Mechwarrior 4 is a real time action 'shoot-em-up' game set in the 'Mecha' universe, which have a whole subgenre of computergames nowadays. Originally created as a boardgame by FASA, the mecha games have been released by quite a number of different software developers and publishers like the now defunct Microprose. In short, the battletech universe franchise have become major business! Now under the rule of house Microsoft.
In Vengence you are a nobleman of house Dresari who have lost your power to the powerhungry house Steiner.
You have been given the task of retake your homeworld Kentares IV, and the campaign starts on a moon in the outskirts of this star system. At your disposal you have a set of new, nice and powerful mechs such as the Hellspawn, Uziel and Novacat and like in other mecha games you can always capture enemy machs to upgrade your war arsenal.
As with all games this one comes with a number of cutscenes, in the game those will be from one external camera of you and your lance of mechs while in the ready room you will get 'picture phone' calls in a small box at top right. This interface is quite similar to the old Mechcommander and one obvious heritage from that game. But when your commander in the old game was quite cool for giving background and setting the stage, the acting in MW4 is so horrible that you probably won't stand to see the conversations trough.
The graphics is just great, and that's the major difference from Mechwarrior 3, but thats doesnt apply to all parts. At a closer look we find this is more or less superficial, you certainly get better textures but in other parts its not only one but two steps backwards. The moving sky is gone, also the changing weatherconditions like rain, snow and lightning. Many buildings actually are more fuzzy now, and for those who have gotten used to shoot up just about everything to get a free line of sight for engaging enemys - just forget it!
It seems that the inhabitants of this planet build their homes of some superstrength material which not even the ultimate war machines cant make a dent into! Just kiddin, but its a fact that many buildings have become invincible in MW4.
There was also more animated parts of the buildings like a cooling system on a reactor and a holographic projector in MW3. Another thing which have disappeared is the ambient sounds. No more windsounds in the desert of seagulls at the ocean. What that got to do with the shooting up of the enemy you might ask? Well this mentioned to make it clear that the overall game experience do suffer. And despite the level of graphic detail, it comes with the prize of loosing twice as many features and details that was found in the previous game.
Bu there is a few things which have gotten better One good thing is that the modification of the mechs have been somewhat simplified. And thats a clear advantage since I g uess the learning curve was a bit to steep for the casual player in Mech 3.
When it comes to enemys, your lancemates have also gotten a bit smarter. If you stop just outside the range of some enemy units, one or several lancemates will walk over and check for a spot where they will be able to fire at any enemy units that might be near.
But when we talk about navigating obstacles, they seens even more stupid than ever. They get stuck in a loop walking back and forth behind a building and sometimes even behind a ridge or single rock. There has been perfect and quite simple programming routines that could be used to fix the mechs from looping this way: "If you have tried walking back and forth in the Y direction X number of times then you should try heading towards Z instead for # of seconds and then resume your heading toward the target."
Well that a bit of oversimplification, but the problems with the mechs getting stuck is so common that one have to develop a strategy to get them out at times.
There is a workaround for this problem. Order any mech who are un-stuck to remain in place and go back for the other guy and get him in sight, you might need to give him a command to follow you. Target the guy with a friendly 'W' and walk in the direction you want to take him, if he strays again you will have to go back and repeat. Sometimes they seem more inclined to get stuck when you are close to he border of a map.
But to have to get back, sometimes several times in a single mission to getting your lancemates out of such predictaments isnt great gameplay.
Another really stupid thing with this game is the lock for the missile weapons, sometimes you go with a Madcat full of missiles and you dont get any lock to the target at all! Even worse you might get the red ring for a target lock and fire, but its the SRM that have obtained lock, and not the weapons you intended to use. The creators of the game really should have done that part better. Again, MW3 wins on points in this respect since that problem wasn't found there.
It might sound like I really hated this game, but its really a quite good one overall. Its just that there where so many unneccesary problems that the enjoyment of playing wasnt what it was supposed to be. We would have loved a good mecha game, and please dont mention Mechcommander 2. If that game hade came as a free download from halfbakery.com I would have applauded - but to me it was a step backwards, the 3D engine which was borrowed from another Sci-Fi shoot-em-up, from waaay back left me cold.
(I think the reviewer is referring to Havoc, released in 1996. Webmasters comment)
Settings and options
The games have difficulty settings for 'Recruit', 'Regular' 'Veteran' and 'Elite' just as it should. It also have settings for taking off 'Heat' and 'Splash damage' and even to make you completely invincible.
In Mechwarrior 3 you could do something similar, but the mission wasnt winnable then it also did show 'dishonourable' on the screen. Which was a nice touch completely in line with the ideas of the mecha universe even.
But yes, it provided a means to scout the objectives in a mission if you had problems, but not get trough the whole campaign with cheats on. After such one 'tryout' you had the option to refit your mech so the objections could be completed.
As it is now I think its way to easy, with the cheat options you can get rid of any problem and make yourself invincible. I must say that this didnt appeal to me there should at least have been a penalty for going without heat or splash damage.
With these options available at any time I think some will just activate them early on and play the game to the end and miss out on the real challenges. So to include these 'features' from the start was a disfavour to the gamers, anyone who really get stuck could always get on the web and check for cheats if they felt they needed to.
One might think I really hate the cheats in a game. Well I dont mind cheatcodes if one reall get stuck in a mission and have tried several times, but to include those 'opions' from the start is all but stupid.
You should really have gotten a mission editor or a map randomizer, but there's none in Mechwarrior 4. This really is an important thing for a game, and no great game should come without it.
Instead it with an 'Instant action' feature where you can play trough all mission of the campaign to see what you are up against, well thats all except the final battle.
There's also something called 'Master trials' which makes up for this lack to some degree. In the trials you will be matched against three enemies. It comes with a randomizer which picks the map, condions and enemymechs. Sometimes the matching isn't balanced though - have gotten a Hellspawn and been run up against one Atlas and a Madcat. Finally there's online play and I have a hunch many will find that more interesting than the campaign itself. But beware, most seems to favour the Daishi and just walks up and fire away. A strict weightlimit would have been nice to add a little variety and need of strategy for the online missions.
Rock bottom requirements
Its nice to see a game release that doesnt demand the purchase of a completely new computer as well. This one of the major pro's. especially since the game actually can be played on a less capable computer such as one Athlon 500 MHz and a older 3D acceleration board like the TNT.
But we don't recommend this game for anyone with one Celeron, Duron or the mimimum specifications of a Pentium II 300 MHz and one 8 MB graphic card since the mechs will become less controllable and the framerate drops so much that an enemy might already have jumped to the side by the time you fire. (Yes we've tried with a Celeron P3 and found out ourselves.)
Much of this review have delt with things that could have been done better. And it's a fact that this release was botched.
Someone might ask why other reviewers (online or in the game mags) tell this is the greatest game ever? The simple reason is that they are dependent on the companies who create the games, a review where they told the truth might spoil their chance of getting a preview of the next game - and even scare off advertisers. Well here at Gamespotter we dont have that kind of dependence.
So yes, there's a number of problem which bugs this game. The worst is that the other mechs of your lance might get stuck, secondly that they might refuse to repair even if a bay is found nearby like in op4 mission 2.
Without these problems we might have given this game a top rating. And despite the fact that you get to see some really cool scenerys and the improvement that the management of the mechs have been simplified. The overall enjoyment and gameplay itself actually was a step down from the better Mechwarrior 3. In short, this is good game, that without being truly outstanding.
Hyperpulse message from the Webmaster!
Do they listen to us or what? Er hardly, but one mission editor have been posted on the Microsoft website. Also got to mention that MPOG seems to share our view with a 3.5 for the game total and and only 2 stars for the single player part. So there's at least some who rate this game as we at Gamespotter.
Some additional resources for this game is found here.