Gen Con 2002MechAssault hands-on impressions

We take the latest version of this upcoming Xbox mech game for a spin.


Microsoft made a strong showing of PC games at GenCon, but the company also had a separate Xbox kiosk with a running version of MechAssault, its upcoming Xbox mech combat game, on the other side of the hall. The version on display is newer than the one we saw at E3, and had several more levels implemented.

We were able to jump into a quick game in an outdoor hangar level. MechAssault's control scheme will be much simpler than the MechWarrior keyboard-and-mouse control setup on the PC, though the controls seemed slightly modified from E3. Similar to Halo, the left analog stick is used to move your mech, while the right is used to rotate the camera. Mechs with jumpjets can hop or fly by pressing in the left stick. The left trigger button is used to cycle through weapons, while the right trigger is used to fire.

Mechs will have a variety of futuristic weapons, including laser and beam attacks, electric blasts, and homing missiles that can track enemies once you've successfully locked onto them by hovering your targeting reticle over them for a few moments. Mechs in MechAssault move much more quickly than they do in the classic PC MechWarrior series, and they have to, since they'll have to deal with smaller, faster enemy mechs, as well as smaller vehicles, like combat tanks, and scattered infantry units--the latter, as we saw, can be dispatched by firing on them or simply squashing them by running over them with your mech.

MechAssault's environments looked a bit plain and washed out when we saw it at E3, though the new levels in the Gen Con version looked considerably more colorful. We were able to see a level that took place in the foothills of a mountain range with scattered lakes about, as well as the hangar level, which was full of grassy fields and various buildings. The levels look much more colorful and interesting now, though just as we saw at E3, MechAssault will let you destroy just about any building on the horizon. Some of these may contain power-up items, like additional armor or weapon enhancements. Also, while the game's frame rate wasn't the fastest we've ever seen, it was much smoother than at E3--the game had little trouble rendering lots of infantry, several tanks, an enemy mech or two, and a collapsing building onscreen at the same time.

Though we didn't get a chance to try the game out in multiplayer, we were assured that the game is still scheduled to be part of the Xbox Live launch lineup. The game should eventually support two-player split-screen play, eight-player LAN play, and Xbox Live games should support up to 16 players playing the game simultaneously. MechAssault is currently still on schedule for release later this year.

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