I love Mechs. They’re easily one of my favorite themes in all of popular culture. Not the Japanese rocket booster equipped, katana wielding samurai kind but the Western style, more utilitarian mechanical constructs that look like they were constructed in a re-purposed Detroit factory.
I have been playing the new MechWarrior Online beta recently and have unfortunately found it to be a little underwhelming.
You want me to spend real world money to buy stuff in a game that I’m testing for you?!
It’s a fun distraction that faithfully reproduces the look and feel of piloting a multi-ton mech equipped with a plethora of devastating weaponry but as a Free2Play game it unfortunately suffers from most of the pitfalls that games utilizing “micro-transactions” are prone to.
As it is setup currently you aren’t even able to modify the load out of any of the four mechs that they provide non-paying beta testers with. Let me get this straight. You want me to spend real world money to buy stuff in a game that I’m testing for you?!
Though the combat and controls are polished and enjoyable, after a few rounds there just isn’t much “content” left to experience.
To me, what made the older MechWarrior games so excellent were their sense of purpose. While their storylines may not have been their strongest trait it certainly lent a much needed feeling that your actions had weight and consequences.
So I was very excited when I discovered my Mechwarrior 4 Vengeance discs in a plastic bin in my basement. I figured it would be a hopeless endeavor to try and get it running on a modern PC but to my pleasant surprise it installed and ran flawlessly even after thirteen years.
I missed a lot of the storyline since the CD-ROM drives of today are much faster than they were thirteen years ago and their nice custom installation package complete with concept art and historic blurbs flew by so fast all I could catch was that Steiner was bad and I was good.
Over the last three days I have been battling the corrupt forces of House Steiner after they killed my family and placed my rat fink cousin on the throne.
… to my pleasant surprise it installed and ran flawlessly even after thirteen years.
I have been dedicated to reclaiming my family’s proud heritage with as much fervor now as I had over a decade ago when the game was a cutting edge new release.
In the below video, my lance and I protect civilians as they coordinate their escape from the doomed port town of Vale. I take out opponents on land, air and sea in order to secure them safe passage.
The Next Best Thing(s)
Not everyone has a Mechwarrior 4 Vengeance disc lying around and for some unfathomable reason people are charging “collector’s item” prices for this game.
But fear not. There are a few cost effective ways to get your MechWarrior fix.
As a Mercenary you aren’t personally invested in any of the missions you undertake and missions are little more than…rinse-and-repeat operations.
A few years ago a group called MekTek was given the rights to re-release MechWarrior 4 Mercenaries as a completely free game. Although it looks like MekTek may now be defunct or going through some kind of reinvention, you can still pick up a copy of Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries for yourself. Though I feel it too suffers the same limitations as MechWarrior Online.
As a Mercenary you aren’t personally invested in any of the missions you undertake and missions are little more than “Eliminate All Enemy Mechs” rinse-and-repeat operations.
But hey, it’s free and you get the enjoyment of trying to assemble a machine of war so devastating that clicking fire immediately causes your power core to meltdown
You can download MechWarrior 4 Mercenaries here.
If you own Crysis or Crysis Warhead there is a very polished mod called Mechwarrior: Living Legends which also attempts to recreate the series. The developers just released the final version of their mod on January 16th, 2013 (5 days ago).
It didn’t capture the old magic of the Mechwarrior series for me and it’s a Multiplayer only mod, though it is rather gorgeous to look at and features alot of carefully constructed elements from the Battletech universe.
You can download Mechwarrior: Living Legends here.
While my opinion of Mechwarrior 4 is certainly influenced by nostalgia I can’t help but feel disheartened that the series hasn’t continued it’s single player legacy. The deep and robust lore of the Battletech universe is fertile ground for stories that highlight and explore the human condition of those living in a future of perpetual interstellar war and not just a fitting setting to glorify giant robot combat in bite-sized morsels of deathmatch action.
I hope someday MechWarrior will return to it’s roots and provide a single player campaign experience that allows would-be Mech pilots to experience the breadth of the universe as the gone but not forgotten original creators, FASA Corporation, had originally intended.
Tips & Tricks
If you do have a copy of MechWarrior 4 Vengeance/Black Knight/Mercenaries at your disposal these useful tips will help enrich the experience.
The default control scheme is very unintuitive. Over the course of my playthrough I eventually changed just about every key.
Some of the major changes of note:
- W and S set to increase and decrease throttle respectively
- A and D set to turn left and right respectively
- Turn on Mouse Torso twisting so you can aim in one direction and walk in another
- Shift+W and Shift+S set to toggle between 100% throttle and 0% throttle respectively
- Q and Shift+Q set to cycle through enemy and friendly targets respectively
- E to target enemies under your reticle
- 1,2,3,4,5,6 set to fire Weapon groups
- Spacebar set to fire Jump Jets
- Tab set to Objectives window
In the MechWarrior 4 Vengeance/Black Knight/Mercenaries installation directory there is a file called “config.ini”. Open this file with your favorite text editor and modify the following properties to give the game a nice graphical boost. Resolutions are unfortunately capped to the old 4:3 ratio instead of the standard widescreen 16:9 we’re used to today.