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MechCommander 2 (Windows)

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Developed by
Released
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79
MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
3.8
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.
Written by  :  Marty Bonus (41)
Written on  :  Sep 12, 2004

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Summary

A decent mech-based game, but eventually lacking.

The Good

One of the strengths of this game was its story and its immersion in the Battletech universe. Unlike Mechwarrior 4 or 2 or the expansions to either, this game allows you to become instantly familiarized with the politics of the Inner Sphere. Throughout the plot line there is a constant level of side-switching and allegiance trading (you are a mercenary commander) that does serve to keep you interested.

The sound and graphics are quite similar to MW4, however, as this is a strategy game, you are unable to take a driver's seat. You are given full 3-d control of the camera as well as limited zoom capabilities. As is the case in many "fully 3-d" strategy games, this is of limited utility and can sometimes serve to distract rather than assist. Almost all of the weapons and mechs look and sound exactly as they did in MW4, although there are a few weapons you won't have seen in that game. Additionally, weapon effects are different in this game than they were in MW4, as is the mech lineup and their loadouts.

The mechs themselves are quite well-balanced, just as they were in MW4. Of course, heavy is better, but there are trade-offs to consider. Heat functions differently in this game. All in all, the mech bay is one of the most interesting parts of the game, just as it was (for me) in MW4.

Additionally, you have a choice of pilots for the mechs you use in each mission. As you use each pilot, he or she gains experience in targeting and piloting and also acquires certain perks as they "level up" (green, regular, veteran, elite). This is a cool part of the game but it does eventually prompt you to simply use the same pilots over and over again, as there are not enough missions or tons to field more than 3-4 pilots on each mission.

The game design is quite good actually. You start each mission with the mechs you drop in with. Additionally, you can capture "resource points" that are used to order in artillery, repair trucks, or to capture disabled mechs. This is the "strategy" aspect of the game, but I found I didn't employ it much. Frequently, the mechs you begin with are sufficient, along with a couple of repair trucks, to complete mission. The missions themselves are pretty standard (attack, defend, convoy, etc) and mostly simply consist of destroying all the enemies that show up. It is exciting, however, especially in the later missions, to see dozens of laser blasts and mechs exploding. The missions take you throughout a variety of terrain, just as MW4 did, which keeps them from becoming too monotonous. The small briefing clips also help in this respect. You can tell that throughout the game, a mind was being directed towards making things balanced. It is well-thought out, but is unclear if this is due to the quality of the source (battletech) or the game.

Ultimately, it's a fun game. If you're a a fan of MW4, you'll find you can slide immediately into this game and play it in almost the same way.

The Bad

The gameplay and mission design is ultimately boring. By the end of the game I was ready for it to be over. There is nothing truly compelling about the game that wasn't present in MW4, but this game lacks the skill factor that was present in MW4 which allowed you to pilot a mech. This is NOT necessarily a weakness of the game (since strategy games are ALL point and click interfaces) given its genre, but since it's not precisely a strategy game either (hardly any resource management) but rather a tactics game, it's not exactly a strength either.

MC2 lacks the thrill of piloting that I think drew so many to the MW series, as you feel divorced from the action viewing mechs fight it out in small scale. Zooming in helps, but it's not the same.

The reuse of many of the sounds and visuals from MW4 (though not as detailed) was a bit disappointing in my opinion, especially as this game came out a year after MW4. I think this game is an example of a hybrid that didn't work out as planned. Hybrid games are quite often marginal or worse, with Warcraft 3 being the exception, rather than the rule.

The Bottom Line

This game is good, but objectively, the gameplay is unfulfilling. The plot is engaging, the graphics are dated by today's standards (i'm looking forward to MW5, if it ever gets made) but it's still battletech. I would recommend picking it up if you see it for 15-20 bucks, as it is a game of reasonable length (15 hrs) and the enjoyability is acceptable. It's simply not as exciting or compelling as MW4 was. It is uncertain if that's the game's fault or if it's a failing of the subgenre, but either way, the game is ultimately not as good as it perhaps could have been.