Featured as one of Microsoft's best and brightest at E3 this year, Mechwarrior4: Mercenaries was set on a collision course with hype. Perhaps the expectations were just a little to high, helping to feed the image of innovation and perfection that would be seen in Mercenaries. However, as it turns out, Mercenaries isn't the innovative and perfect slab of code it was meant to be, rather, it is based on the old formulas and principals which made the series to what it is today - and if you ask me, that is why Mechwarrior4: Mercenaries is so damn fun. Why change something that works so well?
Once all the hardware and control settings are out of the way it is time to sit down and get serious. After creating a profile and choosing your desired clan from the few that are included, you are sent to the main menu giving you the option of training, instant action, campaign and multiplayer modes.
It is recommended, specifically for new comers, that training mode be your first stop. Starting with the absolute basics, training gives the player a realistic feel of what to expect from your mech when it comes down to the real thing. Training mode is instructed by a computer controlled mech giving you visual examples of what to do, which helps illustrate the correct method for new comers. This is an extremely handy aspect of training that almost totally eliminates confusion.
Instant action and campaign modes are your single player retreats, while multiplayer speaks for itself. Instant Action allows you to quickly select your personal settings, any teammates, a map and game mode for play right then and there. This is a great mode to practice your developed skills from training as there are no dramas if you don't win.
Campaign mode is where Mercenaries starts to become extremely detailed and unique. The player has a choice, at any time, of which planet to jump to for combat missions, costing C-Bills (the currency in Mercenaries) for transport and time. C-Bills are generated from completing missions and are generally not very hard to come by. You can purchase chassises, weapons and other items from the 'free market', so as you could imagine with the easy money, it isn't hard to soup up your beast to mighty levels. Buying new mechs can be used by either you or your team mates (who can also be bought and sold on the market) so it can be useful to spend your C-bills around your team for maximum efficiency.
Once you have chosen the desired settings, whether it be training, campaign, whatever, it is time to take your mech and twist some metal. As expressed in the control section below, after training is completed you should have no trouble in mastering your mech which is a requirement if you wish to stay alive and eliminate the enemies at the same time. Not having a firm grasp on the controls is asking for trouble.
The ingame HUD is extremely extensive in what it tells you and can become your best friend during the heat of combat. With such features as indepth enemy information (including location damage etc), a map with enemy and friendly locations, your speed and more, you can see why it becomes so important. Luckily all of these features are explained thoroughly in training mode, otherwise not using them to their full potential will limit your ability for sure.
One minor gripe I have with ingame action is the enemy AI. Throughout most of the gameplay experience it was sharp, realistic and challenging, however in closer combat situations the computer controlled enemies become much easier and dumber. In a coliseum match, where multiple mechs are pitted against each other in a coliseum, all you really have to do is walk into the back of an enemy mech at quarter speed and he will stand there totally clueless as you grind away at him firing your weapons. As soon as you move away he tries to fight back, but they can't seem to handle methods of close combat. This can be avoided by the player, simply don't do it, however it is present and sometimes unavoidable.
In a graphical sense Mercenaries doesn't really impress to the level I was expecting, but that doesn't mean the graphics aren't good. Perhaps it strikes me as odd that a development team has finally decided that solid gameplay is more important than overly spectacular graphics as opposed to so many other games out there, which I personally think gives Mercenaries the same classic feel found in every Mechwarrior game. You'll probably disagree with me about the graphics if you like pretty lasers though, because there is no shortage of fluorescent lighten death rays, which can actually look quite stunning in a massive coliseum match where enemies are aplenty.
Going into a game like this you are naturally going to spend a fair amount of time mastering the control system. With the ability to move your mech in almost any way possible it makes learning the controls a little difficult at start, however the tutorials will help you get through this in no time. I usually use a gamepad for my PC gaming, however the gamepads around here are no where near adequate for use in a game like this with so many buttons, so I personally prefer to stick with the keyboard and mouse just like you would in a first person shooter. Once you have the basic button commands under your grasp, it is apparent that the control system in Mercenaries is very well designed.
Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries impresses on so many levels. Although there is always room for improvement, and it isn't exactly a totally new experience, it is by far the most comprehensive and immersible version of the series to date, making it a must buy for any fan of the series. Even if you haven't played the series before, the handy training section will get you started in no time making Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries really an enjoyable title for all.