Hey Look, It's MechWarrior
Just don't call it that. Activision describes it as "The new breed of 3d combat simulator". The truth is that Heavy Gear is just a continuation of Activision's success in the Mechwarrior series (license now owned by MicroProse). It is extremely similar to MechWarrior 2, but also has important differences. Improved graphics, better mechs, now called "gears", some sort of a story, and of course (unavoidable when dealing with cutscenes) bad acting, make for a game that old Mechwarrior fans will love and others should consider.
The story is the most important aspect that separates Heavy Gear from the rest of the MechWarrior series. You play Ranger Edward Scott, a northern militant in the brutal North vs. South war that plagues the planet Terra Nova. The game consists of a number of missions. While many involve merely destroying the enemy, there are other, more complicated missions (for example rescuing hostages, protecting ships, checking the contents of buildings). Each mission is broken into different primary and secondary objectives. While a tad more complicated than the "kill everything within sight" type missions that linger over most 3D shooters, Heavy Gear's missions are still so simple that anyone with more than one minute of patience can figure them out.
As the game progresses (through different missions), so does the struggle between the North and South. An internal conflict between you and your commanding officer, Colonel Arthur Janus, also arises after the death of his son, thus making the story a little more interesting.
Activision once again delivers an awesome graphics engine along with great support for 3D accelerators. There are a vast variety of landscapes, from rolling hills and rocky mountains, to plain deserts, each with excellent texture maps. The most significant improvement, however, would be in the gears.
Activision took a different approach to their mechs, oops, I mean gears, in Heavy Gear. This time around, they have a smaller, more "human-like" appearance: movable arms, legs and even a head. These smaller gears are also easier to maneuver. Players can now duck, crawl (moving while ducking), and strafe. More realistically, these new gears have the ability to fall over (and, obviously, stand back up). Overall, all the gears have a high polygon count, smooth animation and, with the help of 3D acceleration, the game runs at an impressive frame-rate.
As before, players can customize their new, high-polygon gears, but this time around, the customization can become MUCH more detailed. Players still have the ability to add different weapons of their choice, the standard cannons, missiles, rockets etc. Gears can now equipped with more futuristic weapons: laser cannons, railguns, and particle accelerators.
Heavy Gear presents a gameplay that closely resembles its MechWarrior predecessors, but there are some crucial differences. As before, the basic movement is simple: accelerate, decelerate, turn, zoom, look left, look right etc. All of these moves are made incredibly easy with most joysticks. The only major difference comes in the increased control over the gear through new aspects like ducking, strafing, or using "wheels". For the most part, playing the game is simple, but there are some complex features. For example, infrared, low-light, and satellite linkup, are not always necessary, but can be a great help.
Heavy Gear has all the important aspects that "made" the previous MechWarrior series. By improving the graphics, keeping the awesome music and sound track, and adding to the control of these new "gears", Activision has released a product that could easily be called the sequel to Mech Warrior 2: Mercenaries, except for the fact that the setting is completely different. MechWarrior fans will love it; others should at least give it a look.