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Game review: Mechwarrior 4

By Signal 11 in Media
Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:28:02 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)
Software

Mechwarrior 4 -- awesome game, but they mangled it in a good number of ways. The good news is that the graphics are significantly better. The bad news is that Microsoft made it and mucked up the UI (per usual). Click below for my first impressions of the game.


We'll just jump right in. They did several things right -- for starters, you can no longer destroy a mech's legs. I agree with this completely, as it was very common for low-latency connections to simply stack up about 20 ER Laser(M)'s in MW3 and then blow off an opponents legs. Slow moving assault mechs were all but useless on the battlefield, and MW3 tactics were basically adapted Quake FPS tactics, but in slow motion, the only major exception being with jump jets, which add a certain 3D element to the game that can confuse newbies.

What I disagree with is the more automated nature of some of the weapons, and the inability to use the mouse "inside" the cockpit to zoom in on things. I don't know what's going on there, but that was a major, major feature and I want it back. Many weapons are fire-and-forget in MW4, perhaps a concession for not being able to use the mouse for target aquisition anymore. For those of you used to lasers, you may wish to reconsider using them on heavier mechs.

The other big complaint I have is that they no longer allow you to create "boats" -- mechs with only one type of weapon on them. This certainly makes it easier on newbies because you have a well-rounded mech that has no blatant weaknesses, but the converse is that for more advanced players it is a hinderance, forcing you to adopt styles of play which are inefficient. For example, I like a flamer boat with a puma -- pure flamers. The mech has zero ranged offensive capability, however it is incredibly fast and if you can get close, the enemy mech will usually go crit if he's not in water. The speed makes it impossible for them to use munitions on you -- their only hope is with lasers or to dead-fire the missles as you close on them. In MW4, this tactic cannot be used because the weapon slots are now reserved for specific weapon types -- they are no longer generalized.

It may be that my unfamiliarity with the interface is contributing towards my lack of edge, but I rather suspect the interface itself is the limiting factor. Again, with the interface, the HUD does not display a level of sophistication which is critical for this game. The HUD is not customizeable, which it should be ( la Tribes). My biggest complaint, however, is the way they put the radar display together -- switching to terrain mode hides a variety of necessary things, and there is apparently no way to modify the ranges: it's either ACTIVE or PASSIVE, whereas with the original, you had could zoom in on a specific segment and, using the topographical display, pinpoint the enemy's location more quickly.

My last major complaint is the weapons display -- it is friggin' impossible to tell what weapons group you are using, something which is absolutely critical when you are in battle -- cycling the weapons change past the slot you wanted could spell death. :\ To their credit, the graphics are awesome, and significant effort was made to add a plotline. Whether the quality will continue as I progress in the missions remains to be seen, but the MW line of products has always been strong in storyline, and it is appreciated. Storyline is why I prefer halflife over Q2 and Q3A -- HL has a far more immersive experience, and everything "clicks".

Conclusion: The graphics and storyline are the major bonuses I think, and the major drawback is the new microsoft "innovations" wrt the cockpit UI. For now, I think MW3 has its successor beat for multiplayer.

I give it 7 out of 10.

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Mechwarrior 4:
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Game review: Mechwarrior 4 | 21 comments (8 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
Ah, MechWarrior (4.28 / 7) (#4)
by djkimmel on Sun Jan 28, 2001 at 10:07:11 PM EST

I've played every MechWarrior game from MechWarrior 2 onward, with the exception of Mercenaries. This would include Mech2, Mech2: Ghost Bear's Legacy, Mech3, Mech3: Pirate's Moon, and Mech4. Also, while not strictly MechWarrior, I've played MechCommander Gold.

Can you tell that I like the Mech games? Thought so.

While I agree mostly with the review, especially when it comes to the annoying UI changes, there are a few points that I disagree with:

[re: boats] In MW4, this tactic cannot be used because the weapon slots are now reserved for specific weapon types - they are no longer generalized.
I think this was a good thing, as far as realism goes. One thing that I've always loved about the MechWarrior games was that they were very realistic and didn't require too many leaps of science to get to the technology that they have. The ability to mount, for example, an LRM20 (Long Range Missle, 20 missles per shot) or SSRM6 (Streak Short Range Missle, 6 missles per shot) somewhere that it clearly won't fit (think the arm of a Madcat/Timberwolf here) kind of ruined the realism a little bit.

Of course, as far as pure fun goes, this does take away a little bit.

We'll just jump right in - They did several things right - for starters, you can no longer destroy a mech's legs. I agree with this completely, as it was very common for low-latency connections to simply stack up about 20 ER Laser(M)'s in MW3 and then blow off an opponents legs.

Now, this is something I do not like, pure and simple. In Mech2, you could blow off one leg and the Mech would just stand there on one leg. It looked kind of stupid, but considering the age of the game, I didn't think much of it. As I recall, it was actually necessary, in one mission, to disable a Mech (by shooting one leg off) instead of destroying it.

In Mech3, they got rid of that and if you shot a leg off the Mech would topple over and die. This was perfect, since it was more realistic, something that I love about these games.

But, I can see where you're coming from. I think the ideal would be to have it work like in Mech3 for campaign missions and for online/network play have an option to have Mech2 behaviour, Mech3 behaviour, and maybe even invincible legs.

All in all, I pretty much agree with your review except for those two, admittedly minor, points. Its such a shame that they nearly ruined the interface.

My only solution to the problem with not knowing the active weapon was to map the firing of each group to a different mouse button and just use the appropriate button. Usually it works out to Lasers, Missles, and Special. Special is usually something like PPCs or a weapon I need specifically for that mission, like a beacon. I haven't played through much, so I don't know if any missions need specific weapons, or even how well the plot plays out.

Speaking of plot, I felt that the plot in Mech2 was played out relatively poorly. Ghost Bear's Legacy was a bit better, but not much. Mech3 and Pirate's Moon played the plot out very nicely, with short, informative breifings and no (or few, its been a while) "talking head" videos.

Unfortunately, what I have seen of the presentation of the Mech4 plot has not impressed me. The "talking head" videos are bloody annoying and lose my interest before they get to the point. I'm all for a good plot, but it should be framed in terms of what I have to do and how it relates to the big picture.

Mech3, in my opinion, handled the plot perfectly. There was usually a video which outlined the next objective, followed by a map showing your op points, anything of interest (like turrets), with a voiceover telling you what to do. After the mission was where the big picture came into play, with voiceovers detailing what was happening and what happened as a result of the mission.

Overall, Mech4 is good, but not impressive like Mech3 was. I'm looking forward to Mech5, and hoping that Microsoft can learn from its mistakes.
-- Dave

Factual Errors (4.66 / 15) (#8)
by iCEBaLM on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:28:48 AM EST

Disclaimer: I run the second largest Mechwarrior 4 league Ristar (which, BTW, runs on 100% Free software :) ) I also am a Mechwarrior veteran of about 6 years, starting with Mechwarrior 2 (netmech DOS) on Kali.

We'll just jump right in - They did several things right - for starters, you can no longer destroy a mech's legs. I agree with this completely, as it was very common for low-latency connections to simply stack up about 20 ER Laser(M)'s in MW3 and then blow off an opponents legs.

The leg does get destroyed however it just dangles there and can still be used to "limp". The big improvement is the Mech itself does not get completely destroyed when one leg is destroyed as it did in Mech3.

What I disagree with is the more automated nature of some of the weapons, and the inability to use the mouse "inside" the cockpit to zoom in on things. I don't know what's going on there, but that was a major, major feature and I want it back.

This functionality was not really "realistic". In a "real" Mech the arms only have 45 degree lateral motion, not to mention that weapons mounted on the torso have no actuators at all, the only way to aim it would be to twist or pitch the torso, like on a tank. Mechwarrior, like it or not, is supposed to be a simulation game of fantasy futuristic giant robotic tanks and therefore should be as physically correct as possible. The floating reticle wasn't.

Many weapons are fire-and-forget in MW4, perhaps a concession for not being able to use the mouse for target aquisition anymore. For those of you used to lasers, you may wish to reconsider using them on heavier mechs.

I can't remember one weapon from Mech3 or 2 which wasn't fire and forget. The only weapon in Mech4 which isn't is the bomblast laser which charges over time and fires once it's charged, which makes it pretty useless.

The other big complaint I have is that they no longer allow you to create "boats" - mechs with only one type of weapon on them.

Not true, you can make boats. Good boating chassis are Catapults for missiles, Novacats for lasers and Daishis for LBX and generally any Clan OmniMech.

In MW4, this tactic cannot be used because the weapon slots are now reserved for specific weapon types - they are no longer generalized.

And on Clan OmniMechs you have Omni "hard points", which allow you to place any type of weapon in them. I like the new hard point system. It gives roles to mechs instead of making them "x tons bag-o-guns" as one develloper put it. In league play this really stands out.

My biggest complaint, however, is the way they put the radar display together - switching to terrain mode hides a variety of necessary things, and there is apparently no way to modify the ranges

You can zoom the radar range in.

My last major complaint is the weapons display - it is friggin' impossible to tell what weapons group you are using, something which is absolutely critical when you are in battle - cycling the weapons change past the slot you wanted could spell death.

The game was designed to be played with a joystick, (so Microsoft could sell more) and this "oversight" isn't such a big problem. With joysticks you can map 3 or more buttons to weapons groups, and just press one to fire certain groups, no cycling required. For mouse users I suppose it would be more of a pain.

My biggest gripes are the bugs: third person perspective gives aiming/locking/firing advantages, gamma can be used to negate night, shooting through mountains, destroying one leg then shooting the destroyed leg again kills a mech, every once in awhile it'll drop you into the game with the stock variant of the chassis you picked, not your custom, etc. If they'd fix the bugs the game would be really nice, trying to "legistlate" around the bugs for league play is really horrible.

-- iCEBaLM

Just my luck! (none / 0) (#20)
by Signal 11 on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:34:57 PM EST

It's just my luck that my first game review is read by one of the most well-known people in the MW gaming community. Agh! :)

The big improvement is the Mech itself does not get completely destroyed when one leg is destroyed as it did in Mech3.

Well, that's another way of stating the same thing - killing a leg doesn't kill the mech anymore, which I think we both agree is a good thing.

The floating reticle wasn't [realistic].

That is debatable - a particle-based weapon (PPCs), lasers, and missles could all "realistically" have that type of capability - missles can turn somewhat after firing, and a floating cursor could designate a destination. Particle-based weapons (mass drivers) would likely use the same principles that your CRT monitor uses - magnetic fields to change the vector of the charge. But none of this is particularily relevant - really, I'm complaining about the fact that I liked it better the old way. :)

Good boating chassis are Catapults for missiles, Novacats for lasers and Daishis for LBX and generally any Clan OmniMech.

Thanks for the 411. I've been playing the game for alittle over a week right now and this was just my "first impressions" of the game, as I indicated. I haven't had a chance to play all the mechs, and I agree that there are some mechs better suited to particular tasks in MW4 - MW3 lacked that kind of specialization. As you said another developer put it "It gives roles to mechs instead of making them 'x tons bag-o-guns' as one develloper put it."

. For mouse users I suppose it would be more of a pain.

*cough* like me. *cough* :) I may wind up switching to the joystick just because Microsoft, in its usual fashion, has decided its right and everyone else is wrong.. and since I want to be effective, a joystick may be my only option. We'll see. I just think with alittle bit of effort, they could have made the keyboard+mouse combination useful in its own right. I didn't use a joystick in MW3 exactly because of the floating recticle. I may now need to re-examine my setup. *sigh*

~ Signal 11

P.S. Aren't you the creator of the iCE maps for MW3? If so, you of all people would probably be qualified to comment on "bugs". hehehe.


--
Society needs therapy. It's having
trouble accepting itself.
[ Parent ]

Re: Just my luck! (none / 0) (#21)
by iCEBaLM on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 03:29:25 PM EST

Well, that's another way of stating the same thing - killing a leg doesn't kill the mech anymore, which I think we both agree is a good thing.

If you go along with the same vein as the battletech storyline, the only time a mech should really die is if its center torso is shot out, destroying the engine. Mechs have had both of their legs blown off, drop to the ground and roll around in a prone position and still be able to fight. Unfortunately that may be a little too complex for games so far.

That is debatable - a particle-based weapon (PPCs), lasers, and missles could all "realistically" have that type of capability - missles can turn somewhat after firing, and a floating cursor could designate a destination. Particle-based weapons (mass drivers) would likely use the same principles that your CRT monitor uses - magnetic fields to change the vector of the charge. But none of this is particularily relevant - really, I'm complaining about the fact that I liked it better the old way. :)

While missiles do turn, sometimes on a dime in mid air, the energy weapons have no such ability. They fire in straight lines because of the amount of energy required to charge them. Adding more for directional firing would raise heat, and who wants that? Not to mention that the technology at the time probably wouldn't exist unless the Clans developed it as the Inner Sphere has basically warred itself into the stone age (some planets use horse and buggy for transportation). You must remember that CRTs are completely enclosed, laser beams are out in the open, you would need some force farther along the beam path to affect change in the direction.

*cough* like me. *cough* :) I may wind up switching to the joystick just because Microsoft, in its usual fashion, has decided its right and everyone else is wrong.. and since I want to be effective, a joystick may be my only option.

Well, that and mech pilots in the story use joysticks (and neurohelmets for Clans and really advanced technology units) to control the mechs. Not to mention it's been a very popular controller choice since way back in the Mech2 days.

P.S. Aren't you the creator of the iCE maps for MW3? If so, you of all people would probably be qualified to comment on "bugs". hehehe.

Actually I, most of my Clan (Smoke Jaguar), and a lot of the old Mech2 players never played Mech3 because we all thought it was a horrible game. So I can't take credit for that. :)

-- iCEBaLM

[ Parent ]

Something for a change. (4.00 / 3) (#13)
by darthaya on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 01:04:48 PM EST

New material in discussion is always good for web forums.

plus one from me.

Android's Dungeon (2.66 / 3) (#16)
by oleandrin on Mon Jan 29, 2001 at 07:34:16 PM EST

The need for further proliferation of Mechwarrior is irrational. It's like WWF, Superbowl ads, and a mountain of trite and banality burgeoning the belted buckles of our world's populace.

I don't mind the existence of such things, only the attitude engendered by them: a world in which phrases such as "blown away", "stone cold", "extreme", "chuck up your nuts", and "exgagonizing" reign supreme.

Except the last two.

Mechwarrior for Linux? (none / 0) (#18)
by mcelrath on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 10:48:02 AM EST

This is without a doubt, the #1 game I want to see on Linux. I played the original Mechwarrior. The one for DOS (in fact, I still have it on floppies somewhere, along with the original Wing Commander), and loved it. I was excited when Mechwarrior 2 came out, and have watched in sadness as release after release came out with no mention of anything non-microsoftish.

I suppose with Microsoft in the driver's seat now, Mechwarrior on Linux will never happen. :(

Oh well, I guess I'll survive. Heavy Gear II is pretty good.

--Bob
1^2=1; (-1)^2=1; 1^2=(-1)^2; 1=-1; 2=0; 1=0.

As a side note (none / 0) (#19)
by Quark on Tue Jan 30, 2001 at 02:04:54 PM EST

I'm not that much of a Mechwarrior, I've played 2 and Mercenaries and liked the both well, and I'll probably scoop up 3 if I run into it one of these days. One thing I have to point out though is that both CD's are still doing overtime as far as the audio part of it is concerned. I've always considered track 12 of the Mechwarrior 2 CD to be one of the finest pieces of music I've ever heard...

So much bandwidth, so little time...
Game review: Mechwarrior 4 | 21 comments (8 topical, 13 editorial, 0 hidden)
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