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MechCommander 2: MechCommander 2 Preview

Company: Microsoft

Microsoft recently sent us a beta copy of their upcoming game, MechCommander 2, and I promptly installed it and tinkered around a bit with it. Alas, then the mighty Electronic Entertainment Exposition appeared, and all work was ground to a halt for a week as we scurried through the various halls like lab rats in the world?s largest maze. But now we?re back, and I finally had the energy to spend some quality time with this prerelease copy of MechCommander 2, and I must say that the future of the game is looking bright.

For those of you who haven?t played the first game -- like myself --MechCommander 2 is, at its core, a real-time strategy game set in the MechWarrior universe. With Microsoft?s recent aquisition of Fasa Software, they gained the licenses for that popular gameworld, and the companies have been busy putting out quality games under the Microsoft moniker. The first, MechWarrior 4 was a solid title; MechCommander 2 looks to be no different.

The game details the exploits of a mercenary gang hired by House Steiner to help quell a rebellion on Carver V, one of the planets in the Chaos March. If that doesn?t mean much to you, that?s quite all right -- enjoyment of MechCommander 2 is not tied to a deep knowledge of the world of MechWarrior. It?ll help to be able to put faces to names and catch some of the ?inside references,? but it?s definitely not required. (For the curious, I stopped following the BattleTech storyline immediately after the release of third edition which is a number of years back.)

The game itself plays like a complex RTS. The units you control are generally Mechs, although there are a number of support vehicles that you can also use. They have the complements of weapons that you?d expect from a BattleTech game -- long and short range missiles, PPCs, lasers, and all of the other good stuff. Controlling them is simple, done RTS style, but each Mech has a number of traits you have to constantly watch. Every body part has a damage meter, and when one?s blown off, well... Customization of the Mechs will play a large part in the final game, as is to be expected, although the level of customization isn?t as tweak-fiend as, say, MechWarrior 2 was.

The beta we played is still in a rather rough stage -- projectile paths look downright silly, for example; pathfinding is not particularly stellar either, and not everything that will be in the final product is inserted yet. But even the rough cut of the game we have shows promise. Fans of both the BattleTech universe and real-time strategy games should keep a look out for MechCommander 2. Look for a full review here when we get a final copy.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

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