Heavy Gear II for Linux
Manufacturer: Loki Entertainment Software
Price: $29.95 US
Reviewer: J. Neil Doane
Set in the distant future (did I say distant? the 62nd century!) you are the squad commander of an elite assault force of huge humanoid battlefield vehicles called “Gears”. Using carefully planned tactics and sophisticated futuristic weaponry, you lead your squadron through an engaging story line directed against your people's arch nemesis, Earth.
It's a step in the right direction if the direction you want to go is away from the same old boring first-person shooters. Heavy Gear II is addictive, with a nice sci-fi story line, good multiplayer capability, enough single-player modes to keep you interested for days and game play that allows extremely fine control of your in-game combat experience but retains a strong arcade feeling. It features stunning graphics with picturesque landscapes (and spacescapes) and excellent accompanying audio. Heavy Gear II isn't perfect; extended game play will begin to expose interesting quirks that tend to become irritating at times, and there are some technical issues that could probably have been handled better (and some that apparently have yet to be resolved). Overall, however, this game's fun factor seems to win out in the end, and the game has little difficulty consuming one's evening hours and free time.
Developed around the Dream Pod 9 game system of the same name, HG2 is Activision's follow-up to Heavy Gear, and its story line picks back up about two decades after the end of the the first HG. To summarize, an interpolar war on your home planet, Terra Nova, (a former Earth colony but now independent) has come to a halt in the face of an explosive and cataclysmic event that appears to herald the return of invasion forces from Terra Nova's former arch-enemy: Earth. The governments of both poles of your planet have agreed to cease hostilities toward each other in order to confront this age-old enemy. As their first step toward the defense of your world they have formed of an elite fighting unit, composed of the best Gear pilots on the planet. You, of course, being the cream of the crop, white-hot ball of Gear-piloting fighting prowess that you are, have been chosen as the team's squad commander. Your mission, basically, is to take your team of combat specialists behind enemy lines to discover what attack plans Earth has in mind for your world and determine their tactical strengths and weaknesses.
What does this all mean to you as a player? Although the story line is relatively simple, it tends to grow on you as it progresses and, unlike many first-person shooter story lines, seems to add quite a bit to the overall feel of the game play. Moreover, the various dialogs and briefings direct your strategy toward different goals as the story line progresses. This gives you a nice change from the seemingly endless begin/fight/kill/end cycles of so many other first-person games. Based on where you are in the story, you'll have to use different tactics to succeed.
Heavy Gear II has been plagued since its release by comparisons to its competition, MechWarrior 3. Though based on similar themes, these games are actually quite different. Gears are physically different from MechWarrior's robots, and the game play style of the two games varies accordingly. With a Mech, you are a walking battleship, a massive hulking behemoth, with more firepower than a division of M1 A1 Abrams tanks, and could probably find camouflage in a futuristic skyline—as a building. Gears, on the other hand, while still large and extremely powerful, are typically a fraction of the size, the largest being only about 15 feet tall. With a Gear, one must use tactics and wits to a much greater degree than with its larger cousins. Gears are small enough to be sneaky and to use stealth as a valid tactic. In fact, their smaller stature also means, unlike their 20-story counterparts, they cannot stand in battle and just take the abuse given. Therefore, hiding, setting up ambushes and the like are widely used and often mandatory since you'll be sorely outnumbered from time to time.