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Mech Commander 2 By John "Award" Del Percio,
August 28, 2001
Developer :Microsoft
Publisher :Microsoft
Release Date :July 2001
Demo Available : Yes - Download
Table of Contents

· Introduction
· Closer Look
· Facts
· Final

Mechs for Hire

In Mech Commander 2, you take on the role of a mercenary commander whose squadron finds its way into the middle of a planetary war between Houses Steiner, Davion, and Liao. Look at it on the bright side, where there's war, there's profit! In this case, you get the first claim to salvage fallen Mechs on the battle field (for a price, of course), and the ability to raid weapons depots for new weapons to tack onto your Mechs in the loadout screens before each mission.

Being a TCG (Tactical Combat Game (no folks, it's not an RTS)), there is little sense in just blasting into an area with guns blazing. The entire point is to carefully think about how you're going to engage the enemy, even before you enter the battlefield. Using the initial recon data (a lengthy back-story on the mission objectives, and a sketchy satellite image of the battle zone) you must decide which Mechs, pilots, and weapons you will bring on the mission. You may also purchase more Mechs and sell some old ones if you don't like your current selection. While pilots gain abilities as they "level up" by participating in battles, you have a limited supply of experienced crew, so don't get them killed.

Once in the mission, you must carefully approach every battle using the terrain and other accommodations at your disposal. Using resource points, which you can acquire by raiding enemy supply depots and trucks, you can also call in special units like the repair vehicle, the scout chopper, artillery, or an air strike. While you are armed to the teeth with a squad of highly trained pilots at the controls of an eighty-story high death machine, remember that the enemy has even more, so you won't last long by just rushing them. Typically in TCG games, the interface is the primary thing to get in the way. Thinking back to Fallout: Tactics makes me panic every time I think of a TCG. In Tactics, far too many of the RPG aspects of fallout were imported to the game, causing a mass confusion of RPG style points systems and character levels, let alone inventory, and detracting from the strategic gameplay. Fortunately, Mech Commander 2 does not suffer this same fate. In fact, the interface is quite sleek and well organized. I typically find that I have little need to even use the interface, preferring the keyboard shortcuts instead. Still, though, the interface never gets in the way, and everything you'll ever need is always a mouse click away.

AI and difficulty are also typically big sticking points for TCG games. To be effective, a TCG must have intelligent player AI that will take the most logical path to a location, and won't plow into a mass of enemies and expect to survive. The need to baby-sit your units takes a TCG and makes it more frustrating than fun. At the same time, the enemy AI must be equally as good providing a solid challenge for human players without being predictable, but without having an unfair advantage of a few hundred thousand processes per second that a human doesn't have. Fortunately MC2 stays fairly in touch with reality in the area of AI and difficulty. I never found the game overwhelmingly difficult where a mission needed to be retried for days on end, yet I never found it so easy that I could play it while sleep walking. Perhaps best of all is the quick-save feature. You can't save tons of games any time you want to, but you can overwrite the quick-save file any time (though it's not really that quick to load...). Even if you need to replay a mission repeatedly, you can just load it back up where you were before you walked into an ambush.

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