Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries

Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries

Written by John Yan on 12/8/2002 for PC  

It’s been six years since Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries came out from Activision. Back in 1996, I was a beta tester for this game and found it to be a great follow up to Mechwarrior 2. Now, Microsoft has released their take on the Mercenaries and it’s come a long way from when the game required a 486DX66 with 12MB of RAM and 45MB of hard drive space.

You start out creating a mercenary unit complete with a corporate sponsor. After selecting one of the three sponsors and naming yourself and your unit, you are given some pilots, cash and jobs to perform. You can jump from one planet to another looking for work. In between jobs you can outfit your mech as you would like, hire and fire crew, and purchase new equipment.

Each mission can earn you money along with some salvaging possibilities. And you’ll need that money as everything incurs a cost. Your lancemates have a salary, dropship fees, and repairs are some of the costs associated with being a mercenary. Now that you need to earn money to keep your mechs in tiptop shape, you tend to be more careful. Many times I cursed at how much it’s going to cost for me to repair one of my mechs or have one go down and think this is going to put a big dent in my budget. And with more lancemates and mechs, the more expensive your pre-missions costs are.

Instead of having a linear progression of missions, you actually have a choice. I really enjoyed the freedom of choosing which one I want to do when I want to. If I wasn’t happy with the offerings of the planet, I did a jump to another and check out the offerings on that one. Some missions offer bonus money for certain objectives completed. But most missions are pretty standard affairs such as escorts, search and destroy, and protection. Missions are your lifeblood as money is what rules in this game. You do it for the all mighty dollar and nothing else is motivation in Mercenaries.

Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries utilizes the same engine from Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance with some tweaks and improvements. So the graphics for the game will be familiar for those who played Mechwarrior 4. That’s not bad, as the game still looks good for the series. But with the recent releases of games like Unreal Tournament 2003 where the next generation of graphics is starting to take shape, Mercenaries is looking a little behind the times. The mechs themselves do look good and are modeled nicely when compared to the pen and paper renditions. Their movements are still very nicely done and you can’t say this game doesn’t have great animations when it comes to walking mechs. You get a good variety of textures on the mechs also.
The terrain isn’t as impressive as it used to be. Sure it was pretty cool when the engine debuted two years ago. Now, it’s just average. But it would probably take a lot of horsepower to render a better outdoor setting with huge mechs towering over buildings and foliage. Instead you get lifeless trees and the ground sometimes show the borders of the textures used.

I was also disappointed at the lack of destructible objects and terrain. You’ll have trees that fall to dust when you walk through them and some buildings you can take down but all in all there’s not much else to tear apart. There’s sprite like people on the ground and you can’t shoot or run them over. Vehicles are modeled well and I did enjoy seeing a group of helicopters swooping around me trying to take me out with their missiles. You can run into the vehicles to destroy them if you are out of weapons or just feel to need to stomp them into oblivion.

What I was surprised at was the lack of impressive sound the game has. With huge mechs and massive weapons you would expect a barrage of impressive sound effects to go with it. In reality, I didn’t get a sense of firing my massive cannons or large grouping of missiles as the sound coming from my Z-680 speakers seem rather bland and weak. Microsoft could’ve added a lot more oomph into this game by providing a great audio experience but alas the game lacks that too.

Yes there is a multiplayer aspect but no cooperative mode. One of my favorite ways to play with my friends is co-op and I was a little disappointed to see that it was omitted from Mercenaries. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a good plethora of multiplayer options, but the one that I sorely miss is co-op play. Other than that you get some good gameplay modes such as team battle, destruction, and mission play.

Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries is a good follow up to Vengeance but it feels more like an add-on with it’s two year old engine. At a full price of $50, it does seem a little steep. If the game were going for around $35, it would be more fairly priced. Still if you are new to the Mechwarrior series, Mercenaries is a good pickup to start as it doesn’t confine you to a linear mission scheme giving you a little more freedom.
Mercenaries doesn't feel new but there's some good aspects of the game. It's different when you are not part of a Clan and do your job for money. The game does have some good features but the graphics are looking rather old.

Rating: 8 Good

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I've been reviewing products since 1997 and started out at Gaming Nexus. After writing for a few different sites that went under, it's nice to bring back a site that's not dependent on revenue and just wants to deliver news and reviews of products.

I'm  married, and enjoy first person shooters, sports games, and real time strategy games.


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