For this particular RGR, we take a look at the popular PC game franchise known as MechWarrior. While the other games are somewhat trickery to find, the fifth game in the series, is available online now for your enjoyment. This type of game is rather rare these days, as many younger gamers lack the patience to play anything that might resemble a simulation. But if you, like me, enjoy some realism in your gaming experience, this series might be worth checking out. While I discuss the series as a whole, gameplay comments come from MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, as it is the latest game in the series, and is available online.
The MechWarrior franchise of video games is actually a part of the larger BattleTech series. Since this article is not about BattleTech, I won’t bore you with the details of its very lengthy back story and history; I’ll just give you a brief summary. In the world of BattleTech, battles are fought with massive walking war machines known as BattleMechs (Mechs) and various other traditional means of warfare such as tanks, jets, battleships and the like. In the MechWarrior video games, you are cast as a MechWarrior who, not so surprisingly, pilots Mechs.
The stories vary from game to game, but in Mercenaries you are the leader of a mercenary faction of your choice. Each faction has different bonuses which will help certain play styles. You go on numerous missions for clients to advance the overall story, gain new equipment, new pilots, new Mechs and tons of cash. The games tended to lean more towards simulation than an arcade feel, but as the series advanced, an excellent balance was struck with MechWarrior 4. Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries was actually the last game released in the series, and is a spinoff of MW4, which was set in the same time period. It maintains the same type of gameplay as MW4.
My First Encounter
The first MechWarrior game that I played was MechWarrior 3, which I got shortly after acquiring a Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback joystick. I was desperate for something cool to play with this new gadget and I managed to sucker my parents in to getting me MW3 at one of our numerous trips to CompUSA. Being a sci-fi nut, I fell in love with the series. I bought MW4 and its expansions as well as jumping on MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries as soon as it came out.
Playing the Game
My love didn’t just come from the fact that I got to pilot a massive metal machine of walking death, the game had a strategic feel to it. Each game had a MechLab that allowed you to customize the weapon load outs, armor, heat sinks and electronics packages for your Mechs. Know you are going to be facing tough enemies? Swap out your weaker weapons with stronger ones. Need to engage at range? Drop some short range weapons and add more missile ammo. Instead of shooting everything that moves, the game encourages you to not totally demolish your opponents. Why would it do that, you ask? The answer is salvage. You can salvage Mechs and weapons that you don’t completely obliterate, netting you better Mechs and gear without having to pay for them. The game is best enjoyed with a joystick, but mouse and keyboard controls can be used. MW4: Mercenaries still looks fairly decent, but is starting to show its age with some rough environmental textures and weapon effects.
Should you Buy It?
The game holds position between the ubersim Steel Battalion, and the completely unrealistic Armored Core series of games. It’s a fun game if you are willing to put the time into learning the mechanics of the MechLab and the quarks of the different weight classes of Mechs. The game lets you play how you want to play without shoehorning you into certain Mechs. You can pilot the fast and nimble light Mechs, or bring death in the form of a 100-ton Assault Mech. There are many Mechs to choose from in each class as well. Playing with the different models of Mechs is entertaining in itself.
You also don’t require a hefty PC to run the game either, so most modern PCs could play it with little issue. The game is also free. Yes, I said free. Studio MekTek, in association with Smith and Tinker, INC., Virtual World Entertainment, LLC, Catalyst Game Labs, and Microsoft Games released the entire MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries game for free. The game also boasts several improvements over the first release of the game and is available for download from Studio MekTek’s website at this handy link right here.
For more info on BattleTech, please see Sarna.Net – The BattleTech Wiki