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Game Over Online ~ Mechwarrior 3

GameOver Game Reviews - Mechwarrior 3 (c) Microprose, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim / Rebellion /

Game & Publisher Mechwarrior 3 (c) Microprose
System Requirements Pentium 133, 32MB Ram, DirectX 6.0+
Overall Rating 91%
Date Published Monday, June 14th, 1999 at 07:24 PM


Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

"Burning purpose. Etched forever in the mind as slow curves pulled upwards into spikes. Dark wings framing an almost human death skull. Almost, but for the fangs of the beast. A crest for killers. Find it, and you will find the chalice, and the dark wing. Only five years remain."

Mechwarrior, 1989

MechWarrior. When I first came across this name, somewhere in 1990 on my 286-12 with a grand 1MB RAM and a beautiful 256-color VGA adapter (though the game only used EGA - 16 colors), I was stunned. I've seen nothing of the sort before - and the story, graphics and innovation completely took me in. I played that game so much that, with no knowledge of the Battletech universe on which the game was founded, I could easily name all the 'mechs, outline the differences between them, talk about the weapons, about tactics and so on and so forth. It was by far one of the best games I have ever played - along with the classics like Wing Commander, Wing Commander II and others at the time.

Then came Mechwarrior II. I couldn't believe my eyes: the five Houses were gone, the mechs renamed, nay - completely different; there was a weird 'tonnage' limit and about the only similar thing were some of the weapons. And no longer had you a feeling of supporting a House and yet being a mercenary - C-Bills, the de facto monetary unit of the Inner Sphere, were no longer your bother. Your clan supplied you with all the necessary starting equipment, and everything else you salvaged from the battlefield. While perhaps a neat idea, I honestly hated the new system. This meant less mech variety, less ammo and so forth; but I couldn't do anything, so I shut up and played it instead. Later came Mercenaries. In a way, I probably liked it more because it was somewhat more true to the original, while still having nothing to do with the epoch I was used to. Then the questionable Mech Commander came, which I enjoyed - but others didn't. And finally, today, Mech Warrior 3 made its way our way.

As some of you may know, FASA, the owner of the Battletech tradermark, discontinued their contract with Activision regarding the use of the name and universe in production of Mechwarrior titles. Starting with Mech Commander, the licensed user has been Microprose, and Mechwarrior 3 is their creation, as well. Basing itself on the part of the Time line which isn't on FASA's website, it left me more or less in the dark. Without breaking the story to you (while it isn't exactly the deep and intellectually enriching story of Gabriel Knight, it is nonetheless a perfectly good background), I must say I'm at a loss to see where the next Mechwarrior will go. But then again, FASA owns the trademark - I don't think it'll be a problem to create a few more episodes.

Anyway, background information aside, let us get to the actual game. As I mentioned, the story is quite decent, perfectly covering all aspects and avoiding most clichés. For example, in one mission, your commander tells you that according to intel, low enemy resistance is expected; and you think, "Yeah, that's what they always say," and arm to the teeth expecting the heaviest 'mechs you've ever seen... then you do the mission, and it does turn out that there was low enemy resistance. I think that's commendable, because the 'expected' way would be to make you 'find out' the commander was wrong and there was either an error in the data he was sent or there's a traitor somewhere. That's been done way too often to make it interesting anymore.

The graphics are amazing. While the terrain isn't exactly Final Fantasy VII quality, the 'mech detail is astounding. Each 'mech is exquisitely modeled, with all body parts animated and fully destructible. And since each body part performs a certain function (barring the obvious, such as legs for walking), you can selectively disable a 'mech - for example, if you see him firing ER PPCs from his left hand, you can destroy it, and you won't be bothered by that weapon anymore. However, ever since the original Mechwarrior, the best tactic seems to be to take one of the legs out, since there's usually little in the legs except for ammo, and it results in the largest amount of salvage. Taking the head out works, too. Essentially, any component vital to the 'mech's function except the torso - if you blow the torso up, you can forget about salvaging the 'mech. And overall the graphics feel is good - but my dual Voodoo 2 SLI setup may have helped a little bit. It's perfectly playable at lower resolutions, however, with a single card.

Control is also quite good. Different 'mechs handle differently, with different agility and overall feel. As well, with increased movement speed (quite expectedly, of course) your 'mech will be less agile, essentially becoming an 80 ton machine and obeying Newton's second law. The force feedback is also quite good, though, strangely enough, my Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback's twist axis sometimes worked as a torso twist, which is the proper way, and other times as a free look around the cockpit, to which I found no solution and found it extremely annoying, since the hat is usually used for free look. Also, an effect I found extremely cool and realistic (I'm not sure why I sound surprised that it's there) is the temperature effect. While it has no direct relationship to control, I thought I'd include it into this paragraph because that's where my thought wound up at this moment. As long-time Mechwarrior fans will know, in order to successfully engage in a battle, a Mechwarrior must keep track of his 'mech's heat, which is generated by missiles, lasers and other equipment in different proportions, depending on the type of the equipment. Usually, you use heatsinks (or double heatsinks) to dissipate your heat. However, some environments of the game take place in snowy fields, which significantly helps - and you no longer need as many heatsinks. As well, you can go into rivers, which helps immensely, as well. On the other hand, there was a level set inside a mining facility which was full of lava - it was so hot I had to drop most of my weapons and double the amount of heatsinks, and my 'mech still tended to overheat. Quite impressive.

Multiplayer was also enjoyable, if somewhat short usually. While you can repair your 'mech in the MFB (mobile field base, which is a welcome addition to the series - it's amazing how much it helps in single-player missions), you're bound to have it blown up by the adversary eventually, at which point it becomes a respawn after respawn. And, if you use a lot of ballistic weapons (as opposed to energy weapons) you'll run out of ammo quite fast, at which point you're either a sitting duck to your opponent, or a weak adversary if all you have is a laser or two. In any case, a word of advice - forgo weight in favour of jump jets. It's amazing how much it confuses your opponent when you jump right in front of him, land in the back, turn around and blow his legs off.

Now we come to the pitfalls. First and foremost, the AI and pathfinding. Developing a strategy against the PC is stupendously easy. All one has to do, whether on Easy, Normal or Hard is start the mission, scout the area, take note of enemy emplacements, perhaps even try to do the mission (unlikely to succeed, however - the PC does have a tendency to surprise the first-time adventurer). The second time, however, everything will be identical - even the 'surprises'. As well, as long as you have a few ER lasers, you can snipe just about any 'mech from a safe distance - 804 meters - and the mech will never come after you, save for a few quite rare occasions. As well, in 97% of those rare occasions, they will fire an ER PPC at you (another type of long-range weapon) which will most likely miss. What's most surprising is that no matter what you do, so long as you don't approach them, is that they will simply continue their patrol, completely ignoring you. So you can sit in the same spot for 40 minutes, snipe off every 'mech, then go in and finish off whatever might be left of them. Mind, this will not always work - sometimes 'mechs appear out of nowhere, like an Annihilator (one of the heaviest 'mechs) equipped with dual autocannons (one of the most damaging weapons in the game) - and then you need pure speed. But apart from that, this technique works most of the time. Regarding pathfinding, it's wondrous how sometimes your lancemates will figure out how to follow you through an ice lake, around a cliff and onto a platform through a bridge about 5 meters wide, and then later on, get stuck inside (literally) a much wider bridge when following you in a straight line. Moreover, collisions are often elastic for some reason (elastic means the total energy is conserved, like in a collision of two balls in a game of pool; by contrast, a collision between two cars isn't elastic because deformation takes place and energy loss occurs). So when you bump into a 'mech, you bounce back from him. Very strange. Moreover, a few times I saw things most strange - like trucks getting stuck in a ditch, and *flying* up and down, sort of as if they were made out of paper and were on top of a geyser. I was so stunned it didn't occur to me to take a screenshot of it.

These minor faults aside, however, MechWarrior 3 is a worthy sequel to the saga of Mechwarriors. While I found it unnerving how many logos were presented at the beginning of the game's intro (Fasa, Microprose, Hasbro, Zipper, Microsoft) - one doesn't see so many usually - that has nothing to do with the appreciation of the game, and is but a minor detail. While the AI could use some work, and a few glitches in the game should be fixed (such as trucks happily jumping, or the game crashing) they aren't anything a patch won't fix (am I endorsing the 'release-now-patch-rest-later' philosophy? I sincerely hope I'm not). I would definitely recommend this game to any veteran Mechwarrior, as well as to aspiring recruits. (Granted, that sounded corny.) This is, as I said, a worthy addition to the series and is definitely worth the gaming dollar.

 

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Rating
93%
 

 

 
 

 

 

Divider Left By: Rebellion Divider Right

The Mechwarrior series has been the most prominent of all of the Mech combat sims since its inception in the early 90’s. When FASA, creator of the popular Battletech world which Mechwarrior is based on, moved their license from Activision to Microprose, many gamers wondered how this might affect the ideals of the game upon which many a hardcore gamer had become engrossed with. While Mechwarrior 3 isn’t the first Battletech game by Microprose (1998’s excellent, yet unappreciated Mech Commander), it is the first to let you back in to the mechs and get down and dirty.

I, myself, never played the original Mechwarrior, and although I sparingly played my roommate’s copy of Mechwarrior 2, I was still engrossed by the game’s intricacies and awesome gameplay. In fact, after beating Mechwarrior 3, I have gone out and purchased my very own copy of Mechwarrior 2 with both its add-ons. This, by no means, is a knock on Mechwarrior 3, in fact, it is just the opposite, inspiring me to go play the older games.

MW3 stacks up rather well with its predecessors. The time period isn’t much after where MW2 and its expansions left off, with the Inner Circle closing in on the final renegade clan, the Smoke Jaguars. Badly beaten after the Inner Sphere’s counterattack, the Smoke Jaguars have regrouped on the planet Tranquil to rebuild their ranks. It is your duty to prevent that they are able to rearm by being joining with a squad of commando units to destroy prominent facilities in order to prepare the way for the coming Inner Sphere invasion.

Microprose has done a remarkable job of keeping the game in line with Activision’s predecessors, so seasoned Mechwarriors will have no problem getting in and getting suited up. Like previous versions, there’s a campaign mode and an instant action mode. Of course, as with most games, the campaign is where the fun is. Following a great intro sequence, you’re set on an interesting array of twenty missions, which are well-scripted and well thought out. The original mission plan, although horribly overplayed in video games, ends up not going as planned so it leads you on an interesting storyline as you complete each mission.

Some new features that made their way into MW3 are the zoom option, which, as some of my friends use quite successfully, aids greatly in sniping from long range. In addition, you now have access to Mobile Field Bases during the majority of the missions. These allow you to repair your mech and those of your lancemates, making it a little easier to keep your mechs in one piece. It doesn’t have the detailed level of mech development like Mechwarrior Mercenaries did, but then again, Mercenaries had you running your own band of mercenaries where you were much more dependant on money. Water also has a new role. It’s actually a strategic aspect of the game. It actually does something practical! It cools you off! With the high powered weaponry putting serious strain on your heatsinks, some missions it just seems fit to jump in the water and alpha fire on all those nasty Smoke Jags and stay nice and water-cooled at the same time.

Back when I reviewed Starsiege, I mentioned how impressed I was with the graphics in it. Well folks, I’ll have to say, for those of you who thought Starsiege looked good, go play MW3. The graphics are by far superior in most aspects to SS. Rocket fire leaves craters in the ground, laser fire scars mechs, explosions are big and beautiful, and there’s just a stellar amount of detail put into the modeling of the mechs. Some of the sky textures were just too cool to look at. Granted the weapon effects aren’t all spectacular, I was expecting a little bit more interesting laser effects, but I’m not going to complain in the least bit. The sparseness of the environment of Starsiege was cold and unfriendly. MW3, on the other hand, does have buildings and bridges and the occasional trees that make it a bit warmer. The environment is interactive as well; you can knock over trees and walls with your mech and leave the ever-present footprint in the sand. It also has some varied level design, some being underground in tunnels, while the majority of the levels are out in the open. The movies for the game are also well done, although the intro movie far outshines the rest of the movies. All four of the campaigns have intro movies to give some background to the scenario, while a good number of the missions also give movies as visual enhancements. Carnage, Carnage, Everywhere! That’s the impression you’ll get from the sound of MW3. It sounds terrific. Weapons are convincing, as are the results of your weapons. It has positional sound so you have good control over your environment just by the audio. The speech between your various units as well as the enemy’s constant barrage of smash mouth insults keep the game lively. Although, I did find it hard to distinguish the speaker at times, making me wonder if it was my lancemates calling for help or my enemies. My one major gripe with audio is the lack of background music. There are two audio tracks on the CD that make up for a grand total of about six to seven minutes of music. Come on Microprose, the two tracks on here are quite good for setting the mood, but why not more?! I feel rather turned off by listening to the same audio over and over again.

The controls are well done and with a good joystick, you can be spinning and twisting like crazy blasting away at everything that comes at you. It is quite playable in a keyboard/mouse combo, since that’s the way I beat it because I’m too lazy to hook my stick and throttle back up to my computer. This does limit the amount of twisting and maneuvering you can do, but practice lets you get a bit better at it. I do like the ability to change your views at any given time from a cockpit view to a corner view to a bird’s eye view. It really shows off the beauty of the mechs in the external views.

Now Mechwarrior 3 is a hell of a good game, but it still has its share of flaws. Multiplayer one of my major concerns with it and I’ll cover that in a short bit. I sometimes experienced this weird form of clipping when I was near a wall, where I’d suddenly be high up in the air and fall back down and keep doing this until I moved away from the wall. Not a real nuisance to play, just more of an annoying glitch. The AI for the lancemates leaves one to wonder sometimes as well. You do have a very good command control for them, which works rather nicely, albeit sometimes hard to use in heavy combat, but when you’re not ordering them around, they seem to have some problems thinking for themselves. Starsiege, in comparison had extremely strong AI that had pretty much rack up as many kills as I did, if not more.

The gameplay itself also deserves some mentions about possible suggestions for future games. I would have liked to seen more a diversity in the missions that would force a player to use a lighter mech or make use of jump jets for a certain task. MW3 mainly comes down to getting the biggest mechs possible and fighting it out with the enemy’s assortment of mechs. The missions do seem a bit to simple and short when compared to some of the missions seen in MW2 and MW2 Mercs, although cranking up the difficulty levels do make the game a bit harder, but it doesn’t make the missions any more detailed. This does leave you feeling a little disappointed when you beat the game, since it seems a bit too short. However, if MW3 is successful as MW2, there’s bound to be some add-ons to beef it up a bit. The instant action mode seems rather boring. A few more options of play are definitely needed to spice up the instant action. I also can’t believe they took out the ability to use Elementals! I used to have so much fun multiplaying MW2 Mercs in the elementals. The mechs are mostly new designs, though a handful, like the Annihilator, have carried over from previous MW’s. I did notice that three or four mechs are almost identical to MW2 mechs. I not exactly sure why someone chose to rename the Timber Wolf to the Mad Cat, but that’s not my problem. I’d also like to see mech configurations actually change the way the mech looks. Starsiege let weapon changes be visible. I know the chassis configuration in Mechwarrior are far more advanced than Starsiege, but ie would still be very cool to see modifications to your mech.

Since I mentioned my concern about multiplayer, here is my chance to explain. In my attempts to multiplay Mechwarrior, I experienced numerous amounts of dropped connections to servers whether I was hosting or joining. I’m not sure if there was a problem on my end, although some of my friends also experienced similar problems. It is relatively fast on a modem connection once you eventually get the game going, although it’s definitely better suited for play on a faster connection.

There’s little left to say, except wow! Microprose has done a damn fine job continuing FASA’s Battletech world so far and I’m already waiting for some add-ons for it. Now this game isn’t for the everyday gamer, but will definitely suit all Mechwarrior fans and if Starsiege wasn’t enough for you, definitely check MW3 out. I bet it’s already on its way to converting the masses of Starsiege players over as I speak. While Starsiege isn’t the only opposition MW3 faces, it’s bound to put up a good fight against the soon-to-be released Heavy Gear II. Activision wants some revenge here, so I’m waiting to see how it’ll turn out. Sure MW3’s a little quirky, and sure not everyone gets a charge out of manipulating a mech as opposed to a regular FPS, it should delight anyone that’s interested.

Highs: Superb graphics, good use of movies, great action, good story, oh... and a body that can TWIST!

Lows: missions are a bit too short, few minor glitches in various areas, can be too easy or too hard at times, buggy multiplayer

 

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Rating
93%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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