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     "If I could be hooked up with a porta-cath and an i.v. so I’d never have to leave this game I would."

      Title: Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance by Microsoft

      Format: PC Mech FPS

      Reviewing Monkey: Dungapult

      The Hype: Mechwarrior, way back in the 80’s, taught us what giant robot combat could be on the computer. Pick your target, wade in with 80 tons of walking tank, and slag your enemy in truly epic fashion. Unfortunately, the series hasn’t always been totally above board. Microsoft, recently acquiring the rights to the Battletech’s license (the board/role playing game that Mechwarrior is based on), wants you to forget any past indiscretions by other companies and jump head long into their new vision of this old classic. Lets find out if you should…

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: If you’ve seen any of the print add for MW4, you know that the graphics are one of the biggest things they’re pushing. Full page spreads in major magazines show almost movie quality CGI with a little note at the bottom simply saying "Actual Game Screens," teasing you into believing that any game could be this pretty. Suprisingly, I have to report, it is! Gorgeous lighting and effects, impossibly pretty texturing, lush backgrounds, and amazing renders all make this among the prettiest games I have ever seen in my twisted little Monkey life. It officially hits that plateau where even though you know graphics will keep improving your kind of at a loss for how. It’s truly stunning. Plus, I’m breaking out the big bonus points for weapons that actually fire from precise locations, feet that articulate to variable ground, good animations, and a flawless zooming reticule. Not to be all kudos, though, there is one gripe…all of the mech death animations are the same (they just fall over and turn into a big ball of light), which of course completely detracts from the game’s playabili…Ah, hell. Who am I kidding. When the only thing I can complain about is the death animations, you know the graphics kick ass. 5 out of 5
      Oh and, as an aside, MW4 has the coolest mech intro cgi I’ve ever seen. Though the acting of course leaves something to be desired (are there no good actors in games?) the fight and movement animations are superb. So good, in fact, that if they don’t make a movie with it SOON (c’mon, evil empire Microsoft, you guys have the money…) I’m going to personally go flog Billy. Hell, I’ll even volunteer to be Stunt Coordinator for y’all…Pro Bono. That should say something about how exciting it is.

      Sound: One of the great things about Sci Fi games are that there’s really no map for what things should sound like. Lasers, plasma balls, lightening strike…they could make just about any noise imaginable. As such, game and movie foley artists have always struggled to give us things both cool and realistic. With that in mind, let me just say that when they finally build the first squad tactical laser or particle projection cannon, I hope they sound like the ones in Mechwarrior. The lasers buzz beautifully, the particles shrak splendidly, and the overly ambiance is not only maintained but enhanced by the sound’s quality. Best of all, long in coming and finally delivered to the genre, your weapons make Real Life function noises! So you will hear the round get slammed into the chamber and lock into place when your autocannon finally reloads and is back on line. Energy will hum and discharge when your PPC is set to rock and roll again. No longer is your firing rate limited to you seeing a little light on your dash go green- now you can set cyclic attacks the way you’re supposed to…With an actual knowledge of your weapons and their state. It Kicks Frickin’ Ass! 5 out of 5

      Game Play: As far as action and first person shooters go, I can think of maybe 1 or 2 I’ve enjoyed as much as MW4 and none that hands down surpass it. Though not truly a simulator (since you are incredibly limited in what actions you can perform and how you can tweak your own situation), this game may walk the perfect balance between realism and fast paced play. Config your mech, load it out, and march into the fray with guns a-blazin’. But, not to be lumped into that same over visited genre like most fps’, Mechwarrior gives you a very distinct feel as to the flow of the battle and the strategies you’ll have to employ. Massive lumbering robots take a very different touch than the typical jump-and-spin tactics that make most fps boring. Slow cycling weapons and huge damage scales make shot placement and proper aiming more important than ever before. And, best of all, a true range of weapon types means that no one tactic will work in every environment. I also have to note that, bar none, this is the most true to feel Battletech game ever created. Even compared to the Virtual Pods which we Monkeys love so much (see our review in the Features section of the magazine) Mechwarrior 4 delivers a more genuine feel of what giant combat should be like. The weapons are beautifully balanced, the armor is appropriately scaled, and combat always devolves into an exquisite mash of strategy, well placed shots, and general melee confusion. It’s a kick in your unfurred butt.
      However, not to be all praise, game play is also the one area where MW4 falls a bit short. Lack of a quality tactical AI means that no matter how your lance mates or opponents are loaded out, they will charge into a standard engagement range and slug it out toe to toe (very annoying, especially when one of your team mates specifically requests to be fitted for long range support). Lack of sufficient weapon categories means in actual effect there are only 6 or 7 weapons worth using. And general glitchiness means you will end up frustrated with various bugs far more than you should be. It also has the silliest error in gaming history…the omission of a weapons grouping indicator. So, while playing the game, there is no way to tell which weapon group you have selected unless you fire them (very bad when ammo is in short supply). How they missed this I have no frickin’ idea.
      Still, despite any flaws it may have, MW4 is an incredibly solid gaming experience. I couldn’t recommend it nearly enough. 4 out of 5

      Level and Environment Designs: Levels are not only big and pretty (essential in any mech game) but are also diverse and littered with various distractions including trees, support vehicles, boats (keen!), alternate targets, and buildings. What’s more, almost everything is destructible so you’ll quickly learn that some times slagging everything to fit your needs (i.e. customizing cover) is effective. The levels also can be varied for temperature and time of day, so you can have lots of fun with differently configed mechs. But, by far, the coup de grace is that the mission objectives are actually diverse! No more mission after mission of simply slugging it out…you may actually have to think for once. My only gripe is that you can’t destroy civilians…which I again think is a major over site. Damned violence ratings boards… 5 out of 5

      Multiplayer: A half of dozen standard game types (teams, death match, ctf, etc.) make it as fun as any other shooter out there. The big bonus, and boy do I mean BIG bonus, is the inclusion of functional bots (for the first time I can recall in a mech fps). So, add all that together, and you and those paid off hippies you call friends can have an absolutely poop flinging experience. Plus, as I said before, with the diversity of weapons you can play support roles and use -tactics- (a novel concept in most fps’). 5 out of 5

      Replayability: Hmmm…Lets see…Giant robots, killer graphics, fun levels, incredible multiplayer…you should stop playing this about the same time you die. The only problem is the single player mode is un-dynamic…so you’ll only do it a couple of times. 4 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: "They killed your father, they should prepare to die." So you’re this prince of dubious history, and they killed your father, and they took over your planet, and you have to kill them all, and they want to stop you, and… Okay, so it’s a bit trite. All right, so it’s a LOT trite. It is also poorly acted, conveyed entirely through "live" communications (all of which are just various characters sitting in a chair talking to you through a vid-phone the size of a postage stamp), and completely irrelevant to your ability to play the game. It is also entirely linear (so there is no losing, only replaying until you win). Not good. What’s worse is that the pristine and glorious cut scene I’ve raved about only happens once, at the beginning. No views of pitched battles, no rewards for all your hard work. Though I know all that rendering is hard, I wish a company as big as the Evil Empire would have put a bit more time into this. 3 out of 5

      Instructions and Learning Curve: Easy to learn but tough to master, Mechwarrior is a combination gamer’s dream. Bring your FNG (frickin’ new guy) friends over and they won’t be overly angry with the difficulty to learn but you can still develop tactics and skills long after you have a practical need to do so. Loses a point, however, for one of the dumbest instruction books known to man. It’s supposed to be a technical manual that you’ve been keeping over the years (so it’s filled with little hand written updates and notes). That, in and of itself is cool, but it also only has those scrawled pictures of various mechs and vital information that just distracts and annoys. I think it’s supposed to contribute to the ambiance, but like I said this game has none with the lame ass story line. So, in the end, you’ll just feel like they were too lazy to make pretty drawings and keep info current for all of the stuff. 4 out of 5

      Installation and Real System Requirements: We had a bit of problem getting it working on all the machines in the office (we still can’t get it working on a few) and the game, of course, is a resource hog. So, it suffers a bit here. 3.5 out of 5

      The Verdict:


       If I could be hooked up with a porta-cath and an i.v. So I’d never have to leave this game I would. Action packed, beautiful, realistic, and fun as hell- Mechwarrior 4 definitely re-defines the giant mech combat genre. An absolute must have.

      The Good: Graphics, game play, sound, multiplayer…almost everything.

      The Bad: Everything except the crappy story, that is.

      The Overall Ugly: Without this game, you are not a Monkey.

      What it's Worth: Market plus your next three unborn children.

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