MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf Updated Impressions: Conquest Mode

Day 1 stops by to show off yet another facet of its impressive sequel to MechAssault.

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As developer Day 1 Studios has tightened up the impressive follow-up to 2002's MechAssault, we've been able to get peeks at various aspects of MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf over the past few months. The original game marked a unique branch on Day 1's mech family tree by marrying the mechs that fans know with accessible, arcade-style gameplay and awesome, destructible environments. The red-hot sequel brings everything back with an eye-popping makeover and then adds in a grip of new content in all the game's modes. While we've taken looks at the single- and multiplayer modes that we expect to see making returns in the sequel, Day 1 stopped by today with an updated version of the game to show us an all-new multiplayer mode called conquest, which will surely become an addictive feature of MechAssault 2's online experience.

The all-new conquest mode resembles a persistent game of Risk.
The all-new conquest mode resembles a persistent game of Risk.

The conquest mode offers an inventive variant on the game's already robust multiplayer modes. The best way to think of the mode is as a persistent game of Risk that finds you taking part in a competition between five houses for control of a galaxy. When you start the game, you'll choose which house to align yourself with, and then you'll set out to conquer the individual planets of the galaxy. One of the many cool twists to the mode is that each planet is tied to a specific multiplayer game type, such as capture the flag. To conquer a planet, you'll have to kick some tail in the game type associated with it. As you and the members of your house conquer the numerous worlds in the game, a large 3D map representing the galaxy will show you the extent of the various houses' progress, which is presented in both handy color-coded form and real time. From the sounds of it, depending on who's playing and when they're going at it, the map will be in a pretty constant state of flux, where the struggle for power will keep things pretty dynamic. And as if this wasn't enough to make the experience addictive, Day 1 is working to let alerts be sent to you via e-mail to keep you up to speed on how your house is doing, even when you're not in the game.

In terms of gameplay, conquest mode doesn't offer a major departure from the core gameplay found in MechAssault 2. As mentioned, each planet will have its own unique game type that you'll have to familiarize and master to achieve success in the game. You'll meet in a full 3D lobby with your fellow housemates, where you'll set out to do your business en masse. As with the game's predecessor, you'll be able to talk to your crew online before you all move out to bust heads. We're also pleased by some of the subtle tweaks that have been implemented in the lobby experience, such as the abilities to both adjust game types on the fly and customize your virtual avatar in the game.

Once you're in the actual game, the solid mechanics don't change, but the presence of up to 12 human players certainly changes the dynamics of battles. While we've played the game just about every time we've seen it--which means we now have a firm grasp on the stellar improvements Day 1 made to the original MechAssault's handling--this latest version managed to show off some new, cool stuff. While a lot stood out from our online time with the mode, we have to say our personal favorite element of the game right now is its tanks. Yes, we realize it may be blasphemous to gravitate toward the tanks in a game featuring a stellar lineup of enormous mechs, but hear us out. The tanks seemed pretty straightforward the last time we played the game, but this time out, they seem to have gotten a lot sexier, mainly thanks to their abilities to knock down mechs. As of now, the damage inflicted by tip-overs isn't huge, but if your carefully aimed shots can nick an enemy mech's legs, it'll go down for a bit, which provides ample time for the rest of your teammates to pummel the opponent into scrap. Once you factor in the tank's ability to cloak and snipe, the treaded machines become a lot more appealing. Another favorite is the POV (point of view) missile, which lets you take active control of a self-propelled projectile. While the feature isn't unique, there's something to be said for manually homing your implement of destruction in on an enemy. Besides weapons, we were also pleased by the ability to turn a damaged enemy mech into an implement of destruction that could be employed to blow up in the heart of your foe's base, ensuring a stellar explosion and high damage to the surrounding area. But don't get us wrong, we do enjoy our mechs, too. The raptors and assault class mechs we tried in our time with the game were cool, and they were plenty deadly. Moreover, they exhibited smooth handling. Still, we found ourselves gravitating back to the different tank varieties in the levels, because we enjoy making mechs perform crazy jigs as they try to avoid being knocked down.

Day 1 has ambitious plans for the game's downloadable content.
Day 1 has ambitious plans for the game's downloadable content.

During the visit, Day 1 also threw out some tidbits on what else was getting crammed into the already stuffed game. It's no surprise to hear that the game will have downloadable content, especially considering the original MechAssault was among one of the first Xbox games to offer meaty downloads that extended the life of the game. However, MechAssault 2's downloads will offer a broader variety of content than fans may be expecting. While we can't give specifics on what's coming, suffice it to say that Day 1 is ambitious with every aspect of MechAssault 2, and it's definitely got some cool stuff coming.

We'd hope that, by now, any more info on MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf's promising new features wouldn't be too surprising. Day 1 has proven that it is firing on all cylinders with its impressive sequel, which looks better every time we see it. We'd wax poetic about how the graphics are looking even better since our last look at the game, but trust us when we say that MechAssault 2 is a fine-looking game that should be a stellar showcase for the Xbox's graphical muscles. If you were a fan of the original game, we expect that you have this puppy preordered already. However, if you somehow managed to miss out on the first MechAssault, then this is a fine time to jump on the MA bandwagon. The refined gameplay and new game modes should offer a little something for everyone to enjoy. So check it out. The only bad thing we have to say about the game is that the wait for it is going to be a long one. MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf is currently slated to ship late December for the Xbox. Look for more on the game in the coming months.

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