Exelent buy and a true must have for people who like well detailed original sci-fi settings heavy on geo-political conflicts, shades-of-gray morality and realistic, ruthles mecha-combat. One reason why I fell in love with this system is... I like tactical systems, I like when a lot of decisions have their own pros and cons so it is vital to utilise whatever there is achieve victory, yet I tend to have a problem with simulations... if a system is too complexed, too roboust and heavy on long calculations, it halts the game, breaks tension and narration pace. So I do also like quick narrative systems, that do just to the atmosphere of gameplay and won't crack your immersion. I hate though when the latters are overly-simplistic, sacrificing reality, thrill and tactical aspect for quickness of gameplay. It seems impossible to make a tactical system that is well defined but yet not slow and clunky... And likewise it seems impossible to forge a system that is quick, fast paced, narrative, SIMPLE, yet does not rob you of all the juicy mods which affect combat, leaving place only for easy effortless stat-slide.
Well ladies, gentlemen, this incarnation of Heavy Gear nails it! Beside the outstanding Silhouette 2 system, which is by far my favorite system of all time, making me even put aside my long time love (Warhammer Fantasy40k percentille system), we got a decent introduction to world of Terra Nova fleshing out basic structures for spy and war drama writers to craft their campaigns. A lot of background details is backed with typical Dream Pod 9 storytelling in between chapters, which introduce us to page-long fragments of an interresting micro-adventure, which leads us in atmosphere of what's included in each section.
Artwork, ilustrations, and general style is unique, recognisable and exquisite. Some may say it carries a lot of jovial charm, and I agree with that, welcoming the style with open arms, for of what you may say about it, it's absolutely impossible to forget or take for something else. Sometimes looking at another generic fantasy art I have no idea what universe I'm looking at, unless this art is on the cover and there's a huge title on top of the page. There is nothing like that with work provided by P. Ouellette's team, if you find yourself on the other side of the world with HG poster on wall somewhere, you'll know in a second: This is Heavy Gear.
There is just one falw I'd like to point out. Namely sometimes rules are, though described in very appealing way, with a doze of sometimes grimm humour, described with enigmatic assumptions and lack propper examples. Rules for granade use and attacks made with them are vague and sometimes confusing, making players and GM analyze them sentence after sentence trying to get the jist of it.
It could have used some more testing, and though such issues are extremely rare in spectrum of whole rulebook's content, they might suddenly freeze a session when you least expect it.
Heavy Gear also provides you with a big section on archetypes and some advices how to build your campaign using those. Instead of building npcs from scratch, rulebook offers an alternative of taking one archetype and slightly alteriing it's stats. It includes sample equipment, list of quirks, etc.
Personally I am a big fan of games that are not forgiving and are deadly to the end. It's really easy to loose life, to die just from one bullet, even fired by a child, with no chance of being magicly revived. It encourages thinking, planning, taking care to even the odds. It's not your easy mode RPG and it is extremely satisfying to overcome the obstacles, surviving the fights.
Learning curve is very smooth. To get the basic mechanics you need only a minute (literally!) and every special rules are either variations of the basic, or just the basic with aditional positive or negative modifiers to a circumstance. Along with simple and ultra-fast point-based character creation system(allowing to create anyone, from executive, to war veteran, swimming instructor or even creepy tall hospital janitor), the rule system and game in general stands out as the best "Pick up and play" release I've ever seen.
Integrated wargame-tactical system translates smoothly back and forth between RP system, so there is no problem with getting into the thick strategy involving players and big warmachines.
This game is an example of what you get, when a group of people work on something and put their hearts in it. They cared to give you great game, great universe and a ton of top-quality content. They deserved my respect.
Cheers, Dream Pod 9!