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MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries

Developer: Cyberlore Studios
Publisher: Microsoft
Genre: Action
Players: 1-N/A
Similar To: Mechwarrior Series
Rating: Teen
Published: 01 :17 : 03
Reviewed By: Kevin Weiser

Overall: 8 = Excellent

Screenshots

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Minimum Req.: P3 700, Win 98/ME/2000/XP, 128MB RAM, 16MB 3D card, 1GB hd
Reviewed On: P3 600/744, 384MB, GeForce 3ti 200, Win XP Pro


Intro

MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries was considered by most to be the end-all, be-all of the MechWarrior series. Its wonderful balance of maintaining finances as well as picking the right missions made for great depth and replayability. Microsoft and FASA are trying to bring that feeling back with the cleverly named MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries. While MechWarrior 4 disappointed some with its more simplified MechLab and linear story, they should be satisfied with the added depth MW4:M brings to the table.


Gameplay: 8/10
Those familiar with MechWarrior 4 will be able to pick up MW4:M and start without any trouble at all. Within 10 minutes I was stomping through the wilderness, blowing stuff up, as is good and proper in any Mech combat game. There is more to this game than just blowing things up, though. This time around, the logistics of running these huge war machines is not behind the scenes or neatly dealt with via plot. Now every decision must be weighed carefully, and early choices can have far-reaching consequences.

I found myself enjoying this aspect of the game almost more than the actual missions themselves. Selling off scrap and buying new mechs and mechwarriors was quite a bit of fun, and then tricking out those mechs was also very rewarding. I got pretty good at customizing mechs for each pilot, so very accurate pilots had PPCs and Gauss cannons, while those good at piloting and sensors would take lighter mechs and serve as scouts or support with LRMs.

One of the lesser new additions to MW4:M is how squads of mechs are handled. It's now possible to field two lances of four mechs each, for a total of eight friendly units in most missions. Eight mechs allow for much larger battles, some of which are just crazy. One of my personal favorite missions has the player on the front line of a major battle, trying to hold a mountain pass. This mission involves friendly units not under the player's control, so there ends up being a lot more than just eight friendly Mechs on the playing field. Believe me, having upwards of 24 mechs in a mountain pass, throwing everything they have at each other, is quite a sight to see.

Having more people to watch your back does not come without a price, however. Dropping the squads down from the orbiting ship costs a lot of money, and the more tonnage you take down to the surface, the more it costs. Also, more mechs in combat means more repair costs, and so taking a full complement isn't always the most financially feasible option. I found that during the first time through the game, it was pretty hard to keep my company in the black financially, and after running about 15 missions or so I had to start over to apply all the tricks I'd learned.

Starting over isn't that big of a deal in this case, as there are a ton of missions available, some of which are mutually exclusive. For example, a planet might have two missions available to them. One is to attack a certain base, and the other may be from the owners of that base, asking you to defend it from an impending attack. Of course, it is impossible to do both. The replayability is extended in more ways than just through the variety of missions, however. For example, at the start of each campaign, the player can pick from several different Mercenary groups to join. These groups all have different benefits and drawbacks. Some pay more, while others give you early access to certain technologies, and so on.

Speaking of technologies, those familiar with the BattleTech universe will be glad (or dismayed, depending on your thoughts on game balance) to see the timeline has advanced and there are new weapons, mechs, and other technologies. My personal favorite, though it is broken beyond all belief, is the Medium Range Streak Missiles. Two sets of MSRK 40's will knock just about any mech down and do some serious damage.

While I enjoyed the single player aspect, the multiplayer was fairly lacking. I've never found a mech combat game with a solid multiplayer aspect, though the closest was Heavy Gear 2. Mechs are big and slow, so it ends up being little more than a slugging match. What I would like to see is Co-op, so that there would be actual mission objectives and a reason to work together with more than just heavy mechs, but alas, no such luck. It's too bad, because Mercs is the perfect setting for Co-op play; it'd be nice to be able to go through the entire single-player campaign with my friends.

Graphics: 7/10
I was excited to install this game because I'd installed a new video card since playing the original MechWarrior 4. Mercenaries uses the same engine as its predecessor, and while still not bad, it isn't as pretty as some similar games which have come out since then. Specifically, the gorgeous graphics and little details of Comanche 4 spoiled me.

That's not to say this game doesn't have its moments. It's obvious that great care was taken in animating the mechs, and it shows, especially in combat. Gauss hits stagger all but the heaviest, whereas laser blasts don't actually move a mech at all. It's still very satisfying to nail a Madcat in the back with linked Gauss shots and watch it stagger forward, barely staying on its feet.

Sound: 8/10
The sounds from MechWarrior 4: Vengeance make a return appearance here. Thankfully, different voice actors are used, so we don't have to sit through the horrific wooden acting found in MW4. The music is pretty good, very inspiring and gets the blood going. It's not as good as the fantastic music found in MechWarrior 2 and MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, but still excellent.

Control: 7/10
Mercenaries has the same control setup as MW4, so there's not much to discuss here. I found myself switching to a mouse instead of my usual joystick, simply because precision aiming is much easier that way. Aiming is much more important this time around, since cockpit hits or blowing off legs results in a mostly unscratched mech for salvage. In all, I never had any real problem with the controls or interface, as everything was easy to understand and use.

Overall: 8/10
While MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries had some pretty large shoes to fill, I think most fans of the series will be pretty happy with what is offered here. The relative shortness of the campaign is balanced out by the variety of missions and replayability of the campaign. As is good and proper, this game allows you to stomp around in giant robots and blow stuff up. What more could you ask for?

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