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GDC 2012: MechWarrior Online (Impressions)

Posted by: Chuck at 3/9/2012 2:57 PM
I had two "HOLY F**K" moments during the demo of MechWarrior Online (MWO) at GDC this week. The first was at the top of the demo when the game world was first revealed and displayed a beautifully rendered waterfall (thanks Crytek engine 3) in the distance. The quality of the render was almost photo perfect as was the rest of the wooded area around us.

The second moment occurred later in the demo as the Hunchback that the developer was piloting faced off against a much larger Atlas mech. As the mech came into range I saw several puffs around the upper torso of the Atlas and watched as a cluster of beautifully rendered LRMS's slammed into the chest of the Hunchback. Immediately the cockpit went red with warning lights and danger indicators. He returned fire and managed to take out both of the arms of the 120 ton Atlas before succumbing to the autocannon mounted on its torso.

As someone who played a lot of the PC MechWarrior games in the past I was looking forward to seeing what was in store for MechWarrior Online and what I saw this week did not disappoint me in the least.

One of the interesting things for MWO is that the folks at Piranha Games are trying to make you feel like you are piloting a Mech rather than being the Mech itself. To do this they are switching the perspective a bit so that you can see your arms and legs as you sit inside the cockpit. If you want you can look around the cockpit and see the detailed instrumentation or you can used the simplified user interface that gives you all the critical data and floats on top of the screen.

Another cool feature in MWO is that there are two targeting reticles. The first is fixed in the middle of the screen and shows where your torso based weapons are aimed at. The other is a floating reticle that shows where your arm based weapons will fire and is controlled by your mouse. Not only is this more a more realistic aiming experience but it also allows you to engage two mechs at the same time.

The game will support 12 on 12 matches with each side being broken into three Lances (a lance contains four mechs). Each mech will be fully customizable by the pilots and each mech will have a role to play on the battlefield. Smaller and faster mechs will be just as important as larger mechs in that they'll be able to locate and spot larger mechs for the rest of their lance. Once you die in a match you're out until the next one starts so there is a bit of an incentive to stay alive for as long as possible.

The game will be free to play but the details of what will be free and what will cost money are still TBD. Players will get a chance to try the game out for themselves this summer during a planned open beta (details are still TBD other than there will be a beta).

MWO was easily one of the most impressive looking games at GDC this year and I think old school MechWarrior fans are going to be blown away but what Piranha is doing with the game. I am interested to see what the pricing structure of the game is going to be as that could be the Achilles heel of the game but given the care and passion I've seen so far I think we're in good hands.