Now, fair warning: the last game in the MechWarrior
series I played with any depth was the second game, and even that I wasnít particularly fond of. Although I enjoy the occasional tabletop game of BattleTech
, Iíve always had problems with the style of mech used in the games. Even the fast ones were slow, and the truly powerful ones were god awful. Maybe Iíve watched too much anime, but I like my mecha fast and sleek, more Robotech
and less BattleTech
. So, at first, I wasnít too intrigued by this game. But then I sat down and played it, and I realized that one of the major tweaks in the game is the speed.
And all I can say is: Aww yeah.
For those of you not familiar with the MechWarrior universe, well, it would take many books to fully spell out. In fact, it has. But the basic gist is that you command a large walking robot, or Mech, and generally lay waste to enemies with a wide variety of weaponry. There are many different chassis that you can base a mech on, and plenty of weapons to stick in the mechs. They all have a maximum load-out, though, so you canít load your fleet-footed mecha down with enough weaponry to take out a small country. Hamlets, yes, but not countries.
The first surprise that I got was when I went into the MechLab. This area of the game frankly intimidated me when I started playing MechWarrior 2. I had friends who would spend hours customizing their mechs, but Iím the sort of guy who likes fast action. In Vengeance, the core layout of the various chassis is unchangeable. You can adjust the weapons load-out, but only to an extent: certain locations can only hold certain types of weapons, so youíve got to manage them correctly. You can also add various optional components like jump jets and better sensors, and you can adjust the armor for each section. Itís still a balancing act, to be sure, but itís one that can take mere minutes of your life instead of hours. I thought it was a vast improvement.
The second surprise I got, and the most pleasant, was the way the game played. Youíve still got all the mech-blasting, terrain-stomping, nav-point-following goodness that youíve come to expect, but it moves at a much quicker pace than previous games in the series. I remember playing the original MechWarrior back on my 486 and it taking long, boring minutes to get across the map to where I needed to be. In MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, you can practically (and literally) fly across the map. The battles are more fast-paced too, and although they still require a good deal of strategy, itís great fun to run circles around an enemy mech and watch them get confuddled. Good stuff.
The Single Player campaign has more than two dozen missions for you to engage in, from standard destroy-all missions to defense and exploration. Itís entertaining, and more importantly, it follows a storyline. It may not be the most original story in the world, but too often strategy games feel like a string of unconnected battles rather than a coherent whole. Vengeance doesnít fall into that trap.
Thereís also plenty of Multiplayer experience to be had. Even over my weak narrowband connection, I could enjoy some mech-blasting fun (er, well, I could die quickly) without too much lag. Iím waiting for my broadband connection so I can jump in and serve a few 16-player games of my own. All sorts of game modes are here, from the traditional deathmatches to the wonderful keepaway called Steal the Beacon, and the old standby Capture the Flag. Thereís little to no chance that you wonít find a game mode that you like.
Thereís also an Instant Action mode, where you can jump into a single-player mission with any load-outs you want. It lets you get a feel for the harder missions, and is a great addition to the game. Just donít let it ruin your single-player experience.