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Mechwarrior 4

by Kristopher H.

One of the year's highly anticipated games now sits before us. From software giant Microsoft comes MechWarrior 4 - Vengeance. Does it live up its anticipation?? I'd have to say yes. And there are some statements i've heard passed around that sound like complete bull. One being that this game was to be more friendly for FPS gamers than it's predecessors. But, nuh-uh. FPS my ass. It's a simulator as much as it's ever been. If you don't know much about the Mech-Verse let me get you up to speed. A "mech" is a huge robot controlled by pilots with an enormous assortment of firepower. In the not so distant future…3000 A.D. (give or take a few hundred years). The human race has expanded to far off planets with colonies, almost all of them at war. MW 4 has everyone wanting control and power, and instead of governments at war, its Families and Clans. In this particular episode, the character you play receives a transmission from his father saying how your home world is being taken over and everyone is being killed-including your family. Instead of carrying on with life, vengeance must be taken!! So starts another war to recapture your fallen planet.

MW4 in my opinion has improved greatly from the others. Lots of full motion video sequences which bring detail to the story. During mission briefings you get little video transmissions in the top corner, outlining your mission or giving you advice as to what kind of weapons you should put on your mech, or what to target first in the missions. Also the acting and blending of "Real People" with the mech universe is done very well. The FMV I felt could have been a little cleaner, but it was still decent. Another improvement is the graphics - and good for that. Gone are the days of bland one-colour terrains, skies, and buildings. Now you have details and textures, like trees and starry skies. But as good as the details and textures are (and I do like them) some of the really up close (and even some distant views) are still kinda bland-they're just missing something from completing the scene. But the details you get when you blow something up are well worth the other minor discrepancies. Unfortunately, the lots of different weapons look the same when fired, but hey...still good.

You would think that controlling such a vast array of weapons and at the same time controlling the maneuvering of your mech would be hard. Well that's not too far from the truth. Being a sim there's a lot involved (there goes the FPS audience i'm sure). Throttle Control uses the 1 through 0 keys, allowing you to move slowly to aim appropriately or to go a runnin' after that fleeing APC and just stomp it with your foot!!! There are up to six controls for the weapons groups. Each weapon can be fired by itself or you can group them together, for example, having all machine guns or lasers in one group and missiles in the others. Having this option also allows you to hit all the groups at once and you can fire everything you've got in one massive barrage…..YEEEEEAH!!!...but it does take some getting used to.

Maneuvering the mech can be complicated but fairly easy once you have down which button do what. Once the throttle is set you go forward and can use the mouse to move to the left or right but only slowly. You're able to pivot the torso of your mech in order to run in one direction, and look/fire in another. This can be very confusing sometimes, especially if you forget to center your torso, you'll think your running straight but you're not. It would have been nice to have this tweaked in a way that would line you up automatically at times.

If you want to know where your enemies are, there are map and radar controls so you can have a blank green field with dots on it to show you the enemies and positions. Or you can use the map version which shows a terrain detail and the enemy locations. A cool control is the jump jet, which allows you to jump more than fly. It helps to get yourself out of some tight situations fast as well - but the jump is limited due to a necessary recharge. The 'zoom in' function is useful for those hard to reach bastards on the hill above you. And camera control in general is limited to cockpit view and an external view behind your mech (either from the left, right or center). All these controls can be configured to your liking in the options menu. You can also configure a control pad although I found the keyboard and mouse more to my liking.

The game progresses through a story line where you do mission after mission. Upon completing each mission there is a stats page afterwards that lists all of what happened during and afterward-salvage operations occurring afterward. So you can see what weapons and other mechs you have collected into your growing army. Then before beginning the next mission you can customize your mech with whatever you want. I found this to be a really good feature to use in the 'Instant Action' section because you can go through all of the mechs and weapons and see what does what, change your colours and armoring etc..

And on the subject of the instant action mode, this is Mechwarrior's version of a skirmish mode. You can setup what mech you want to use, how many lives you have, how many enemy mechs, what types they are and what setting you want to play it in--either reenact missions or do battle in suburbia! A really great learning tool. Just make sure you put a few enemy mechs on the screen. I found it extremely boring with only one. Oh yes, and there is a tutorial - past readers may know I'm pretty adamant about good tutorials. And this one is pretty decent as it goes through all your mech's capabilities except a few little features like lance mates (wing men) and stuff such as customizing your mech. The best part of the tutorial had to be when I shot my instructor and she sneers, "if you shoot me, I WILL shoot back"…uuuuuh...oops.

I should also mention the sound in this game. The voice acting is pretty much on the mark. Although I found when you were in a briefing and listening to the transmissions your replies were mostly "duh…Ok" type responses - WTF?. But, sounds from the mechs like movement and weapons fire, were prime and realistic. If you have a good sound system setup, you'll definitely enjoy this.

As mentioned a few times, this game IS a simulator. So for most gamers I find, you either like sims like this or you don't. I think it's the time required in order to learn everything, people just want a faster paced game. The pace of the game play (which is faster than other games in this series/genres) is still much slower compared to Quake types. If you like sims and especially the mech series then this will definitely tickle your gaming bone though. At any rate this game deserves some attention.


Graphics good-a little disappointing in places, but no big deal.

Excellent sound, great tutorial and some very cool abilities for the mechs.

Doesn't exactly allow FPS gamers to all of a sudden enjoy this part of the series like many expected, but...it's good for what it set out to do.