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  Heavy Gear 2
Preamble...

When I first played Mechwarrior, it was a strange universe. Imagine these walking Volkswagens trundling about dealing out death and destruction. I liked it but wanted more. Then Activision released MechwarriorII and my mouth dropped. MechwarriorII-Ghost Bear's Legacy was my favorite and really got me charged. The opening movies were incredible and the game was immersive- for awhile. Activision lost the FASA license at this point and then picked up the Heavy Gear world. Though I did see the game, I wasn't really all that impressed. Then Activision got it together with Dream Pod 9 and settled into a top to bottom look at the game of Heavy Gear. Heavy Gear II is where things have come.

Companyline...

>BEGIN TRANSMISSION
>DECODING ENCRYPTION TYPE TNZ4-A. . . PLEASE WAIT
FILE TNZ4A87ZB-QA247-C CLASSIFIED MOST SECRET
WESTPHALIA CABINET DIRECTIVE
TO: PILOTS OF OPERATION BLACK GUARD

SITUATION 3*WI*TN1940

The terrible Interpolar War between the Confederated Northern City-States and the Allied Southern Territories has reached a cease-fire on Terra Nova. We, the provisionary leadership of the two polar confederations, have agreed that in the face of our new common threat, an effort must be made to prevent future extra-planetary invasions of Terra Nova. Our first step has been to form an elite special ops Gear unit, made up of the best pilots from all over the planet, irrespective of league allegiance. As one of these pilots, you are among the finest warriors in our history, and you will be outfitted with top-of-the-line Gear equipment to match your elite warrior status.

MISSION DIRECTIVE

Your unit is to be transported to planet Caprice, the strategically important "Gate World" that connects all of mankind’s interstellar settlements, and serves as the enemy’s base for launching invasions against Terra Nova. You will advance behind enemy lines, to gain intelligence on the nature of the enemy’s armies, weaponry and plans for future attacks against our home planet.

TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS

Heavy Gear 2 will use a completely new, 3D hardware-only engine to propel sci-fi combat gaming even further into the future. The new engine, which takes full advantage of emerging 3D technologies, will enable you to experience a new level of lightning-fast combat action, as well as indoor battles, realistic physics and photo-realistic terrain and graphical effects.

To accomplish your goals, your elite special ops force will have to fight through a wide variety of battlefields set on multiple planets, including swamps, grasslands, volcanic areas, arctic zones, and urban/ base sites, with realistic water and weather effects.

Heavy Gear 2 will also feature a new level of Squad-Based mission design. You will send complex commands to your squadmates, using real squad-level battle tactics like flanking maneuvers, ambushes, and diversions. You will take on intelligent enemies who adapt and counter your squad's tactics with coordinated maneuvers and superior technology.

YOUR ORDERS

Await further briefings, which will be forthcoming as decided by the Cabinet.

END WESTPHALIA CABINET DIRECTIVE

>SCRAMBLING CODE . . . PLEASE WAIT

>END TRANSMISSION

Gameplay...

Activision switched from the Mechwarrior2 engine to the Dark Side Engine in Heavy Gear II and I have to say that was a good move. Performance wise, the game ran very well and I ran into no bugs. 3D acceleration was very nice with `smooth' graphics. Obviously, a low-end system would need to have many features shut off but if you have the CPU and RAM, the sky is the limit. This shows the effort in making the game stable and very playable without it crashing due to some conflict with software or hardware.

Graphically Heavy Gear II is beautiful to view, from the space environment to slogging through swamps. Sounds from battle, your Gear crawling, the ambient of your surroundings all combine to make this pretty darn believable. Damaged Gears falter and limp, explode into flying pieces and remain in the game throughout the scenario.

Controlling Heavy Gear II is something to master but when you pilot a machine that could demolish a modern day army, what else should you expect? I used a CH Flightstick and the keyboard and used the tutorial to get the hang of the controls. Remap the controls to what feels comfortable and you will soon have both feet on the ground. The Tactical Display was very handy in giving commands to teammates so that you could have them watch your six, defend a spot or unit, attack the enemy or go to waypoints for example. Once you remember the essentials, the sky is the limit.

And there is something kinda surprising here - a storyline! The Colonial Expeditionary Force start off the game with a big bang (one of those damn antimatter devices) and a crack Gear Team commanded by you must investigate and get to the bottom of this little problem. It must be said that Heavy Gear II is not a FPS game (though you have first person view much of the time) but there is a considerable amount of strategy involved. Setting up a Gear means a lot of thought as you assemble the weaponry and decide on the Threat Value adjustments to keep in the parameters. At times, stealth is totally necessary as well as teamplay. You can kneel to make smaller radar profile or go prone and become almost invisible. While Mechs are building-sized machines, Gears seem to be substantially smaller and so you must be more cautious about jumping into the fray too quickly. I did have a problem with my teammates getting in my way at critical times. This issue should be patched. But I should also mention that the teammates have their own personalities that sometimes clash with others and so you must pay attention to profiles before fielding incompatible members.

The weaponry is quite extensive and only limited by the Threat Value assigned each mission. In fact there were many weapons I never used at all because of the variety. They fall into four classes- Projectile, Indirect, Missile and Energy. When you include the types of armor, electronics and modifications, the balance is all-important. You have to consider which weapon for which threat. Projectile for ground troops for the most part, indirect for that long distance feeling, missiles for other Gears and armor types and energy was good to snipe with or close combat.

The levels were designed as nice as anything I've seen to date and well balanced. Terrain looked very appropriate-snowy tundra (the snow falling is great!), swampy mucklands (especially loved the raindrops in the water and the swirls behind your gear as you ford the water) cosmos in the space levels, not to mention desert, forest and bases. But I would have liked an in-depth city battle and be able to do a death from the roof of a building move :-). I guess that I should mention that the missions DO NOT branch and so if you do not complete the objectives, you fail.

After you have done the campaign, there are the Historical Missions and Instant Action for keeping the game alive. Not enough you say, then go to the URL below and pick up the hefty Heavy Gear II Terraformer Tool Set for making new maps and game scenarios. And that doesn't satisfy you?! Then you better take this puppy online and play Capture the Flag, Steal the Beacon, Deathmatch, or Dueling. Using Activision’s ActiveLink, you are able to host games with as many as eight other players with the games chat client and browser to set you up.

And if that isn't enough, go get a copy of pong and lock the door :-P

The Bottomline...

Well it has to be said. Heavy Gear II is running up against Mechwarrior3, which means a tough go. But I definitely give Heavy Gear II the edge here with a very stable running game, fairly nice AI, good storyline and looks that could kill. A little cleanup on the multiplayer end, branching missions and everything will be super sweet. Simply put- get Heavy Gear II.

Review ID Number: 166
  Product Details
Activision
Review Date: 2001-04-20
Reviewer: Nick Sardy
Rating: 8 out of 10
 
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