Review by yeltzen
"A HUGE step up from MW2, but some odd bugs hold it back."
When a fan of the MechWarrior series first played this game, they were probably as blown away as I was... the graphics took this franchise to a whole new level. In fact, just about everything in this game takes the MechWarrior franchise to the next level. However, a few weird bugs and odd decisions by the creators keep this game from being the be-all, end-all of MechWarriors.
As I've already said, the graphics for this game are amazing. The 'Mechs are, of course, the centerpiece of the game, and they are by far the best looking objects in the game. They no longer walk stiffly with simple leg movement, but rather with their entire body, and when powerful weapons such as Gauss Rifles hit the sides of their body, they don't just absorb the hit, their whole body moves from the impact. In addition, weapons are much more realistic in this game. Lasers don't look like green machine guns any more. I sometimes wondered if the creators of MW2 actually knew what a laser was. In this game, lasers work like they should: like a beam of light. When you fire a laser, it's at the target immediately. Buildings, terrain, explosions, vehicles... everything in this game is eye candy. I should also mention leg damage. In this game, if your leg gets damaged, you can't go as fast as normally. They did this in Mercenaries, but in that game the 'Mechs animation was just slower... in this game, the 'Mechs limp and this annoying noise happens, pounding home the frustration this event causes... well done.
The sound is also a step up from MW2. When 'Mechs walk, the sound they make depends on what they are walking on. Each weapon has a very distinct sound to it, and you no longer feel like you're watching an early 1900s space flick. The voice acting is very well done, for the most part, with only the Smoke Jaguar clansmen bringing it down. Your allies and your Field Base captain all sound interested in the story, and really help give you a feel for what your campaign entails.
Well, here's where I have a few beefs with the game. For the most part, the game plays almost exactly like MW2. Controls are roughly the same, the objectives and fighting are roughly the same (although much more enjoyable in this game), but there are a few things that really got on my nerves while playing. First of all, considering that most people moved from MechWarrior2: Mercenaries to this game, the number of 'Mechs is a disappointment. I don't know about you, but I really enjoy taking classic Inner Sphere 'Mechs like the Hunchback, Centurion, Atlas, etc, and attempting to beat superior Clan technology with it... but that's just me. There are very few, if any, classic I.S. 'Mechs in this game. What will probably receive more complaints, however (since most people favor the Clans), is that a few of the best Clan 'Mechs are missing, including my personal favorite, the Hellbringer (Loki). I'm not exactly sure how you can have the Thor, Mad Cat, and Vulture in the game, but not the Loki (or Warhawk, for that matter). That said, there still are plenty of 'Mechs in the game, and since you're leading a campaign and not launching seperate missions, you have to use the weapons you're left with, anyway, making hundreds of 'Mechs in the game unecessary (since most people just customize the hell out of the 'Mechs anyway, rather than playing the game the way it was meant to be played... freebirths.)
Alright, so on to the actual gameplay... like I said, you're running a campaign, so you don't have the luxury of having your 'Mech refitted after every mission. If you only have 5 rounds of an Autocannon left, and you use all of them during a mission, you won't have any ammo for the next one (unless you salvage some). Fortunately, there is real-time salvage in this game (unlike MW2: Mercs), so you shouldn't be running out of weapons. I did, however, think 'Mechs were salvaged a little too easily... it seemed like they were in a rush to give you the best Clan 'Mechs. Also, I'm not exactly sure how, when you leg a 'Mech, your Field Base is able to construct a Clan leg from scrap... but anyway, the salvage is very well done despite that. The game takes place over 4 operations, and mostly involves you cleaning up for other units that were either destroyed or unsuccessful. The missions are all well-done, detailed, and enjoyable... but one thing I will never understand is why CLANNERS on their OWN PLANET are piloting I.S. 'Mechs. Someone explain that to me. Another quick thing is that the AI isn't all it could be. The campaigns use triggers, which means as long as you don't hit the trigger, enemies won't even notice you. Ouch.
Okay, now here come the bugs. First of all, there's the very odd bug that involves walking into a bridge. Sometimes, when you blow up a bridge, the piece connecting it to the other side will fall below, so you have this angled piece of road from the ground up to where the bridge used to be. Well, if a 'Mech tries to walk under this, it's an automatic head shot, and the 'Mech is destroyed. I'm totally clueless as to how this a) happened, and b) wasn't caught. It doesn't come up often at all, but I did win a mission I shouldn't have because of it. The other bug is the annoying habit your lancemates have of attacking you. Now, I know the designers want the guys to realistically defend themselves, even if it's against a stupid lanceleader, but this is ridiculous. If you attack any ally 3 times, even from accidental friendly fire, then every one of your lancemates attacks you. In one mission, my MFBs decided to move in front of me, and they were hit by my laser fire. Suddenly, I have a Mad Cat firing all kinds of missiles at me.
Of course, being the avid Battletech fan that I am, I love the story. People who buy this game to play as a shooter will not enjoy it. They'll wonder what a Dropship is, or who the hell Prince Davion is. However, people who have played the original board game that made this franchise possible will appreciate the time and effort the creators put into the campaign, the voice acting, and the mission briefings. Basically, the story consists of the Inner Sphere continuing its assault on the Smoke Jaguar clan (the Clans have invaded the Inner Sphere, for those of you who don't know the Battletech story), and this particular campaign involves hitting the Clan while they're down. Of course, the attack doesn't go as planned, and two Dropships are destroyed during entry... and the story clears this part up nicely.
I'm a bitter, bitter man when it comes to Mechwarrior multiplayer, and it mostly has to do with the number of people who buy this game completely blind to the Battletech universe. People buy this game, go on multiplayer, pick the heaviest 'Mech they can, and then outfit it with 90 LRM20s. This is not how Battletech is meant to be played. There's this thing called strategy. With your lancemates, you're supposed to choose complimenting 'Mechs, and play with their default configurations. But no, why would anyone do that, when they can load up with LRMs and destroy everyone before they can even get within firing distance? So, of course, everyone starts doing this, and it becomes a battle of the missile boats. Of course, this wouldn't happen if the designers would start implementing LRMs the way the board game did. Very rarely, if ever, does every missile hit the target... but in this game, they nearly always do. So, you fire a few volleys of missiles, and your opponent is done for. Because of this, multiplayer becomes more button mashing, than battle tactics.
In conclusion, this game is awesome. It suffers from some annoyances like weird bugs, trigger-AI, and the odd implementation of Long Range Missiles that requires every missile to hit (this plagued MW2, as well). However, aside from that, this game is a huge step foward for the franchise, and I don't see Battletech or MechWarrior going away any time soon. They have the Battletech universe to fall back on, and that provides more than enough material for new games. This is definitely a game you should buy (should be very cheap now).
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/16/03, Updated 07/16/03
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