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     " If you haven't picked up Mechwarrior 4 already this is a great place to buy it…but if you already have it I can't imagine how this is worth 2 bits to upgrade. "

      Title: Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries by Microsoft

      Format: PC Mech Shooter

      Reviewing Monkey: Mojo Jojo

      The Hype: Way back in the day with the first Mechwarrior, the franchise introduced the "Mercenaries" concept. Forget honor and country, you're fighting for the most noble reward of all- Money.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The original Mechwarrior 4 game was released almost 2 years ago to the day. That being said, even though Mercenaries has some small updates to the engine and is a stand-alone product it is, essentially, the same game. And while the graphics 2 years ago got a 5 out of 5, today they are bulky and a bit gritty compared to what else is out there…Especially when it comes to the FX and model accuracy (lasers flying, explosions, etc.). This is probably no better evidenced than by the fact that we still have only the one generic Mech explosion animation which exists completely in a vacuum- unrelated to any pertinent physics (compare that with the ridiculous number of death animations in Unreal Tournament 2003). Certainly, Mercenaries is not hard on the eyes by any stretch but I think they could have been improved considerably given how long the games engine has been kicking around. 3.75 out of 5

      Playability: Again, as with the graphics, there have been only limited improvements to the game since it's original release in November 2000. Now, on the up side, there wasn't a whole lot wrong with the game in the first place so the lack of update isn't critical. It is a damned cool giant robot combat simulator ripe with tense combat and fantastic engagements. The methodical stomping of your mech combined with slow cycle times and critical shot placement not only captures the feel of the Battletech universe and really separates its gameplay from the standard FPS. Add to that the relatively cool concept of having to buy your equipment with money earned by running missions and there's a nice extra element of strategy and intellect involved.
          On the down side, very few of the original problems with the game have been corrected. The AI is still ridiculously inept (and may actually be worse than the original for some odd reason now), despite the inclusion of several new weapons they are still so limited that only a few are actually useful, and the Mech balance is still severely flawed. Indeed, even among the new features much touted by Microsoft there ends up being very little effective change. With Mercenaries they only bothered to include 2 new weapons, one new piece of electronics, and 10 new mechs. And while that in and of itself isn't bad, it certainly isn't impressive. They also didn't bother to re-include any of the pieces from the two expansion packs so if you want to actually be brought up to speed with the current universe you can plan on dropping another $30. Finally, and most disappointingly, the most "impressive" addition was supposed to be the presence of a second mech lance for you to command…However with no noticeable improvement to the AI (which, in case you've forgotten, sucks donkey) and the same ridiculously limited command console that lance will become nothing but dead weight and will quickly be discarded to save yourself the in game money they cost. I ask you, what good are 4 more mechs when you can't assign them waypoints or movement patterns?
          Plus, with those overall gameplay annoyances come some serious defects in the "Mercenaries" additions as well. As we've come to expect with most of these games, the price you sell mechs and equipment for is decidedly less than the price you buy at. And while that's not a big deal in and of itself when coupled with the fact that there is no effective in game explanations on anything you will spend an incredible amount of time hopping into the Mechlab to play with configurations before daring to spend your hard earned cash on a purchase. But all that pales in comparison to the fact that, despite earlier press, Microsoft didn't bother to include active modeling to a missions salvage, so there is no way to change your haul at the end of the day. Now, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about in the original Mercenaries, back in the day, the way you destroyed a mech determined whether or not you got to recover it after the mission is over. If you needed the PPC in a mechs right arm you had to be damned careful not to blow it up. If you wanted a chassis you could leg the thing to make it more likely to be recovered. In Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, however, none of that is applicable and you get the same crap regardless of how precisely, or brutishly, you perform the op (I verified this by playing the same mission 3 times in 3 decidedly different styles). This was, without question, the strategy element I was most looking forward to playing with and they didn't bother to include it. Definitely disappointing. 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: Good news, bad news…But this time the bad news first. They've realistically added nothing but new maps to further the multiplayer experience and the single player experience is lackluster at best. There are new multiplayer modes but they're kyped straight from current online team games like Tactical Ops and the singleplayer storyline is so non-existent you'll never touch it again. Now, as for the good news it's not a huge deal they didn't include a bunch of new multiplayer stuff since the original kicked so much ass. Lots of game types and options, bots for team play, and an abundance of maps will keep this hot and current with your on line and lan play. I just wish they would have included something new like objective based play. 4 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: Another huge disappointment- the story is essentially non-existent and there's not even a cut scene opener as we've come to expect. Just some very bland voice overs and mission briefings. 2 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       Don't get me wrong- Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries is a fun game. It might even border on a great game. The problem is Microsoft spent almost a year hyping this bad boy and there ends up being little to distinguish it from its 2-year-old predecessor…certainly not enough to boast the $45 asking price.
      The effect ends up being that if you haven't picked up Mechwarrior 4 already this is a great place to buy it…but if you already have it I can't imagine how this is worth 2 bits to upgrade.

      The Good: 10 new mechs, lots of new maps.

      The Bad: Same old game with a huge new price tag.

      The Overall Ugly: Should have been released as an expansion pack for existing customers and platinum including everything for new ones.

      What it's Worth: 20 bucks if you have Mechwarrior 4, market if you don't.

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