There are three things that I love to do when playing video games. The first being to Conquer, the second is to Pillage and the last, but certainly not the least, is to Destroy. So when my manager told me about MechCommander 2, I was as happy as a kid in a candy store.
The year is 3063 and the planet Carver V is in complete chaos with three noble houses (House Liao, House Steiner and House Clan) vying for complete control over the world. You and your company of MechWarriors are hired mercenaries by House Steiner, who has all sorts of jobs lined up for you and your MechWarriors. For anybody new to this line of games from let me fill you in just a little more. A few years back a game came out called MechWarrior, which put you in the pilot seat of a mechanized robot-like war machine. You would then go on your merry way crushing and killing anything in your path, which was quite fun I must note. What makes MechCommander 2 different from MechWarrior is that this time around you are in charge of an entire company of mechs with a top-down view instead of the first-person view and just one mech. MechCommander 2 comes packed with 24 missions which can be played as a campaign or as solo missions. There is also Multiplayer available so you and all your friends can find out who the better commander is in many styles of play. And just so you don’t get bored playing anytime soon, Microsoft has included a mission editor in the game so you can add your own tweaks to the game.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
I got sucked into the storyline for MechCommander 2 from the very beginning. The game designers did a wonderful job of incorporating live actors with the mission briefings, to really make you feel like you’re right there on Carver V. Each mission is started with a briefing, which basically fills you in on what’s going on and what is expected of you and your mercenaries. You then proceed to Mech screen, where you pick from a list of different MechWarriors and add them to your team for the mission. This is where the game gets interesting because each mission has a weight limit so you must pick your Mechs carefully. You also have to pay attention to what kinds of Mechs are needed for the mission. You might need long range fighting Mechs or you might require faster and more mobile scout Mechs.
Once you have picked out your Mechs you then move on to the pilot screen where you pick from a list of mercenaries that work for you. Once again this is where it gets interesting because each pilot has different skills that you have to match up with the Mech unit in order for the unit to be at its best. I would also like to note that after each mission, pilots earn medals and promotions which cause their skills to go up. Okay! So now that you have picked your pilots and Mechs, the only thing to do before proceeding to the actual mission is to decide if you want to spend any of your hard earned cash to customize your Mech units.
Once the mission starts you are presented with a top-down view showing your units in all their heavy metal glory. Yeaahh Baby!!!! From this point forward you follow mission objectives that were laid out for you in your mission briefing. While going on missions throughout Carver V you will find enemy bases that have resources you can use to repair your units. You’re also able to capture enemy outposts that have gun turrets you can use. Money plays an important part of MechCommander 2 because while on missions you can salvage enemy units and use them as your own. You can also buy repair trucks, order air strikes and buy artillery units, so without money, which you get at the end of each mission, you will have a bunch of burning scrap metal.
One thing the game designers did for which they deserve applause is the fact that the missions have a great learning curve. MechCommander 2 brings you along slowly so you get the feel of the game without being frustrating. The only complaint I have with MechCommander 2 is the lame "Save" feature. You are not able to access your quick save games from the main menu -- you have to start a mission from the beginning and have it load, then once the game is going you can access your quick save and quick loads, which takes some time. Other than that, I found this to be a challenging and fun game, especially with the actors sequences.
I can’t decide which was more fun, playing the solo missions or playing online. But I can tell you that it was a total blast to play online at the MSN Gaming Zone. When playing online you have a total of seven styles of play to choose from. You have, Last Man Standing, King of the Hill and Capture Base to name a few. What I really liked about playing online was the fact that it was tough to figure out what the other guy was going to do. You might have one person who likes light and fast mechs, and then you have guys like me who like the big and heavy mechs. Definitely give Multiplayer a try -- I think you will have a lot of fun and meet some cool people. I’d like to give a shout out to Com Vlad who taught a newbie how to play online. He spent quite a few hours running me through the different types of games and whooping my butt nicely.
I’ve come away from the graphics feeling a bit disappointed. I found the actual textures of the planet to be very lacking in eye candy. They felt dull and drab compared to the military bases which came across with a lot more color and vibrancy. The graphics for the actual Mech units in the game are great. They come across as these hulking machines pounding across the map, which will have you zooming in your camera view quite a bit to get a better look. Just as much detail was paid to the support units in the game -- they come across as very futuristic and high tech.
One comment I received from someone when I was playing this game was how much it looks and feels like the Command & Conquer series of games that are out. I can’t vouch for this because I never played any of the C&C titles. I do have to give a thumbs up on the graphics for the mission briefing screens because they utilized live actors for the mission briefs and that is way cool on my Coolness Meter. In the end I would have to say the graphics are just so-so. I’ve seen worse and I’ve seen better but if you are into these types of games then you should be pretty happy with what you see.
I thought I was going to blow my speakers when playing this game. When you blow up other units you get some gnarly explosions that make your teeth rattle. I really loved the fact that the other Mech pilots would talk to you while in the heat of battle. It really gives you the feeling of a battle raging all around you. While on missions you also receive updates from one of your officers and the audio signal will break up. All in all I would have to say the did a very good job on the audio, the battle sounds are great and the computer voices come across very sci-fi-ish.
266 MHz or higher processor, 400 MHz with MMX or 3D Now if no hardware 3D acceleration, Super VGA 2D video card with 8MB RAM, Win 98 or higher, 64MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, DirectX 8.0 or later, 400 MB Hard disk space, 16-bit sound card and a 56k or better modem for Internet play.
Originality / Cool Features
As mentioned above I really liked the mission briefings with the live actors. I thought that was a great way to draw you into the game and get you involved. I also really liked how the story progresses; it gets more complicated and deceitful than an episode of "All My Children."
I’m positive that anyone who has played any of the prior Mech games will really have some fun with this one. It’s very challenging but has a very gentle learning curve for anyone who hasn’t played real-time strategy games before. I much prefer games likeor Desperados for real-time strategy games, but I’m just a cranky old game reviewer with a bad case of computer butt. Anyone who has an interest in Military strategy with a whole lot of sci-fi thrown in should definitely go buy a copy of MechCommander 2, you’ll get your money's worth from the amount of playing time you’ll invest. On that note I’ll give MechCommander a score of 83/100. Good luck fellow MechCommanders and remember to wear your steel jockstrap. I’m DoubleTap and I’m outta here!!!