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SummaryImpressive visuals, but lacking in gameplay.
The GoodHeavy Gear 2's best quality is definitely its visuals. When maxed out in details and set at a high resolution, the terrain, vehicles, and gears are amazing in this Dark Side engine-powered game. Missile trails, explosions, dust clouds and rain enhance the experience greatly.
Music is also produced well, as are the voice-overs during the mission briefings and in-game cutscenes. Additionally, your squadmates are act fairly intelligent and all exhibit different behavior depending on their personality.
The story - about a small team of special forces gear pilots sent behind enemy lines to uncover a terrorist plot - pans out nicely. The missions vary from search and rescue to a stealthy infiltration to the standard "kill all the enemies". Some even take place in space, where the game models an interesting zero-G simulation with inertia physics.
The BadUnfortunately, some little design decisions manage to spoil the overall enjoyment of the game. I call these design decisions because they do not appear to be bugs nor due to limitations of the Dark Side engine.
The biggest disappointment is the agility of the gears. The premise of the Heavy Gear robots has always been that they are basically giant suits of armor which allow for human-like movements and dexterity. Thus, this game, as well as its prequel, have been marketed as a mix of Mechwarrior and Quake action.
While it is true that the gears can jump, crouch, crawl, and sidestep/strafe, they do it so slowly those movement options are useless (unless crawling to snipe or avoid detection). For example, it takes somewhere between 1 to 2 seconds to crouch or stand up! Similarly, sidestepping while moving forward is impossible, and the transition from forward movement to strafing takes about as long as crouching. And once you are sidestepping, it is useless in combat since it is also very slow. So in reality, it is not possible at all to move quickly like in a first-person-shooter. This system truly breaks down during the space missions -- your gear moves fast, but maneuvering is sluggish.
Weapons also seem weak, at least in terms of visual and sound representations. For example, the most powerful energy weapon looks like a little pistol and sounds like a watergun squirting.
The gear configuration options are also poorly executed. Instead of feeding you new weapons and gadgets as you progress, you have access to all the equipment starting with mission 1. Each mission imposes a 'threat limit' rating on how much armor, weapons, speed, etc. can be added to your gear, with the explanation that you might be short on supplies for that moment. This seems justified since you are an elite unit with access to all technologies, and you might have to make some strategic assessment on what to take into battle.
However, in practice, you can essentially give your gear the best weapons on the first mission by stripping some of the armor and sensor options off. Another inconsistency is the fact that some scenarios have you alone and cut off from your supply ship for 2 or 3 missions, yet you still have the ability to reconfigure your gear with all of the options between each mission. Also, since you cannot ever change your gear type once you start a campaign, coupled with the fact that there are no salvage options, the positive feedback associated with gaining new weapons and equipment is gone and advancing in the campaign is not that exciting.
Lastly, it was a disappointment that most of the missions took place at night or on dark moons. The engine does a wonderful job of modeling vivid terrain in daylight, but is not impressive in dark environments.
The Bottom Linet is sad that once again Activision again failed to capture the feel of the Heavy Gear universe. Visually, Heavy Gear 2 is spectacular. Missions are diverse, but a little too difficult and frustrating.
Gameplay is lacking, especially since the gears are not as nimble as they should be. Multiplayer battles are decent, but one would be better off playing one of the Mechwarrior/Battletech offshoots or sticking to tradition shooters Tribes2.
Only recommended for those who enjoy the Dream Pod 9's pen-and-paper Heavy Gear RPG.