This is one of those games I spent WAY too much time playing.  It was, in fact, the reason I even bothered to get an internet connection in the first place.  Buggy as all hell and filled with apparently imbalancing features and weapons, it is in fact the most tactically rich combat sim available to date, complete with character advancement and death, fascinating design possibilities, and an online virtual war (which never worked).  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys combat simulators or mecha games.

The game sold extremely well for its first couple of weeks on the shelves, then sales dropped off dramatically.  Although it was tactically interesting and based on a familiar, albeit old and buggy, engine (the "Titanium Engine" used for the entire Mechwarrior 2 series), the play was too different from its progenitors to capture the interest of the diehard Mech fans who provided Activision with long-term income.  It was also too much a thinking game to grab the twitch player market, who already had Quake anyway.  The people who played it well and often were extremely dedicated to it; unfortunately, game companies are not moved by dedication, they are moved by continuous sales of new product.

Online play is now somewhat less than exciting, brought down by a combination of co-op missions (obviating the need for human opponents), lack of interest, bugs, and cheating, plus the fact that most of the higher level tactics developed by members of the Dragon Company have not been improved upon, removing a sense of tactical discovery which was the game’s hallmark during its early months.

The current revision of Heavy Gear is v1.1, which fixed a few bugs and added the unforgivable AI enemies to the online mix.  AI enemies, besides being completely terrible and ill equipped in combat, make human opposition totally unnecessary.  All you need is one other player to be on your side and you can go merrily stomp some hapless computer-driven gears into dust, gaining combat priority and rank and making real competitors bored out of their skulls as they wait for human opposition.  Right after the patch came out,  my number of fights dropped from a daily average of 12 or so to 2 or less, and all of those were 4 on 1 fights I managed to wheedle from the hapless enemy.  (Favorable numerical odds mean nothing when your tactical ability is based on fighting mindless computer opponents.)

The v1.2 patch has been in development for about 5 months or so as of this writing (8/13/98), and has gone through 2 sets of betas, which I have been a part of.  I recommend if you want to play online to stick with v1.1, since not that many people are using the new beta revision.  However, if you are playing mainly single player and especially if you have a voodoo2 accelerator, the new patch is worth checking out, if only for the improved texturing and particles.  It really does look stunning.


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