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Old-style destruction- the return of MechWarrior

There was a series of games I played many years ago. In these games, I was injected into a world where giant robotic machines cut lumbering, awe-inspiring paths of destruction through cities and each other. That was the universe of BattleTech and the MechWarrior game series, and it was good.

Unfortunately, the MechWarrior series came to an end some years ago- the last “real” MechWarrior game was MechWarrior 4, which came out in the 2002 timeframe. The good news: a new MechWarrior game is coming sometime in the next couple of years. And if the video (see below) is any indication, the makers of this “reboot” understand at least a little about what made MechWarrior fun.

Here’s the current demo video:

The MechWarrior “reboot” (no real title yet, just a working name) seems, again based on this brief video, to have captured a couple of the key differences between a Mech and some of the wannabes that have appeared in the last few years. When I say “wannabe”, I’m thinking specifically of games like Armored Core 4 and Chromehounds, wherein giant robotic machines jump around like squirrels hopped up on crack. To me, a sixty ton, fifty foot tall robotic tank shouldn’t jump around like a freaked out ninja: sure, they can get up a good head of speed, but there should be some overarching sense of “weight”, to which the term “ponderous” or “monolithic” should apply.

To put it another way, fighting with a Mech should feel more like a tank battle and less like Street Fighter. The environment should look like a real world, not something ripped out of Tron. Buildings and structures should be both cover and potential targets. Battles should include things like defending convoys of tanks and trucks, or protecting an entire city or military base. And there should be more of a sense of strategy, of drawing your opponent out or flanking them.

The minute I observe “bunny hopping” or the like being an appropriate combat strategy, I have to think that the game has missed the point of what it means to be a Mech. And what it means is not first person shooter characters dressed up in mechanical suits, but a completely different kind of combat game. A game I really used to like: tanks with attitude.

I’m optimistic that I’ll get what I’m hoping for and what I’ve missed these past half dozen years or so when Piranha Games releases MechWarrior or whatever they end up calling it. At this point, a publisher still hasn’t been found, but it is worth noting that the developer (Piranha) is partnered with one of the original creators of the Battletech game system, which suggests some degree of understanding of the milieu. No guarantees, of course, but this single video bodes well.

2 comments to Old-style destruction- the return of MechWarrior

  • I hope they come out with that and it conveys the proper sense of momentum as well. Like you I think Mechs should be like tanks, or even battleships, where most of the time is spent maneuvering before forces are engaged, and then it’s a slugging match.

    ( In fact I wouldn’t mind a good old fashioned fleet battle game, but all the “serious gamers” that live by fast reflexes and complex keyboard shortcuts wouldn’t like anything that leveled the playing field for us dexterity challenged 😉 )

    What I think could be an interesting game would be something that combined proper mechs with small unit combat ala Battlefield 2. As long as the ‘infantry’ could with great difficulty of course, take out a mech it could be fun.

    Sure, the guys playing infantry will die a lot, but I’m used to that already 😀

  • I like the stately speed of the old MechWarrior games. That doesn’t mean you can’t go “toe to toe” or run around and jump, but it reduces a first person shooter approach to a barely viable option.

    An example of what I mean by “stately”: if you fire a missile at a foe, they have enough time to possibly use those jets/rockets in their legs, or maybe fire some chaff. If you stand there and fire your weapons non-stop, you’ll overheat and shut down, turning you into a sitting duck for several seconds. You can use that as a strategy in itself: pretend to shut down and lure a faster moving foe in closer, then power up and dump all your weapons on them at once. I recall hiding in valleys and shutting down to make my mech harder to find, then popping up unexpectedly when my opponent least expected it. And you can build your mech specifically to support your particular strategy.

    The fact that there *can* be strategy, while still having the boom-bash-bang action, is what made MechWarrior fun for me back in the day. It seems to me that there aren’t many games of this kind any more. The efforts of game makers to hone their products down to an essential core, all action, or all strategy, seems to have worked against my preferences.

    I suspect this game, assuming it becomes a reality, is at least a couple of years in the future. But it would be nice to see it happen, with enough funding to make it good. Your thoughts about an infantry versus Mech game are interesting: give the infantry guys some missile launchers, or tanks or something, and it could be fun to try out.

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