The problem with mech games--specifically ones based on BattleTech--is that they're generally too slow and complex to make for a good console experience. That's why the only exciting giant robot games you see tend to come out of Japan, where mechs are usually fast and nimble, not huge and lumbering. Until now.
In a move that's sure to have pen-and-paper purists across the country crying foul, Day 1 is creating a BattleTech game with giant robots that behave more like they belong in Robotech or Zone of the Enders. These babies are fast and furious. In MechAssault, you're a one-man wrecking crew, capable of literally destroying entire cities. But all this destruction isn't senseless (OK...most of it is)--you can actually knock buildings onto groups of attacking enemies, thus saving time and ammo. Plus, it's one of the ways to find weapon, shield and jump-jet upgrades in the game.
Day 1 wants to keep this game console-friendly, so you'll play the role of a single, badass mercenary sent in to clean out a planet of unsuspecting pirates. That means no squad to deal with and no wingmen to protect. But MechAssault will still feature objective-based gameplay, like rescue and escort missions. In other words, it's not just another mindless shooter.
The big question is whether or not BattleTech can succeed as a console game. Microsoft's determined to prove it can.
First, MechAssault is on the Xbox. That makes it good because console games are generally clean and refined versions of their PC cousins. They might lack the versatility and graphics, but reliable performance is a great recompense, and the newer consoles easily approach PC quality graphics. Second, it's an Xbox Live title, which means not only is it a mech game, but it can be played online with up to eight people at once. After all, we all appreciate human players instead of some moronic computer, right?
MechAssault brings the design, graphics, and concept of the Mechwarrior 4 series to the Xbox, and does a fine job in doing so. With large differences between the two, there's enough differences here to justify playing it on an Xbox. As is normal for an Xbox title, the graphics are great, and the audio is discrete, unobtrusive, and voice acted excellently. Relying, for single player, on a campaign and last man standing ladder, and for multiplayer, both online and offline play, there should be enough destruction here to keep anyone happy. The designers at Day 1 have put a lot more emphasis on terrain destruction, as you'll no doubt see.
Still, there are a few weaknesses. First, I managed to lock up the game twenty minutes after starting my first session, requiring a reboot of the Xbox. Troubling, but obviously the most rare of incidents. Second, there isn't the option to customize your mech, a part of the game that's always entertained PC players. Third, the controls are still a little sketchy and hard to control. Fourth, buildings and enemy units are the only terrain you can destroy. Trees catch on fire, and can block fire, but they can't be destroyed. Even with these weaknesses, I'd still consider the game worth it. Most definitely worth it.