The 8 Ball 02.25.14: Top 8 Mech/Robot Games
Posted by Marc Morrison on 02.25.2014
From MechWarrior 4 and Armored Core to Vanquish, Omega Boost, and more, 411's Marc Morrison ranks his Top 8 Mech/Robot Games!
Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball where the topic this week is the best mech/robot games. I primarily picked this topic after playing the Titanfall beta and having a ton of fun with it. It depends on how the rest of the game shakes out, but I'm actually hopeful about an EA game. With that game in mind, we arrive at robotic and mech games. Here we go:
8. Omega Boost
Here it is folks, the last time Polyphony Digital was actually allowed to do anything creative and unique. This was before they were fully enslaved to just be the Gran Turismo development team. Omega Boost was a very interesting (and pretty) game, brought down by a few mistakes. The common complaints that it was a bit shallow, was over pretty quickly, and didn't have a lot of replay value, which is slightly valid. The biggest problem though was that it came out a scant 9 days before the release of the Dreamcast, which led to it being completely overshadowed at launch. Had the game come out a year or two earlier, it really would have impressed some people.
I mentioned about 2 months ago how GunValkyrie was a bad game, with some good behind it, but that's not entirely true. The game just had a mountain to overcome with its control scheme. If you could get by it, the game could be an acrobatic blast to play. You could hover in the air almost indefinitely, boosting around the environment, powering up your gun and laying waste to the bugs below. If any of you have read the book Starship Troopers, it's a good realization of some of the combat in the book. If the game had a more conventional control scheme, a lot more people would have played it and enjoyed it.
6. Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
Shogo might actually be considered an early precursor to Titanfall. While it is a story-driven game, you do move between sequences of controlling your character on foot, and when he is in his mech. At the time, Shogo had a technically impressive look, the game engine accounting for some nice explosion effects and a good sense of overall game speed (something Titanfall also shares). You could play the mech parts from a third or first person mode also, the third person view affording you a better sense of scale, the first person view being slightly better for overall combat. It's a pretty old game at this point (coming out in 1998), but is still worth a look where you can buy it from GOG.
I like to bring up Vanquish a lot, because it was such an amazing and somewhat overlooked game. It was largely critically well-regarded, but seemingly only sold about 20 copies. To be fair to the trolls, Vanquish does have a lot more in common with a Gears style game, than a mech/robot game. But you are in a mech suit, blasting apart other robots and mechs with general ease. The way you could jet around the stage on your rocket knees, causing the world to slow down around you, and giving some evil robot a face full of rocket launcher, that is the hallmark of a good game to me.
4. Cyber Troopers Virtual-On Oratorio Tangram
Virtual On is one of the big heavy hitters in the mech genre. The game had a great sense of speed, likely due to it being primarily an arcade game. The cabinet had two joysticks and you had to use them both (in tandem) to move your mech around or to jump and what not. I actually didn't play the arcade version much, I was more used to the Dreamcast version, which thanks to only having one analog stick, made the game a bit awkward to play. Still, the game was a lot of fun, especially the co-op mode, and you could spend time hacking away against your friends with your mech's laser sword.
3. Steel Battalion
Any list of mech/robot games can't be complete without having Steel Battalion on it. I think it's a rule somewhere. Steel Battalion was known for having an incredibly deep mech simulation behind it, having a start-up procedure to actually get the mech going, windshield wipers, or the infamous having to eject out of the mech before it blows up, or else your save is erased. The notable thing about the game though was the controller that came with it. Having 40 buttons, two joysticks, and three pedals, the thing was a beast. Officially, it only ever worked with Steel Battalion (and the online death-match sequel), but enterprising people have gotten it working on the PC, and it's fun to mess around with.
2. Armored Core
To me, the original Armored Core will always be the best one. It spawned a series that continues to this day, with 14 other Armored Core games on various platforms (minus Mobile, which would be more). Armored Core had a nice mix of having a barebones but decent story, good action, a lot of mech customization, and didn't get too bogged down. The later games went further and further down the customization aspect but it all started to really run together after a while. They're still making these games, semi-improbably, but I think Armored Core might actually be the most consistent mech franchise on the market right now, or at least the most prolific.
1. MechAssault 2/MechWarrior 4
I'm lumping these two games as my number one because they're both based on the same license (BattleTech), but each taking a different approach. MechWarrior 4 took the slightly more simulation route (but only just), giving you independent leg/torso movement, having slower movement, and each part of your mech vulnerable, with a system status screen for that. MechAssault 2, by contrast, was a lot more faster paced than MechWarrior, your mechs moved quicker, you could get out and run around on foot, even hitching a ride on another friendly mech, and your mech itself had just one control set up, so independent for leg/torso was out. MechAssault 2 was probably easier to get into due to its simplicity, but MechWarrior 4 had a lot of substance and depth to it, that some people still remember. If anything else, MechWarrior 4 was on that horrible "Arena" G4 show, so you can get a chuckle out of that.
The Better Half with Liana K
Top 8 Favorite Robot/Mech Games
When I started brainstorming for this week's topic, I came to a startling discovery... I don't like mech games. This baffled me, because I love robots. Love them to death. Wall-E? Yes. Short Circuit? Yes? Transformers? Affirmative. Pacific Rim? HELL YES! From the time I was a child, robots have fascinated and thrilled me. But the games? I think it's that the gameplay featuring massive robots tends to be slow. The technology is just getting to the point now where things on a massive scale actually run smoothly. Also, I tend not to play Japanese titles because I can't stand the high squeaky voices the women put on in them. So I fully admit that the list this week is a bit lame,but since I haven't played Titanfall yet, didn't own a Nintendo when Chrono Trigger was big, and I didn't like Lost Planet, I really had to search my memory banks for games with key robot contingents. I would have preferred games with a robot protagonist, but there just aren't very many. That sucks. Robots need more love!
8: Halo: Combat Evolved
Let's face it, the only way the Spartan "armor" works is if it's a mech suit. And Cortana may not be a robot per se, but she's an AI. So I'm counting Halo as a mech/robot game. Also, 343 Guilty Spark is one of the most enjoyable characters in the whole franchise. Admittedly, Halo tends to be weak on characters, which is probably why the guy who's a Flight of the Navigator rip off now has his name on the door of the company that makes the games. But due respect to Halo: it showed that FPS games were viable on consoles. Hard to believe now that there was a time that people needed to be convinced.
I'm not the biggest Portal fan, but even I see that GLaDOS is made of awesome! The last boss fight? Makes that crappy double slingshot thing almost totally worth it! (Note: apparently my dislike for Portal's level design comes from playing it on console, not PC.)
6: R.O.B. Stack Up
Video games used to be this. We also lived in caves with this thing called "Ovaltine".
5: Gears of War 3
From the beginning, Gears of War was supposed to be "mechs versus monsters". That didn't quite work out until Gears of War 3. Hey, if games stayed the way their designers intended, the original Bioshock would have sucked... but I digress. People like to dump on Gears of War, but they're fun games with well-designed gameplay and cool weapon and armor designs. The people practically look like mechs already, so creating a mech a guy could drive while wearing a mech suit? Man that must have been a challenge.
4: Fallout: New Vegas
There's so much going on in Fallout: New Vegas that it's easy to miss the large robot contingent. But there are two robot companions – ED-E and Rex – And then there's Yes Man, the modified Securitron of awesome. The ending where I drove off two entire armies using my own army of upgraded robots was pretty fantastic too. Long live an independent New Vegas!
3: Star Wars: The Old Republic
I sometimes get so hung up on jedis and aliens that I forget that the Star Wars universe also contains a butt-ton of robots! Furthermore, Storm Troopers are not robots, even though they look like robots. My R2-D2 toy from when I was a kid is probably pretty made at me right now, and I'm still living down getting a marble stuck in his base, making him look like he had a giant glass hemorrhoid... Wow, that was both a digression and an overshare! Getting back to SWTOR, the most important robot of all, of course, is HK-47. He's awesome and hilarious, and he talks kind of like a robot Elcor. I know, I know, HK-47 came first, and he still had inflection in his voice... and a violent streak... but you have to admit it's the same device. While we're here, we might as well get this next entry out of the way...
2: Mass Effect 2
When it comes to talking about video game robots, it's hard to include either the Mass Effect or SWTOR franchise without including the other. Despite their deliberate similarities, however, the Mass Effect robots aren't really robots, they're synthetic life forms. But I'm going to call them robots, because they are machines. Between the Reapers, Geth, and EDI, there's a pretty big selection of synthetics to pick from, but the thing that surprised me most was how likable Legion ended up being.
1: Ratchet and Clank
Clank was the first video game robot that came to mind when this topic came up. It's such a shame that the franchise has faded somewhat, but I'm still holding out hope for a revival. Unlike games that just have robots in them, Clank is actually a main character. Yes, there's a lot of tribute to C3-PO in his character, but he's his own metal person... and a secret agent!
I honestly didn't come up with a lot of ancillary games for this second list. The big two I didn't mention were probably MechWarrior 2 and Hawken. I didn't put MW2 down because I only played the PS1 version and that was not a good port of it. As for Hawken, it is for sale, but currently not finished yet, so I can't judge on the final quality of it. I did have a few other games though: Front Mission, Gyromite, Slave Zero, Strike Suit Zero, Lost Planet (any of htem), Future Cop: LAPD, and Zone of the Enders.
The General Roundup
Wading through some of the comments from last week will be a challenge, but here it goes: "Yes", I did play both Bebe's Kids and Home Improvement back in the day. They were, and still are, both awful both in their conception and execution. Cool Spot was kind of a product placement game, but it wasn't bad. It had better platforming than Bubsy at least. There were a lot of comments that both Ghostbusters and Lego Batman 2 were better than what I, or Liana said. Ghostbusters wasn't terrible, but it just was not a fun game to play. And that is a perfectly valid reason for not liking a game. Although, Harold Ramis, rest in peace sir. As for Lego Batman 2, I would have enjoyed it more if I didn't get permanently stuck in an area and couldn't get out (the game auto saved right in there). And "Yeah" Jurassic Park was a bad game. From the lackluster reviews, the poor (compared to other games) sales, and that Telltale employees was busted for writing positive reviews without disclosing they worked on it – that adds up to some bad stuff to me. Finally, yeah Liana is Mrs. Ed the Sock.