A game review by Bobulous.
MechWarrior 3, by Microprose, is all about being in building-high, steel combat-machines that have legs and arms shimmering with lethal assortments of weapons. The aim is to knock seven shades of shit out of your opponent before he can successfully show you the same level of affection.
I bought MechWarrior 3 from Electronics Boutique at the Victoria Place shopping area (Victoria Station, London) for £34.99.
As with all games these days, I had no problem installing the game. Thanks, Microsoft. (Never thought I'd say that.)
This is one of those games that make you ultimately responsible for an entire military campaign and, guess what, if you fail the fate of humanity is in deep brown. So the campaign mode of play is presented to you as a series of missions that follow a storyline, each mission pretending not to be independent of the last. Game format aside you've basically got twenty campaign missions and an instant action mode that lets you set up a servo-assisted punch-up with whatever enemy 'Mechs you reckon you can handle.
The campaign mode is good enough that I haven't tried instant action mode yet. I selected the hardest difficulty level ('cause I'm just that good) and still found the first half of the game to be easy. So easy you practically walk through each level without a trouble in the world. In fact, for the first half of the game I didn't have to do a single mission more than once. Then Operation 3 arrives and by mission four you're staring at enemy 'Mechs that have some serious problem with your hard-arsed attitude. And they'll knock that slightly bored smile off your face. Come Op 3 Mission 4 you'll take a serious kicking from almost every 'Mech because they've all suddenly been armed with that damned LB-X autocannon. From then on the game becomes more challenging. Actually, from then on you'll spend a great deal of time retreating for dear life.
The weapons available are an impressive and satisfying assortment, though nothing seems to have changed since MechWarrior 2. All the old favourites are there: a dozen flavours of laser, particle-projection cannons, missile launchers of various ranges and strengths, and the fearsome autocannon family. But forget all that for a moment; if it's sheer power you're after, make sure you're number one choice is the machine gun. Not. Why the Hell they included this weapon I don't know: it can't even kill road vehicles unless you've got a couple of hours to spare. Crap weaponry ignored, the selection is mouth-watering (well, if that sort of thing excites you).
Some people sneer at MechWarrior because they see it as DooM in a big robot. True it's a 3D game and true you do occasionally have to engage in a tiny, weensy bit of mass-destruction, but DooM it ain't. You don't just pick up conveniently placed weapons and have a health-bar that goes down if you get hit in the face with a shotgun, up if you walk over a box of Elastoplast. This game is more like a flight sim on the ground (without being a bastard to control) with its multiple options. When you kill enemy 'Mechs in better chassis than your own, you can use that 'Mech chassis for your next mission. Once you've chosen the chassis that matches your steel-thirsty tastes, you then have to choose carefully which weapons you'll load onto the 'Mech; what quantity and type of armour; how many heat-sinks; what equipment; and so on. It's all a balance between mass and critical spaces (expansion slots) and each 'Mech chassis has a different limit on each.
Once you've configured your 'Mech to suit the mission you're embarking upon, you then have to manage your core heat-level. You see, annoying as physics is, firing lasers and guns and missiles and stomping around at full throttle all generate heat. And precision equipment doesn't like heat. In fact, if your core temperature rises to high you'll simply explode as the engine goes critical. So you don't want this to happen. This means you can't simply fire PPC after PPC and expect to get away with it. You have to wait until the heat generated by a burst of weapon-fire dissipates and you're safe to fire again. This isn't as annoying as it sounds, and it stops anyone from launching almighty mega-blast after mega-blast to the ultimate destruction of whoever's in the way. Of course, if mega-blasts are your thing, you can cram as many heat-sinks onto your 'Mech as you can and laugh maniacally as you cool off quickly enough to volley missile and plasma balls at the poor bastards on your hit-list.
Getting a bit lonely out there on the dusty plains, killing all the people you could be making friends with? Well, don't worry because as you progress through campaign mode you pick up team mates who are part of the military force you landed with. By the end of the game you've got three lancemates in 'Mechs of their own, helping you fight the good fight. With four 'Mechs under your leadership, surely you can't fail... but somehow you do. The computer team-mates suffer from that unfortunate computer-player affliction known as: being thick as shit. They bang into each other, ignore the enemy until it's painfully late, and generally arse about while you do all the real work. They even have the cheek to disobey your orders half the time. Of course, if you're feeling sadistic, or chicken, you can select an fearsome enemy and tell one of your lancemates to go kill it. If you're lucky, the lancemate won't die trying and you'll be glad you've got the company. But usually you just end up thinking: what a dumb-arse. The extra characters help the storyline, though, and add to that feeling of being part of a commando squad rather than a bored dude sitting at a computer fiddling his joystick.
Sadly the enemy aren't always as cunning as foxes. Cunning as Baldrick, sometimes. This is another game to join the list of games whose programmers seem to have left out the little, tiny bit of code that says: "I'm an enemy unit; I'm under attack; therefore I should return fire." Watch in amazement as distant enemy 'Mechs sit on a hill being lasered to death without a care in the world. MechWarrior 3 isn't the only game guilty of this; lots of recent games should be ashamed (Half-Life included) for the same flaw.
Apart from the first half of the game being very easy, MechWarrior 3 is a great piece of battle gaming.
The graphics are superb, the sound would have been superb if my recurrent soundcard problem wasn't playing up, and the gameplay is addictive and satisfying. The game presentation is very good as well, with a beginning video and end video and lots of multimedia involved in serving you most missions.
People who liked MechWarrior 2 because it was so bloody difficult might complete this in a half-week and complain that it was too easy. But otherwise it is a great way to entertain yourself.
Here are a few general tips for people who don't like to learn the hard way. (Try the hard way first. It's always more fun.)