MechWarrior 4: Vengeance Review
genre: Action Strategy
PII-300, 64MB RAM, 350MB HDD, 8MB graphics card, DirectX 8.0
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 23, 00 (released)
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Call me a pathetic sentimental wimp, but I get all mushy when somebody mentions MechWarrior. Yep, it has been pretty much all-play-no-school for me in my teenage years, and much of that has to do with the fact that I was introduced to the BattleTech Universe in the tender age of... I can't remember, I think it was fifteen. Well, it's been nine years and counting, and I'm still a devoted Mech fan.
I guess most of our hardcore readers are already familiar with the history of the MechWarrior series... the constant migrations of the Battletech license from one publisher to another; going over from Activision to Microprose, only to end up in the hands of the Redmond giant, Microsoft.
And I thought I was never going to say this, but... Microsoft and the FASA Interactive group have restored my faith in the MechWarrior series! I haven't played a decent Mech game since the Mercenaries, and I though that Zipper Interactive, well, pooch-screwed MW3, so it has come as a pleasant surprise (and that's an understatement) that MW4 turned out to be the best MechWarrior game to date. Yeah, I know these are 'big words', but I tell ya: when it comes to gameplay, eye candy, and mission design you just can't touch MechWarrior 4!
MechWarrior 4: Vengeance places you in command of a legion of BattleMechs in a classic epic struggle between altruistic nobility and tyranny. Players are cast in the role of a veteran of the Clan Wars whose father (the duke) and friends were killed when the evil House Steiner occupied his home planet. It's time now to fight back with a Vengeance -- head for your home planet and kick some Steiner butt! Upon starting this baby, the first thing you'll notice is the Wing Commander like intro movie with live actors placed in pre-rendered 3D backgrounds. Microsoft and FASA have made a valiant effort to deliver a well-rounded project paying special attention both to the single player and multiplayer games. Unfortunately, this wingcommanderish attempt at an epic single player game is the only aspect of MW4 that could've used a bit more funding and didn't fully capitalize on its enormous cinematic potential. The storyline is highly linear and the only possible exceptions are the dynamic mission objectives that may vary depending on your in-game performance. Man, if they only had guys like Mark Hamil (proper actors) to deliver the storyline, MechWarrior4 would've been the closest thing to a perfect MechWarrior game imaginable. As it stands, the actors are well; B-movie quality and they fail to portray the type of Braveheart-Gladiator spirit that this game is supposed to carry. Ahh, and when I think of the endless possibilities of introducing a morally ambiguous non-linear plot that they might've had if Microsoft worked its money magic some more... ugh, nothing's perfect, but MechWarrior 4 would come damn close to it... Some aspects of the game unavoidably suffer during the production process. It's the inevitable trade-off that's become a 'common thing' in an industry that redefines the term: 'competitive market.' The rest of the game, meaning the mission design, gameplay dynamics, graphics, physics engine, and interface propel the MechWarrior serial to a higher level of game design.
I really don't feel like smothering you with all the tech-stuff details regarding the game: the new Mechs, weapons... tonnage... you'll get the damn manual and figure it out for yourself (OK, just one tiny detail: there are 21 new Mechs in the game). And besides, not knowing the new Mech's specs has always been one of the series' special charms... Instead, let me just say that the MechLab (i.e. the Mech-customizing interface) is definitely the most intuitive and user-friendly of all the MechWarrior games ever made. I gather the Microsoft producers kinda nudged the FASA team, and muttered the words: "Drag and Drop" in a commanding fashion. Great job guys! I had a blast dragging and dropping different weapons, calculating the excess tonnage, and configuring the hell out of my Mech! As usual, the default configuration just doesn't cut it, so you'll have to roll your sleeves, get all greasy, and customize your little baby 'till it purrs like a kitten. The best thing about the MechLab is that even the Mech-newbies will find it highly intuitive and easy to use. The customization is split into three screens: Chassis, Weapons, and Armor. Each of the weapon sub-categories (e.g. Ballistic, Beam) are neatly colored in reds, yellows and greens making your job of dragging and dropping your favorite weapons a breeze. Without getting too technical, let's just say that if you do decide to play this game on the 'Veteran' or higher level of difficulty you'll need to know your weapon/Mech specs inside and out, which is actually easy to master thanks to the great UI.
The same goes for the controls. It's quite obvious that whoever worked on the controls setup spent weeks thinking of all kinds of possible setups that the MW players might prefer. Being a passionate FPS player (not that MW4 is in any way a FPS game), and lacking a joystick in the office (it reminds us of consoles too much), I've opted for the mouse/keyboard combo. I've heard a lot of people saying that you get the competitive edge when playing with the joystick, but I'm not so sure about that; although MS probably thought of cashing in some extra Dineros on hardware by customizing the game for joystick-friendly gameplay. Come to think of it, the programmers that were showing MW4 at E3 used joysticks as default controllers... Whatever, I know I'll get my ass flamed for starting this subject, so I'll just wisely steer clear and say that the controls are: comprehensive, fit every player's needs, and work like a charm during heavy fire fights.
Balanced and intense gameplay. Excellent multiplayer (King of the Hill, CTF). Fantastic physics, graphics, and sound FX; rock-solid FPS;
B-movie acting. Needed more funding in the cinematic saga department.