Developer: Cyberlore (Original Game) / Mektek Studios (MekPaks and Re-release)
Publishers: FASA Studio & Microsoft (Original) / Mektek Studios (Re-release)
Release: 2002 (Original) / 2010 (Mektek Version)
Genre: Action / Science Fiction Simulation
OFLC Rating: M
For those who unfamiliar with the Battletech universe or it’s prominent series MechWarrior, here’s a little run down for you as it is one of those franchises with a very deep story to it much like the legendary Star Wars and Star Trek sagas for example. Battletech started as board game and grew into a very successful videogame franchise with it’s MechWarrior series (also started out as a table top game), later adding the Battletech anime series. Battletech takes place in the 31st and 32nd centuries featuring a number of factions grouped into two main factions, the Inner Sphere and the Clans. The Inner Sphere is made up of the “Five Great Houses” (influential families) and various political groups who have their fair share of squabbles (bloody ones). The Clans are feudal warrior factions with that you might consider to be radical fanatics, these guys seem to have a reputation for being extremely aggressive and fight fiercely amongst each other. In short both the Inner Sphere factions and the Clans are sworn enemies. MechWarrior centres around the use of the armoured walking vehicles known as Battlemechs or (in short) Mechs. In the entirety of the MechWarrior franchise there are two Mercenaries games (MW2 and MW4 series), both feature a rather vague story to the games where you play as a mercenary (as the name suggests) leaving you with a reasonably open-ended game. The MW4 version adds a stronger story element to the game as you take on the role (in the campaign) of the mercenary codenamed “Spectre”. When you play missions you have voice dialogues between your character and your Tactical Operations officer who is codenamed “Castle” playing throughout the missions at crucial points. Now the story is set in the 32nd Century where the Inner Sphere factions feature more prominently than the Clans.
Getting to the mechs themselves…
These are (generally) huge armoured bipedal walking combat vehicles that have similar control dynamics to a tank, in the sense that you control where the tank is going and where you’re pointing the main guns. With battlemechs you have both walking and torso controls. The walking controls are self-explanatory, you have steering and forward / reverse throttle. The torso is the top half of the machine that holds arsenal you can fit your mech with, the controls are pitch and yaw (twisting the torso left / right and tilting up / down) – The primary aiming mechanics. Beyond those two controls the rest is pretty straight forward – targeting, navigation, weapon selection, pulling the trigger… Simple stuff really when you compare it all to walking and torso control techniques.
Battlemechs have two key restrictions which give the MechWarrior games it’s own layer strategy. These are Weight and Heat. Weight is the easiest to work with as you can only strap a certain amount of weapons, armour and whatnot to you mechs before you start shifting stuff around. Heat is wear the real challenge kicks in! All weapons give off a degree of heat (as specified along with their weight and the rest in the specs – of all places) and this will heat up your mech. When battlemechs reach critical heat levels they shut down! If you were to squeeze in the most powerful weapons on you mech and then fire them all at once out on the battlefield, you would most likely have it shutting down on you. With MechWarrior 4 you have weapon grouping which allows you to choose weapons to be fired simultaneously (if so desired), these groups allow for weapon combinations and offer a means for effective heat management (when used wisely). These two restrictions force you employ various strategies when facing certain mission or just battling it out. Each battlemech has a set of weapon slots that certain types can fit into. Firstly to explain this I need to list the weapon types, these are…
Beam (or Energy) Weapons, Ballistic Weapons and Missiles.
In previous MechWarrior games all weapons generated heat, but in MW4: Mercenaries it seems only Beam weapons generate heat whereas ballistic weapons and missiles are restricted by there finite ammunition. As for the slots you have those corresponding to a specific weapon type and those allowing two types, or even omni bays which can be fitted with any weapon.
When playing the campaign you have various screens you operate from when you’re not on the battlefield, these are…
The “Command Center” which acts as the main menu and offers various statistical information about your progress. “Star Systems” which displays the territories you can got to for missions. “Orbital View” which displays the missions you can undertake. “Mission View” allows you to prepare your “Lances” (mech squads / teams). “Free Market” allows you to hire and fire pilots, as well as trade mechs and weapons. The “MechLab” is accessible anywhere (no matter whether you’re playing the campaign or not), this allow you to customise the battlemechs. In Mercenaries you have a star systems you can got to “Solaris VII”. The bad news (if you really can call it that) is that there are no missions available. The good news… This is a place where you can participate in Gladiatorial Battlemech action and make money doing it! From the Solaris VII Orbital View you can choose any available competition – Jungle, Coliseum and Factory in any of the three weight classes. From the Solaris VII Mission View you can choose any suitable mech and who you dedicate you victory to (Steiner or Davion – The two prominent of the Five Great Houses) if you’re choose to. Beyond that you’re out on the field unleashing hell upon your enemies and blowing stuff up at the same time.
With the Multiplayer for this Mektek version you need to set up connections (LAN, xDSL, Cable, ect.), LAN is relatively easy to set up whereas the others require you to really sit down and work through it carefully to get things going. Ideally you will want to set connections for each one you’re likely to use.
Overall MW4: Mercenaries looked and sounded great back in 2002, but even today this game still offers good quality as it will perform extremely well on most modern PCs. The beauty about the Mercenaries games are that you don’t have to be a Battletech nut to get into MechWarrior as the game is quite open ended, most of the story is told through the games introduction upon starting it up. If you’re looking for a game that gives you the opportunity to stomp around in armoured walking monstrosities fitted with the most destructive set of weapons know to man, then any MechWarrior game will satisfy almost any appetite for destruction. If you want to start an all-out Fight Night at your next LAN Party, this will probably do it!
If you’re a Battletech / MechWarrior fan… I would!
The great thing able this game it’s free! Just download both MTX Client (to download and/or install the game) and the game along with the patches from Mektek.
Seriously. Go check it out!