.
In Halo 2 it was possible to throw enemies from the Ghost or other vehicle and it was a great addition to the game. Similarly in MechAssault 2 you can hijack another pilot's Mech. To do this you have to NeuroHack your target Mech. First you'll connect with your Mech's claw and then you'll have to hack into the desired Mech by pressing a series of buttons in the displayed sequence. If you're successful you'll displace your opponent and you can leave your own Mech and jump into the new Mech. It's a nice feature and one that's sure to be popular. Another new addition is the ability to use your claw to prevent your descent when scaling large buildings. As you all know your jumpjets fuel isn't infinite and only lasts a few seconds. Just as it runs out you can initialise the claw to fix your Mech into the building whilst the jumpjet fuel refills, which is very useful. When you're outside the Mech you can also pilot bomb, that is to say you can plant explosives on the outside of a Mech, which is risky but can be rewarding when you pull it off.
The main focus of MechAssault 2 is with the multiplayer side of the game. The modes on offer are split-screen multiplayer for 2 players, System Link play for up to 12 players and of course Xbox Live. There's a staggering 10 different modes on offer (Grinder, Destruction, Team Destruction, Last Man Standing, Team Last Man Standing, Not It!, Capture the Flag, Check It!, Snatch It! and Base War) which is impressive. There's full support for clans this time around too. There's also a Xbox Live mode called Conquest which is an on-going battle between 5 houses (Marik, Steiner, Davion, Liao and Kurita). On entering the mode for the first time you'll have a cutscene (unsubtitled) explaining what it's all about before going on to pick a house to fight for. The battles continue around the clock and even when you're not there the war still rages. You aren't bound to one particular house though and can change your allegiance each time you play if you wish. After choosing your house you'll be told which house is currently in the lead and you'll also be told which planet's need defending and such like (all of this is in text). You can also access War Updates, which are all given in text. On entering the war you can choose to Launch Attack, Reinforce or Defend. In short, it's a great addition to an already impressive Xbox Live component and it will ensure that MechAssault 2 is just as popular as the first game was online.
Graphically MechAssault 2 is good but doesn't really improve upon anything we've already seen on the Xbox although it certainly improves upon the original MechAssault. Where as the first game looked great at the time, the sequel doesn't really come across as anything spectacular. What has improved though are the explosions, which is actually quite important as you're going to be seeing a lot of them in MechAssault 2. It's also great to see a frame rate that remains constant throughout the game, regardless of how hectic it becomes. The game includes a good range of Light, Medium, Heavy and Assault Mech's and you can also drive tanks, operate turrets and control VTOLs (Vertical Take Off and Landing vehicles). All of these look good and control very nicely (although the VTOL takes time to master).
What really spoiled MechAssault for us was it's lack of provision for deaf gamers. Those of you hoping that MechAssault 2 was going to be a different story in this respect are going to be very disappointed. There are no subtitles for the cutscenes. Much of the dialogue in the game has no subtitles. The tutorial messages that are spoken verbally are only shown in an abridged form in text. Your next objective is shown in text (in a blue box at the top of the screen) and you can recall this by pressing the start button. Pressing the white button will also recall any tips you've been given. When you're escorting another vehicle there are times when it will be attacked and they'll let you know verbally when they need your help. Sometimes you'll receive a text warning of this but most of the time deaf gamers will be unaware of this cry for help. Similarly sometimes you are verbally forewarned of approaching enemies and these warnings don't appear in text. The first you'll know of the enemies are either when they appear on the radar or they begin firing at you. Voice communications in Xbox Live mode does nothing to help either (although as we've said before that's an Xbox Live issue rather than a game issue). In short then MechAssault 2 is problematic for deaf gamers and it's definitely a case of try before you buy if you're interested in the game.
Those of you that have been looking forward to MechAssault 2 will be really disappointed with the game. Primarily because the game is fairly hostile towards deaf gamers and it makes playing the game a lot more of a challenge than it should be. You'll have no idea of what the games story is about and this really does take quite a bit away from the game. You've probably noticed from the title that we looked at the Limited Edition of MechAssault 2. The extra disk that's included contains some multiplayer maps and a making of MechAssault 2. This 'making of' movie is pointless for deaf gamers as it's not subtitled, which again is disappointing. Taking everything into consideration then MechAssault 2 is only going to be of any worth to those deaf gamers who are Mech enthusiasts and don't mind missing out on a wealth of information.
Overall Game Rating: 5.5/10
Another enjoyable MechAssault game from Day 1 Studios but unfortunately there are problems for deaf gamers and this does reduce the whole from being great to a game that only dedicated Mech fans should play because of all the omissions for deaf gamers.
Deaf Gamers Classification:
(Click the letter or here for details)
With no subtitles for cutscenes and so much content unsubtitled in the main game it's only just escaped an E grade. Had the objectives not been shown in text it would have definitely earned one.