The Basics: If there's a company that knows mecha action, it's FromSoftware. Usually recognized for their long-running Armored Core series, they've cornered the market on non-licensed giant robot combat. Though when they partnered with Sega to bring their talents to the Xbox 360, they decided to try to create a game with a more western flavor, bringing to mind such classics as the Mechwarrior series (that Mechassault was only a pale imitation of). So don't expect dashing mecha wielding energy swords. These "Hounds" have all the weight of walking (in some cases rolling) tanks, and will need to work hand in hand with their teammates to decimate the opposition.
So the focus of Chromehounds is squad-based online combat with thirteen different modes of multiplayer planned for the final release, though there will also be a robust single player campaign for the times when you just want to blow up stuff quietly on your own. In either case, you'll have a massive selection of parts and options to customize you personal Hound with just the right amount of speed, armor, and pure firepower to fulfill the role you chose to play in battle: Scout, Soldier, Sniper, Defender, Heavy Gunner and Tactics Commander.
Though this is more than just a quick deathmatch. Chromehounds will take place in a persistent online world, where players can recruit others to form their own platoons, and engage in up to six on six battles with the opposition to secure enemy territory for one of the three world powers you work for. With over 110 maps and campaigns, there's a lot of territory to cover if you want your unit to end up as top dog.
What we think: Waiting is the hardest part. The demo units at E3 where eight linked systems for four on four combat where everyone had to join in before the battle could begin. While it wasn't possible to customize your ride in the demo version, by playing around at a few of the stations you could get a feel for the possibilities, with each hound having a different feeling of weight and heavy ordinance. There was a clean look to the rolling hillside where this battle took place with no sign of popup, including various installations, walls, and bridges that could be destroyed in a spectacular manner to put the enemy at the disadvantage. I had a habit of blowing up the bridges I needed to cross, so I wasn't very good at it. I should have kept a closer eye on the map that can be brought up at a moment's notice with the Y button, but it wasn't too hard to coordinate efforts with teammates even under the noise of E3. If someone was a different color, blast them. If someone is the same color, blast them too because it's just more fun that way.
Each Hound had two weapon sets that could be switched with a tap of the bumper, sometimes mixing machine gun and short-range missiles for close up enemies, while switching to mortars for distant targets and enemy installations. Both could be fired in third or first person view, though I tended to favor the latter if only for the pretty cool hex overlay effect that really gives the feeling of being inside a lumbering war machine. If I had one minor issue with the game, it would be the speed of these behemoths. I kept reaching for the usual AC dash option, but it didn't seem to exist, which sometimes left me watching the scenery for a few minutes before I could reach the action. It also made one on one mecha duels a bit lacking in tension, but that would quickly pick up the moment one or two other Hounds entered the fray.
In my opinion, the Mechassault killed itself through a lack of customization, which had been something the Mechwarrior series that proceeded it had been known and loved for. Chromehounds is what Mechassault should have been, throwing in a persistent world where players will form alliances and rivalries with other mech jockeys. They will struggle to design the perfect Hound and wage war with all the fervor of a mechanized Napoleon. Sounds like fun.