MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
Way back in 1984, Fasa Corporation released a board game called Battledroids. It was a turn-based futuristic war game in which players controlled giant robot-type killing machines called BattleMechs which were armed with awesome 31st century weaponry. It was similar to the famous Dungeons and Dragons board game that caught the imagination of train spotters everywhere who wanted to bring some excitement into their life by pretending to be Tolkien-type wizards and demons. The BattkTech phenomenon has come a long way since then. It started life as a small board game and has now developed into a major money-spinning industry. The Americans have taken the "if it has a tiny modicum of success, milk it dry" approach, and there are now multiple variations on the board game: a cartoon series and movie in the pipeline, published novels based on the BattleTech world to date and a line of BattleTech miniatures (sort of "airfix" BattleMechs which you put together yourself and paint with threatening colours afterwards). If you're really serious about it you can even "live" the experience yourself to some extent by going to one of the 25 Virtual World centres opening world-wide. These centres give you the chance to don your vr helmet and climb into the cockpit of a BattleMech and shoot it out for real (well, nearly real). Not surprisingly, all this activity has norescaped the attention of the pc game world. There has already been three pc games released based on the BattleTech universe (BattleTech 1 and 2 and MechWarrior). and Activision are about to release the fourth in the series. MechWarrior 2: The Cans. We took a look at the first working version of the game and it looks set to take the pc games world by storm. Eye-popping graphics, amazing sound effects, a superb pulsating sound track and. of course, wonderfully gratuitous bouts of wanton destruction are the hallmarks of Activision's new release. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the BattleTech world, here's the story so far.
Death or dishonour
In the 31st century. Earth and hundreds of other planets make up a part of known space called the Inner Sphere. The Sphere is ruled by competing Houses who. after centuries of fighting among themselves, are faced with a new threat in the form of the Clans. The six Clans are made up of exiled soldiers from various planets who have come back to the Inner Sphere to take it over. Having consistently defeated the Houses in battle, the Clans now control a large part of the Sphere and have set their sights on getting the rest. The Houses and Clans have now declared a 15 year truce, and most of the Houses are using the period to get themselves ready for the war that will undoubtedly erupt at the end of the truce. Bound by honour not to fight with the Houses, the six Clans start to fight among themselves. This is where you come in. You start the game as a young MechWarrior for one of the Clans. Your goal is to rise up through the ranks of the Clan and become the ultimate MechWarr-ior. To achieve this, you must consistently prove yourself in battle, but before you embark on a career with one of the Clans, it's wise to familiarise yourself with the different 'Mechs and hone your battle skills with the Instant Action option.
Itial and error
When you enter the Instant Action screen, you can select the BattleMech you want to use for the fight, decide how many 'Mechs will be on your side and how many opponents you will face. You can customise all aspects of the battle to get a feel for what lies ahead of you in Career mode. You can decide what the weather conditions will be, what planet you'll be fighting on, and even the gravity of the planet itself. The range of user-definable options to choose from on the Instant Action menu is so comprehensive that, by the time you've gone through a few battles and got a feel for the action, you should be well prepared to take the plunge and go for the ultimate challenge. The cockpits for the BattleMechs are pleasingly uncomplicated and uncluttered, so it's easy for novices to get going straight away. As is the case with most simulations these days, the number the keyboard control your speed. You move your 'Mech left or right using the cursor keys or joystick, wait until an opponent comes into your sights and then blast the hell out of him, simple as that. Well, it would be if it wasn't for the unfortunate fact that the enemy have similar un-neighbourly feelings towards you. On-screen arrows point you in the direction of your enemies, but if you don't find them quickly you'll be history in a flash. Defeating your foes is not just a case of blasting away at them until they blow up, either. BattleMechs have a tendency to overheat if you use your weapons too much or run too fast, and when that happens, your 'Mech becomes immobilised. If you get into this situation, you may as well be standing on the battlefield with a big white flag waving to your enemies and inviting them to come and blow you into tiny little pieces. The best strategy is to move at a leisurely pace and only use your energy-consuming weapons if you know they'll hit their target. All the different 'Mechs have their own strengths and weaknesses, so if you really get to know your 'Mechs, you'll be in a good position to decide which strategy to use against different opponents.
View to a kill
There are multiple camera angles from which you can view the action, including independent and tracking views, so you'll be able to keep track of your enemies at all times. The tracking view is particularly impressive and shows off your BattleMech in all its wonderful glory. The whole game has a very atmospheric feel and the view perspective and 'Mech animation is so convincing, it makes you feel as though , you really are in control of a giant, 100 ton mass of deadly BattleMech. For that extra bit of realism, you can play against human opponents via modem or serial link. You can either play against your friends, or join forces with them and fight for the same Clan. If you perform quite well for a particular Clan, you will receive medals and promotions. If you perform exception-ally well, you may even have your genes added to the Clans gene pool to be passed on to future warriors. MechWarrior 2's excellent combination of strategic and action game elements puts it streets ahead of most pc simulations and if you like the game, the story doesn't end here. Activision is planning to release a series of add-on disks. The first one should be released soon after the game itself, and will feature 17 new BattleMech designs. Additionally, Activision is considering a sequel, which will give you the chance to take part in the invasion of the Inner Sphere. MechWarrior 2 will be in the shops in October, and if the potential inherent in this early version is realised, simulation fans are in for a superior game experience.
The Changing Face of BattleTech
MechWarrior 2 is the fourth in the BattleTech PC game series and shows a significant improvement over the early games. It doesn't have the more traditional RPG elements seen in the first two, but it has better arcade action and more depth of game play. Also, as you can see from the screen shots, it's light years ahead of the others in terms of graphics. If you want to take a look at the early games, you can now buy all three in a compilation which Activision has released as part of its Powerhits range. This is an overview on how the game has developed since the early days.
BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception
The first BattleTech game was a conventional RPG effort, with a top-down view of the playing area. Players could travel to 4 million locations and form their own battle strategy. It has no sound support and the graphics are a bit basic but it's still reasonably playable, despite its age.
BattleTech: The Crescent Hawk's Revenge
Yep, you guessed it, it's the sequel. BattleTech 2 offers 27 scenarios on five planets. You can also choose from more than 55 different kinds of 'Mech. Sound support and better graphics were incorporated into this sequel and it has a very atmospheric feel to it It's similar in style to the first one, but looks and plays better.
This was the first BattleTech game to feature 30 graphics and give you a first-person perspective viewpoint from the cockpit of your BattleMechs. It looks a bit long in the tooth now compared to modern 30 sims, but it was considered sophisticated when it was released. It's more action orientated than the first two and has a wider variety of terrains.
MechWarrior 2: The Clans
MechWarrior 2 offers the same cockpit perspective as it's predecessor, but demonstrates major improvements in every department. It has more depth of game play, gives you the opportunity to design the BattleMech of your dreams, and the stunning graphics are matched by the equally impressive sound effects. If you liked the first MechWarrior game, you'll soil your undergarments over this one.
The year is 3058. the clans have suffered a dishonourable defeat against the combined forces of the Inner Sphere during the battle of Tukayyid, and reluctantly agree to... oh. for God's sake, I can't go on with this bollocks. The Inner Sphere? The battle of Tukayyid? What the Sam Holy Hill is this, some kind of gosh-darned rpg or something?
Mungo not like words
Unfortunately, there's rather a lot of that sort of thing throughout this game. In fact, for an action game, there are far too many words with peculiarly-placed consonants and multiple Y's -in fact, there are more pages of eye-scuppering text than the average episode of See Hear.
This is what happens when you get a computer version of a board game. Games that are played on multicoloured cardboard, by people wearing multi-coloured pullies and smiling with multi-coloured teeth, always come with mounds of event-specific charts and piles of weapons stat sheets so high that they'd dwarf the real-life Mechs they purport to control. While this is fine for people who enjoy sifting through the equivalent of the European stat-mountain. The kind of people who, after winning a little board-based battle, are eager to find out that the disheartened survivors of the onslaught have given up being Mech pilots to seek a career in alternative medicine - which is what you get in the computer game after every bloody scrap. But me not like um words. Me not care what happen to um survivors of um platoon me wipe out. Me not give um flying toss. That why me kill um in um first place.
The bare facts
All you really need to know is that there are two mobs of Mech Warrior jocks, neither of whom have a particularly attractive name or logo. And they're each fighting the other lot to show that they're the best. There are two and a half ways to play: one-off missions, the campaign mode, or the (demo) network game. (The full version will be out in a future release, it says here.)
History is bunk
If you've seen any of the various games to date that involve the use of Giant Metal Walking Machines Of Death -gmwmods (to get technical for a moment), you'll know the general idea. You clomp about in your gmwmod, laughing maniacally and shouting in a scary, high-pitched voice about how big you are, firing missiles and megacannons at other gmwmods, mowing down school children and stamping on chinchillas, until an opposing gmwmod gets annoyed enough to blow your head off. Then you start all over again, secure in the knowledge that nobody knows about your private tendencies towards megalomania. If, like this one, they're done well, they're invariably popular because they combine elements of tank games, flight sims and tactical war games, they can be played without appearing to be a specky propellor head, and as long as you don't take them too seriously, they're a laugh.
Gentlemen, choose your weapons
The difference between this and the only other halfway decent Mech-game, Metaltech: Earthsiege, is that you don't have to start the campaign mode with a poxy little mech that makes Robbie from Lost In Space look frighteningly hard. You're limited to a certain extent, in that you can only have a machine that weighs up to 60 tons, including all its weaponry, but that's something you can live with because you still get a decent machine out of it. No doubt they all vary slightly in their "special capabilities", but the one thing they have in common is the essential Hard Name: Hellbringer, Warhammer, Mad Dog, etc. Oh, for something different in the naming department of games like this. Where's the Mechaflorist? Or the Flan Bringer?
Each Mech has a number of different basic setups with different permutations of weapons which, depending on your outlook and intelligence, is either endlessly fascinating, too time-consuming to worry about, or confusing. You can also start from scratch, take a basic Mech frame and build and save your own design. If you're a twat.
The Hills Have Size
Missions take place in a variety of locations, from inner city landscapes to desert wastes. And realistically, there are differing light and weather conditions which affect visibility and your Mech's performance. Desert missions make you more prone to overheating, and night can fall during a mission, or dawn break, or whatever.
The ground is still largely flat and uninspiring graphically, and the cities look more like a flat place with some very large boxes dotted about, but some of the locations have hills. Sometimes, and especially when using the external view, you remain unconvinced that the Mech is actually walking on the hill itself — they seem to hover above it but at least they've tried, unlike in Earthsiege.
The Mechs clank about in a convincing manner, though, lurching from side to side with each step, and tilting as you move the turret independently of the main body. There are any number of ways to control the things, ranging from all-keyboard (this is easier than it sounds) to multiple joysticks, weapon control systems, and even rudder pedals.
There are a host of different views, including a satellite view (which doesn't zoom out far enough for my liking) and wire-frame and low-light visual aids. Most of the views can be zoomed in and out. There are also other aids available, such as target-locking, nearest target searching and an autopilot; unfortunately these aids are "dishonourable", and so you won't get as many bonus points for completing a mission if you use them. In fact, these people seem to place so much store by what's honourable and dishonourable, that you can't help wondering why they don't just get out of the machines and fight with swords, the ponces.
The battles progress quickly, to the point that you might have trouble keeping a bead on some of the faster-moving enemies. It's a shame in this respect that the turret can't rotate through 360° - eventually you have to turn the main body as well. And the Mechs don't crumple to the ground when you shoot their legs off, as they should do. Usually they carry on walking on one leg, which shows admirable determination and balance, but is still disconcerting. Another disappointment is the sound of some of the weapons -after all, where's the satisfaction in firing the mother of all cannons at someone if it sounds like a shrew with an upset stomach? Lastly, there's a tendency for some smaller objects to just pop up in front of you, rather than scaling properly. But these are minor niggles, and don't detract from the game too much. It's good, hard-hitting (soft-sounding) fun, with plenty of missions and a good difficulty curve.
It's traditional in games like this to allow "chain firing", where you hold down the trigger and unleash a huge variety of death-dealing weaponry in one go. Unfortunately, there's also a tendency to have your weapon selector move on to the next weapon as soon as you stop firing, even when you're firing normally. This is a pain in the arse: you carefully select a laser cannon to shoot a Mech, or an ice-cream van or something, because you're saving your last missiles for a harder target down the road. Unfortunately, you pause slightly when firing, the selector moves on, and there go your irreplaceable missiles, just to shoot a poxy ice-cream van. Bad game. Bad game. Sit. Stay. No tea for you.
Download MechWarrior 2: 31st Century Combat
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode