The 'Battletech' universe as it really should be called, started out as a boardgame and a set of paperback novels years back. Nowadays the idea have gotten a following of fans of its own as a set of PC games. (Here one might point out that the battletch / mech universe isn't genuine in itself but that it borrows heavily from 'Robotech' and also have other antecedents.)
The adaptation of the FASA boardgame as a computergame was a obvious move, since the concept of big war machines appeals to most gamers who like me- like to blow things up.
So you are to pilote and commanding mecs, walking warmachines in a war against ruthless invader forces. You struggle to survive, and maintain your force and no less important, to cause maximum damage on the enemy.
But despite the potential, it's a sad fact that the first releases: Mechwarrior, and Mechwarrior 2 was quite halfbaked. I tried my hand at the first Mechwarrior game, but put it aside after finding the controls too hard to manage - not to mention gotten shot to pieces a few times to many.
The game that brought me back to the Mechuniverse was the first Mechcommander game, which plays somewhat like the Command&Conquer series with an overhead view- only far better.
Nuff said for background: In Mechwarrior you are the commander, or lance leader of a group of mechs during a campaign against the Smoke jaguar clan. You take on the role as one of the scattered survivors from the Eridani Light Horse mercenaries.
In the beginning of the game you are on your own following the orders of your commander which you get both by voice and in writing.
During the missions you pick up more and better weapons and mechs, also new team members that seems to be the survivor of some larger battle which had taken place before the game started.
This backdrop of a storyline and progression of events are what one expects from a good game, and yes indeedy, it is one. The mechs move really smooth and even though some objects and slopes in the terrain suffers from jaggies, the graphics are outstanding. You will see that your mechs cast shadows, sometimes have flashes in the windscreen from the sun and a sky with moving clouds, also light from the lasers will be reflected in nearby cliffs and buildings in the battles. (Try shoot in the water and you will have some splash also.)
This combined with the good AI, yes its good but not excellent, guarantees that you will have a good and intence game experience. Some things could have been improved on, especially your lancemates that seems irritatingly dumb at times. Getting stuck at various obstacles, you will have to guide them over bridges, and even to get out from behind one of the trucks of your mobile field base. So make it a habit of checkin the locations of your buddys mechs from time to time when you play.
This stupidity doesnt apply for the enemy however, sometimes they stand protecting each other trying to blow you and your lancemates to pieces, on other times they attack in an intelligent way by turning their torsos and run in circles around you.
The few tests made with this game online revealed that it suffers from some serious bugs, one of them are that a mech can be invisible which makes the online game completely unbalanced!
One other technicality is that the official system requirements for the game is a 166 Mhz Pentium with 32 MB RAM, which is completely overoptimistic. The game plays so badly on such a machine that no one should even try!
Our minimum specification is a Pentium 266 with 64 MB of memory and for a good game we recommend a 400 MHz Pentium with 128 MB and at least a Nvidia TNT graphic card with 16 MB or better.
For this review I contacted one of the fans of the genre who said that Mech3 is quite true to the original idea, so hard core fans should also be pleased with the game. He was in fact really happy with the game, which he played at his own copy at the same time as I made up my mind of it - we both came out with the same verdict that it's a good game indeed.
From my perspective, that's that im not a Mech aficiando, is that the restraining factors balances Mech 3 to make it a great game. Mechwarrior 3 provide speedfreaks their kicks with fast action, but you can also test different strategies and combination of weapons and mecs, you also need to plan ahead to some degree, there's in fact quite some to gain by doing so before some missions.
This doesn't stp you from a having a good share of nice mayhem in Mechwarrior3, yet dont shoot happily at all and everything at all times, you need to take some consideration for the consumtion of ammunition as well. The heat from your own weapons are also a consern, something which threaten to shut your systems down.
In the end of the mission you are presented with a sceen which tells which objectives you have achieved, also what mechs and weapons that you now have at your disposal. One can compare with Doom & Quake to some degree, where you pick up, steal and aquire better and better weapons as you progress, but in Mech3 you only get to use them in the following mission.
For those interested there's the management of resources, there's quite some to attend to - but one can make it more easy by simply trowing away less powerful guns as the game progress.
The controls are more complex than in many other games, just about as many as you find in a flightsimulator.
But again, you dont need to use all to play the game to the end, its even possible to play this game successfuly with mouse and keyboard. Gamepad users will however have an extra edge. A gamepad will most likely be needed for online games since quite some of your opponents will have one. When playing on keyboard and mouse, I was amazed how fast one picked up the extra commands needed - in short the game is so captivating that one doesn't even notice. This game gets a well deserved full score.