When the “Robotech” anime series was first released in the United States, audiences couldn’t relate to the “feminine” robots or convoluted history, and “MechAssault” was created as a more American offshoot. The huge, lumbering robots (or mechs) that were previously the villains in “Robotech” became the stars of “MechAssault,” and the franchise became typified by its regular Godzilla-like destruction. The “MechAssault” video games have never been known for complex plot development or technological innovation, but they have been consistently enjoyable nonetheless.
“MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf” is no exception. Even in the training stages, players are thrown into multipart rescue missions that most games would have saved for the end. These first missions are thrilling — there are few things more exhilarating than accidentally bombing entire city blocks to kill a lone enemy mech.
“Lone Wolf,” however, is mostly mindless gameplay: Steal mech, circle strafe around enemy mech, shoot, kill, repeat. There’s really no advantage to using any particular weapon, and it is nearly impossible to strafe past an enemy’s attacks. The game lacks any strategy to the combat or any indication as to how much damage an enemy mech has taken. The game’s lone improvement over the first “MechAssault” is the ability to hijack any vehicle.
Stylistically, the game is at the other end of the spectrum from this generation’s best mech game, Konami’s “Zone of the Enders.” It is nearly impossible to care about the storyline: The main character in “Lone Wolf” is creatively named “Mechwarrior” and emotes less than “Halo’s” Master Chief. The Americanization of the series really shows: The level design is uninspired and the soundtrack is an amalgamation of every high school guitar riff ever played.
The salvation of “Lone Wolf” is with Xbox Live and a game mode called Conquest. Similar to the clans found in “Halo 2,” Conquest has the player enlist in groups of mechwarriors with the ultimate goal of controlling the universe, planet by planet. When the team conquers a planet, they acquire the territory and the members of the conquered team. The larger team then moves through the universe, gaining and losing team members, while acquiring new planets and defending their territory from other teams. Conquest is ongoing and immensely dynamic, with gamers who were enemies only one planet before now offering support, airlifting in supplies and providing covering fire. Unfortunately, it seems like it should be a part of a better game.
All criticism aside, the “MechAssault” series is nothing if not enjoyable. “Lone Wolf” is a game with features that you may have seen before, but it’s still undeniably fun and much better with friends.