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Developed by: Flatcat

Published by: Interplay

Price: $40 CPU RAM Hard Drive CD-ROM Sound Video Misc
Requirements P133 16MB 100MB 4X any 16-bit 2MB SVGA  
Reviewed On PII266 64MB 6.4GB 4X Mitsumi SB16 Diamond Stealth 64  

Reviewed by: Zachary Rounds

Making An eXample

When I played the original MAX (Mechanized Assault and Exploration), I was amazed by how much the game seemed like the classic board game Statego.  Each unit had its own special strengths and weaknesses, forcing you to think carefully before hitting the end turn button.  Adding to the challenge was an AI that seemed to enjoy humiliating me and a lack of sleep due to playing MAX into the wee hours of the night.  As a result, you can imagine my happiness when Interplay announced that they would be making a sequel.  Unfortunately, MAX 2 fails to deliver the goods (but on the plus side, I get more sleep).

If you played the original MAX, you might remember that there were two ways to deal with the turn-based gameplay.  You could play the game like a normal turn-based strategy game, or play it with both players taking turns at the same time.  The simultaneous turn system allowed for faster multiplayer games, but I prefered the regular mode for the single player game, as the computer would make all of its moves at the beginning of a turn.  In MAX 2, we are given a third mode of play, real-time, and this is where the problems begin.  If you try to play the game in either turn-based or simultaneous mode, you find that you have way too many units to deal with in each mission.  In the original MAX, I would usually have no more than twenty units at a time, and even then only after a battle had gone on for a while.  In MAX 2, you are given at least twenty units to start with.  This results in extremely long turns as you slowly move your troops one by one along the map, hoping for something to shoot at.  The game does allow you to move multiple units at once by click dragging a box around the units and then moving them (just like in a RTS...), but this system goes to hell fast due to the use of movement points.  If you tell your guys to go to point A when they need two turns to reach it, they will go part of the way during that turn, and unless you tell them one by one to stop, will go the rest of the way as soon as you click on them in the next turn, even if they are in range of an enemy.  The end result is chaos as your troops march right into the firing range of the enemies, who immediatly open fire, usually destroying your troops.

On the other hand, while not as problematic as the turn-based mode, I found the RTS side of the game to be just about as unpleasant.  While moving the units is much easier due to the ability to move my units whenever I want, the parts of the game that are rooted in the turn-based game kept getting in the way.  While building structures is as simple as right clicking on a constructor unit, the unit building makes no sense in a RTS.  Instead of having the unit creation handled through a sidebar or a pop-up menu, you have to right-click on the factory and select build, at which point you are taken to a screen where you can queue your units and give the order to start building.  This interrupts from the flow of the game heavily.   The other problem is the sheer amount of information given to you about everything.   While this kind of information is useful in the turn-based game (as well as the unit creation screen), I don't have the time to pay attention to the little details of micromanagement when I'm being attacked.

The only thing that seems to have been improved from the original MAX are the graphics, and even then they're nothing special, as beating MAX in the graphics department isn't hard to do.  The most confusing part is the ability to tilt the map from an overhead view to a 60-degree angle.  While the tilted landscape looks neat, I could find no reason to use it, as it makes the unit management more difficult.

To sum it up, MAX 2 is a perfect example of what happens when you try to give a good product a larger audience by pandering to the masses.  Instead of leaving MAX 2 as a turn-based strategy game and working to make it a damn good one through play balance, we have a game that is neither a good turn-based game or a good RTS.    

Our rating out of 10: 5.2

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