MechAssault was the first BattleMech video game published for the Xbox. Developed by Day 1 Studios and published by Microsoft, MechAssault was initiated when Denny Thorley of Day 1 Studios approached Jon Kimmich of Microsoft about developing an original BattleTech game built from the ground up to support console play. "MechAssault" was released in November of 2002. A sequel, MechAssault 2: Lone Wolf, was released on December 28, 2004. Both games are set in the BattleTech fictional universe.
MechAssault takes place in the Battletech universe, a science-fiction universe that often centers around pitched battles between human factions in control of combat robots, called BattleMechs. The plot of the game centers around an inhabited planet called Helios in the dominion of the Inner Sphere, a powerful coalition of feuding factions in control of large areas of space. The player is a BattleMech pilot (referred to throughout the game as simply 'MechWarrior') in the employment of an elite mercenary organization called Wolf's Dragoons. The player's ship is hired to investigate the cessation of communications from the planet Helios. The Dragoons' ship, the Icarus arrives at the planet and is shot down upon entering the atmosphere, causing the ship to crash-land on the surface of Helios. It is later discovered by the player that a rogue technology-worshipping cult known as the Word of Blake has invaded and conquered Helios, and is under the rule of an iron-fisted fanatic called Commander Strader. The game follows the player as, commanded by elite officer Major Natalia and assisted by inept techie Lieutenant Foster, they fight the military forces of the cult, assist in the liberation of the planet from Word of Blake rule, and assassinate Commander Strader.
MechAssault was one of the first games on the Xbox to feature the ability to be played on the Xbox Live service. "MechAssault" included many of the basic Live services that are now considered standard on any Live-enabled video game. These features included options for finding and creating online matches, such as the common 'Quick Match', which enables a player to find an online match quickly regardless of qualifications. For players who wanted to join a specific type of online session of MechAssault hosted by another player, 'Optimatch' allowed the player to specify the criteria for the session they want to join. The player could also create and host an online session of MechAssault. Once the player defined all the characteristics of a game, they could invite other players from their friends list or leave slots open for any online player to join the battle.
MechAssault had several modes of combat in which players could engage, often based around by-now-common forms of online competitive gaming. In Grinder mode (local play only), the player tries to survive as more and more 'Mechs are spawned into the battle. This mode can played with one or two players. In Destruction mode, the player can choose a 'Mech and fight to the death in deathmatch or team deathmatch. The player or team with the most kills wins. Last Man Standing is a free-for-all with no respawning as a mech. Once a player dies, they respawn as an unarmed infantryman. Gameplay can be either deathmatch or team deathmatch. Capture the flag is a team based game where the opposing team spawn on opposite ends of the map and try to 'Capture' the enemy flag without giving up their own.
The game was very well received by the console gaming community, including earning a 9.2 from critic IGN. Jeff Gertsmann of GameSpot gave the game a rating of 9.0, indicating that "If you're going to buy one game with your Xbox Live starter kit, MechAssault is the one to get." Fans of the original MechWarrior and BattleTech series however, have criticised the game for playing too much like an arcade game with health bars and power ups and not enough like the traditional simulation games. There is no 'in cockpit' first-person view, for example.
- Microsoft's official MechAssault site
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- TeamXbox.com Interview re: Day 1 and FASA games including MechAssault