|Judging from the reactions of gamers since its release, one thing is clear
about Heavy Gear II. It is the Uma Thurman of giant robot games. Either you love it
immoderately, or it leaves you lukewarm. Ive got to admit I fall into the second
categorywhile aware of and even standing in admiration of its considerable charms,
Heavy Gear II, like Uma, is just not my type. I realize this is not likely to cause a
great deal of dismay to either Ms. Thurman or the folks at Activision, but Im afraid
thats the way its going to be for at least some other gamers, and is
therefore something you should be aware of before you plunk down 50 bucks for the game.
With that in mind, Ive concocted a short quiz to determine whether or not you should
purchase Heavy Gear II.
A. Stomping around in a towering, sixty-ton fighting machine.
3. A games interface should be:
4. In any giant robot game, mechs should come equipped with:
The campaign can also be very difficult, especially if you bring a traditional mech mindset to the proceedings. And its not unusual to spend a half an hour of tortuous maneuvering during a mission, only to be fragged by the unexpected appearance of enemy units. Since theres no in-game save feature, this means you get to start all over, and a mission that is initially fun and tense becomes more than a bit wearing after attempting it several times or so from the get-go. Man, could this game have used an in-game save featureeven though its not usual for mech games to have one, this is one place where Heavy Gear II could have taken an extra page from first-person shooters. One other odd thing about the campaignthough, as we shall see, the game offers a ton of choice and configuration options for your gear, you have to stick with the same gear type throughout the campaign. This seems an arbitrary choice, and one that can lead you to some problems during the campaign. Finally, the campaign is heavily scripted. Since the enemy AI is very good, this isnt as annoying as it could have been, but a more dynamic campaign would have been nice.
The game also features an excellent set of training scenarios, a very cool set of "historical" missions, and an Instant Action feature thats marvellousyou get a slew of widely varied maps, and the ability to fight with and against customized forces.The games graphics are mostly very nicetheyre rendered with Activisions new Dark Side engine, and the terrain looks excellent. The engine convincingly produces a wide variety of landscape effects--youll fight in snow, towns, swamps, deserts, space, and the usual barren landscapes. Weather effects are also nicely turnedstorm effects, especially lightning and snow, are very atmospheric. But the gears themselves are a bit of a disappointment, nowhere near as sharp as MW3s mechs. They actually look a lot more like Shogos mechs than MW3s, except they seem a little chubby, like middle-aged giant bots who have let themselves go a bit. And weapons effects, though serviceable, arent as colorful or explosive as the landscape.
You can also configure your gear in a lot of different ways; if you thought the mech lab in MW3 was extensive, wait until you see Heavy Gear IIs gear lab. Not only does each gear have several pre-configured models, but you can fuss with them endlessly, modifying not only the usual weapons, armor, ammo, but also its sensor, fire control, and maneuverability. And even nicer is the extensive list of perks and flaws you can add to the gear. Adding in flaws may seem like a strange idea, but since each gear is limited to a certain number of threat points per mission, you can sometimes reduce your overall threat points by building in a weakness in order to afford the high stealth rating you really need.Once in the field, youll find the default control scheme to be awkwardan abysmally configured keypad-and-mouse setup. This is especially dismaying since the controls are difficult to reconfigure, and joystick support is spotty at best. In the end, youll learn to use the defaults, and you may even become proficient at them, but you wont love them. You can, through dint of much labor, become pretty good at controlling your gears, but its a much more difficult task than it should have been. And oh yeah, control in the space missions is a bitch.
Youll eventually be given command of other gears. Again, there many options here, and your squad mates generally possess good AI, so you can actually put fairly sophisticated plans into effect. This task is made even easier by an easy-to-access real-time tactical map, to my mind one of the very best features of the game. You can use it to send gears on patrol, create waypoints, and coordinate timed attacks. The only downside to squad command interface is that it can be a pain to access in the game, especially in the heat of battle.
And believe me, youll need to plan carefully, because the enemy AI is very sharp. In fact, I learned a lot about how to play this game by observing and copying the behavior of enemy forces, and I dont think Ive ever done that before.So Heavy Gear II is a strong combination of truly excellent features and a few awkward design decisions. I can see why so many of my friends and colleagues rave about it, but I still havent fallen in love with it. And I think it has to do with Heavy Gears gameplay, always the bottom line. It almost seems like Activision is trying to do too much here: to have a game thats a mech and a first-person shooter, that encompasses both stealth and shootem up, that takes you from the swamps to space. Thats an admirable amount of variety, but for me it tends give the game a sort of indistinct feelit just seems a little wishy-washy. On the other hand, this could just be a truly revolutionary game that Im just too old and set in my ways to recognize as such. In either case, Heavy Gear II is so chock-full of goodness that Im not gonna give up on it yet. Try it; youll probably like it.