The first Heavy Mach was a well-oiled tank shooter that featured metric tons of lead-pumping action, but little in the way of level variety. The sequel delivers the same awesome metal-on-metal violence, but dispenses with traditional level progression in favor of open-world, mission-based gameplay. The question is, do the modifications turn the sequel into a locked-and-loaded war machine, or a wheeze-powered peashooter?
First things first: Blowing up stuff is fun. Using your Mech’s assorted weapons to gun down tanks and calling in air strikes to rain fire on turrets will make you happy. That’s the heart of this game, and it works.
While the original was a side-scrolling shooter, the action in Heavy Mach 2 is viewed from a top-down perspective that freshens the feel of the game. To move, you draw paths on the ground for your lumbering Mech to follow. Targeting enemies is done by tapping them, and you’ll stay locked on until you tap a different enemy or your foe crumples in a heap of twisted metal. We wish the developers had included an option for dual-stick running and gunning a la Minigore, but the controls work well enough.
The blurry plane in the foreground? That’s an airstrike.
Since this is a mission-based game, you’ll report to base frequently to pick up new assignments, cash in completed ones, and upgrade your Mech’s equipment. As you progress through the game, you’ll reach new friendly outposts where you’ll receive harder missions that will send you out further into the world to take on higher-level enemies. All of this is pretty standard fare for mission-based open-world games, but Heavy Mach 2 has a few unfortunate quirks.
For no apparent reason, completed missions must be cashed in at the base that assigned them. And because of the hefty requirements of some missions, you won’t be able to complete them until you’re further into the game. This means that you’ll either have to backtrack a dozen zones to receive your reward for completing the mission, or spend money to be airlifted.
Upgrading your Mech’s weapons, body parts, and special attacks is needlessly clunky, too. The store where you purchase your upgrades is separate from the maintenance shop where you equip them. Then, to sell your old parts, you have to go back to the store now that you’ve unequipped them. And to equip new parts, you have to drag them into the correct slot. The game doesn’t do a good job of telling you this, though, so we were sitting there double, triple, and quadruple-tapping the parts in vain, hoping they’d equip.
That’s a lot of learning.
These menu quirks are merely frustrating; they don’t detract much from the overall game experience, but we wish they were more streamlined. Actually going out onto the battlefield after upgrading your Mech is very satisfying, as you’ll notice the effects of any upgrades you enabled, from faster movement to stronger armor or more powerful guns.
Another shortcoming is that there’s hardly any story at all. You know you’re supposed to complete the missions (most of which are either fetch quests or things like “kill 10 level-eight tanks”), but those missions aren’t tied to any obvious overarching goal. The only satisfaction you get from progressing through the game is beefing up your Mech and taking down the bosses. Granted, those are satisfying things, but we wished the repetitive missions at least served a greater storyline.
For all its faults and oversights, we kept coming back to Heavy Mach 2. The polished graphics, satisfying upgrade paths, and fun gameplay make up for the repetitive missions and clunky menu systems. If they had hung it all on a decent story, maybe the game would have amounted to more than the sum of its parts. But as is, what it really comes down to is this: Do you like to frag?