Heavy Gear II

Reviewed by: Matt Carson, send e-mail
Published by: AcTiVision, go to the web site
Requires: 3-D Hardware Accelerator, 166MHz Pentium® Processor (233MHz recommended), 100% Windows® 95/98-compatible computer system, 32-bit drivers for CD-ROM drive (quad speed or higher; Redbook audio support), video card, sound card and input devices, English language Windows(R) 95 or 98 operating system, 64MB RAM, 450MB of uncompressed hard disk space for game files, plus 80MB for the Windows swap file, 100% DirectX 6.1 or higher compatible sound card, and 100% Microsoft-compatible mouse and driver
MSRP: $39.95

Heavy Gear II is an interesting blend of the Action and Sim genres that should not be missed by anyone who likes fighting with and controlling huge robots, but found the Mechwarrior games to be too complicated. Heavy Gear II was originally scheduled for release just before Christmas 1998, but technical issues kept the software off store shelves until June 1999. This very popular strategy/shooter has taken a bit of time to gain its current, large base of fans mainly due to its heavy-duty hardware demands.

As soon as I slipped the Heavy Gear II CD into my drive, I knew I was looking at an AcTiVision game. The autorun brought me to a start-up screen that had (true to AcTiVision form) the name of the game in huge block letters, a selection of options, and the obligatory military march music in the background. As I hit the install button, I laughed out loud. Superimposed behind the little progress bar were screen shots from the game, which instantly triggered memories of the almost identical Mechwarrior installer. If you've got a good thing going, you stay with it I guess. I was running a Pentium 233MMX, 64 MB of RAM, and ATI's 128-bit All-in-Wonder PCI (32MB). The intro movie was quite well done, and did a good job of setting the stage for the game.

There is a war to fight. Earth is once again on the offensive, trying to quell its rebellious interstellar settlements known as Terra Nova. Having destroyed one of the colonies' largest cities with a fusion bomb, Earth is now preparing a full offensive from the Gate World of Caprice. To meet the invasion head-on, Terra Nova has called a cease-fire in the Interpolar War between the Confederated Northern City-States and Allied Southern Territories, and assembled its best Gear pilots from around the system to create an elite special forces Gear unit. Behind enemy lines on Caprice, this unit must gather intelligence, seek out and destroy enemy squads and installations, and discover the true nature of this massive invasion. You are the commander of this Special Ops Unit, leading squads of four through each of the game's single-player missions.
Upon loading the game and starting the tutorial I was astounded! And as I continued playing, it was continually the terrain and weather effects that impressed me the most. The terrain was well done in general, and the water effects, such as reflections, were fantastic. As for the weather, not only is there vision-obscuring fog, and dangerously interactive lightning (I was hit twice), but the weather that you would assume to be a heavy load on your CPU, such as heavy raining and snow, didn't seem to affect the frame rate at all. The thunderstorms were especially nice: three or four times I caught myself squinting at my computer screen, trying to see through the rain to an enemy encampment, and nearly jumping out of my seat when a lightning bolt struck close to me.

In Heavy Gear II you don't pilot huge robot BattleMechs a la Mechwarrior, you pilot "Gears", which are basically the same thing, only smaller. I was extremely impressed with the movement of the Gears. There was no blocky clipping of knee joints or unrealistic jumps. In Mechwarrior, the 'Mechs often look clunky and overbalanced when walking. The Gears however, move with quick long strides and natural looking torso twisting, and there is no clipping of the model or the surroundings. In all fairness (to game buyers that is) Heavy Gear II is what Mechwarrior should have been. In Mechwarrior, the control interface is clumsy at best. Trying to get up to combat speed whilst picking a target and twisting your torso to face it, as well as actually hitting the thing with your weapons, is an activity reserved for those lucky people born with three hands and seven fingers on each. The Heavy Gear II interface on the other hand is a scaled-down, almost arcade-like version of the same Mechwarrior controls. The controls are simple and well laid out, with the most vital ones centered around the numeric keypad, which conveniently control the movement of your Gear. The mouse lets you move the torso of your gear independently of the legs, and controls weapon switching and firing. If you suddenly see an enemy unit on radar, and you want to a) switch to passive radar mode to avoid detection, or b) lie down to avoid detection even more, and c) switch to a long range weapon and zoom in on a target, you can do all these things in 3 seconds, without turning your hand into an interesting looking origami animal.

Another thing that hit me was the actual A.I. of the enemies and my squad mates. Many a Mechwarrior mission (among other games) has come and gone where I have ordered my squad to attack a target and found them trying to shoot through a mountain to get at it. Problems like this have obviously been addressed in the making of Heavy Gear II, and the A.I. routines have been coded so as to make your squad use all the weapons at their disposal in eliminating a target, as well as retreating if overwhelmed. They also actually obey their orders(!!), and the path finding routines are very good. They almost never become stuck in one place, and when they do, can usually find their way out of wherever they're stuck by themselves. Also, the annoying trait of squad mates running into each other (as in the first Heavy Gear) has been eliminated.

Overall, the control and game play of Heavy Gear II is really what Mechwarrior should have been. So, if you are one of those hard core simulation jockeys who never really got into Mechwarrior because of its steep learning curve, or just a guy like me who thinks giant robots battling each other is extremely cool, this just might be the game for you. Recommended.

Letters to the Editor are welcome and occasionally abused in public. Send e-mail to: whine@kickstartnews.com




© Copyright 2000-2006 kickstartnews.com. All rights reserved. legal notice
home | previous reviews | forums | about us | search | store | subscribe


Forums Search Home Previous Reviews About Us Store Subscribe