Note: As of January 11, 2017, Heavy Gear Assault by developer MekTek Studios is in early access on Steam, so it may change significantly from the time of this review.
Considering a huge amount of Steam’s early access library is a massive pile of unplayable, forgettable, uninteresting garbage, I will gladly admit that I’m automatically negatively biased and skeptical towards any early access game, as all consumers should be (but that’s another article for another day). Heavy Gear Assault is not the worst early access title I’ve seen, but it still needs a lot of improvement before I would be willing to spend my time and money on it.
Imagine your favorite first person shooter. Okay, not your favorite, but not your least favorite either. Now imagine that shooter with much uglier textures, less interesting maps, wonkier controls, and a non-existent player base. Now, you’re imagining Heavy Gear Assault, a multiplayer-only third/first-person shooter. (There is supposedly an episodic single player campaign in development for the future, but right now the only trace of its existence is a textual form of the first episode on the game’s official website. It is not worth reading.) Right from the get-go, it’s obvious that this game is trying to capitalize on the recent surge in popularity of mech-based combat (much like that of the Titanfall series) only with a much stronger focus on titan, I mean, “gear” customization and gameplay (there is no “pilot” gameplay here). Speaking of gameplay, Heavy Gear Assault’s is not very good. Maybe it’s intended to represent the difficulties of navigating a big, walking war machine so the controls aren’t supposed to be fluid and responsive. If that’s the case, it’s still not very good. One bizarre design choice is the fact that while your gear is in midair, you can only look up and down, not side to side, so plan your jumps accordingly. (I suppose this could be a bug but we may never know.) Admittedly, the gameplay itself is not totally abysmal, and it actually works well enough that it could be improved in the future. I also didn’t encounter any noticeable bugs.
The maps are uninteresting and bland, filled with a whole lot of nothing.
The game offers a tutorial which is simply awful and mostly useless. It only teaches you how to move and use your jump jets. The player is introduced to a pilot named Jessy (or rather, a PNG image of a random, unnecessarily named person who you’ll never see again in the upper left corner of the screen). Jessy’s purpose is to talk you through the movement controls. The main problem is that anyone who has ever played a third/first-person action game could figure these things out on his/her own. (Plus, the part of the tutorial in which you must use your jump jets to navigate a set of stairs and a gap is so poorly lit, for whatever reason, that I couldn’t see where I was going, and ended up stuck in a pit. There wasn’t enough light to see the steps next to me, so I just tried to boost my way up to the edge for about 5 minutes.) Funnily enough, the game never offers you a tutorial about the things you actually might want to learn more about, such as gear customization, equipping and using weapons, etc. And if you actually want to learn about all that without mashing random buttons on your keyboard, you’ll just have to slog through the “controls” options. On a miscellaneous note, there are no designated screens for whenever the game is loading anything, which caused me to believe it was about to crash many times.
This is an actual, unedited screenshot from the tutorial. Notice the generic arial font.
None of the above criticisms account for the number one issue plaguing the game, however. This issue is that nobody is playing this multiplayer only game. I logged in a few times, and I only ever saw other people in a server once (two other people, to be exact). This is kind of a huge problem for MekTek, the developers of Heavy Gear Assault. Keep in mind that MekTek attempted to fund this project on Kickstarter with a goal of $800,000 and failed to meet the goal with only $44,981 being raised. MekTek then proceeded to try and fund the game through its own website, but it soon became clear that there weren’t too many people willing to fork over their money for the project. Source: this article (URL: https://www.engadget.com/2014/12/12/losing-money-and-reputation-to-build-heavy-gear-assault/). And when there aren’t enough people interested in the game to donate to its development, chances are that when it becomes available, there won’t be enough players to make the game exciting or fun in the slightest.
Be prepared to see this a lot.
When I finally found another player, we started firing at each other. Neither of us seemed to be in danger of death. I thought it may have been a bug (if you can’t tell, the game’s UI is totally unhelpful). After about two minutes of running around, the other player lied down and allowed me to fire at him/her. After about 30 seconds of constant shooting, I finally scored the kill. I’m all about larger health bars in shooters, but this is just outrageous.
Let’s also not gloss over the fact that there are ridiculously priced microtransactions being offered for the game via the official website, where you can buy content packs for up to $99.95. That was not a typo. It costs nearly a hundred dollars for a private server pack, various gear blueprints (meaning you’ll still have to pay a certain amount of in-game currency for what the blueprints allow you to “manufacture”), some weapons, and 500,000 units of in-game currency. The cheapest pack is $39.95, which also happens to be about the price of the game itself. None of the above are worth your money and it’s an absolute joke that MekTek would expect anyone to spend this much money on their unfinished, vacant game.
This is a joke, right? …Right?
Granted, with all of this being said, some part of me truthfully would like to see MekTek succeed after the long and poorly-funded journey they’ve gone through (and are still going through) for Heavy Gear Assault. But right now, the game isn’t worth the change in your piggy bank or the time that you could spend playing Titanfall 2, a vastly superior mech-combat title. I don’t even feel like I can give this game an honest numeric rating since I never got a true taste of what the game is intended to be, thanks to its lack of players. If I could, I would rate it an “Unfinished/10.” Just buy Titanfall 2 already!
Watch the Heavy Gear Assault Steam Early Access Gameplay Trailer:
Heavy Gear Assault is now available for PC for $39.99 on Steam Early Access.