Ever have the desire to take command of a BattleMech? Never heard of a BattleMech? In either case you owe it to yourself to check out the latest installment of the MechWarrior line. Yep,this is a continuation of the games based on the FASA board/miniatures game called BattleTech.
In case you were wondering a BattleMech is, roughly speaking, a 35 to 50 foot tall, 80 to 100 ton mobile suit of armor capable of speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour and with enough firepower to take on a small city single handedly. Got your interest yet?
I should say right up front, that I have not been a follower of the MechWarrior saga. I dabbled with the first MechWarrior game and spent a fair amount of time on the sequel, but then the system requirements of the next one outclassed my machine at the time so I did not play it at all.
I am not a MechWarrior purest and wanted that known by all who read this. I am a gamer that REALLY enjoys action packed games such as MechWarrior 4: Vengeance. I say this as many of the reviews I have seen take Microsoft to task for not staying ‘on line’ with the BattleTech Universe. This was not a factor in my review as I just viewed it as I would any game: is it fun to play? Are the graphics good for the type of game it is and is it replayable. Internet playablity is also a big plus in my view as no matter how good the artificial intelligence built into the game is, it cannot compare to playing against another human.
MechWarrior 4: Vengeance scores high points in all those categories and even others that I did not think of until after playing it.
For those familiar with the MechWarrior line of games, you can probably load it up (which takes over 1,000 megabytes of memory – the 600 MB in the system requirements is for the minimum install not the typical) and be off on missions in very short order. For the rest of us there will be a learning curve. Here is where Microsoft scores their first points. The tutorials take you through the basics of maneuvering, movement and combat in a very well thought out and progressive manner. In a few short sessions I was transformed into a BattleMech commander who could hunt down and kill enemy BattleMechs.
The toughest thing for me to master was the torso being able to twist separately from the rest of the machine. So you can be looking and firing to the right, left or even behind the BattleMech while it moves straight ahead. This took a couple of times through that particular practice mission, and while I never felt I was proficient at it I could at least maneuver and fire in such a way that I could take out single large BattleMech with smaller, more maneuverable ones. The trick there is to just make sure that the big guy NEVER gets you into his sights.
Visually it is all that would be expected from a top notch computer game these days – beautiful. You can really get into the battles as the terrain, buildings, enemy Mechs and whatnot are so well rendered. You can easily become immersed in the graphics. You just need to remember that the big Mech coming down the road is getting ready to level his weaponry on you and blow you out of existence if you give him half a chance, pretty or not.
In single player mode you take on the persona of Ian Dresari. Your house is affiliated with House Davion and you have just been booted from your home planet of Kentares IV by the evil House Steiner. Your mission is accomplished over 26 scenarios and ends with your ‘Vengeance’ over the evil Steiners and the reclamation of your home world. The campaign is liner and scripted so you MUST complete each mission before you take on the next. There is no failure. You just replay a scenario until you have successfully completed it.
One of the key factors in any scenario will become the makup of your Mechs. Do I need fast, small Mechs or do I want to just overwhelm the opposition with a few of the ‘big guys’? Answering this question and correctly configuring your force of BattleMechs accordingly will become the major task between missions. The missions get more and more complex as you progress and you will also get new weaponry and bigger Mech chassis with which to configure your BattleMechs to best complete each mission. You will become VERY familiar with the Mech workshop as you try and perfect offense, defense, speed and agility while trying to limit overheating.
There is also multiplayer play available via MicroSoft’s Internet Gaming Zone or by direct dial up or on a local area network (LAN). Unfortunately these modes only support ‘Death Match’ and ‘capture the flag’ variants. But as I said before, the true beauty of playing against humans is that you can NEVER be sure what they will do next.
Now, the cut scenes between scenarios can get a bit cheesy at times but then this is a computer game and NOT a big screen movie so it is tolerable, besides it gives you time to figure out which combinations of those neat new weapons you want to try on the next mission.
So arm your Mechs, get your best MechWarriors into them and head out to do battle against the evil House Steiner. This game is a solid addition to any gaming library and easily garners 4 and a half GiN gems in the process.