MechWarrior 4: Vengeance begins with a strong, enjoyable cinematic introduction that stirs up excitement, a rare commodity when compared to the impatient norm for the genre. Not only does the intro set the plot, but it also features nice direction and action sequences. Does the game deliver on this promising start? The short answer is yes.
Most of the terrain is stunning. One mission in particular involves patrolling a beautiful mountainous area, replete with realistic trees, hills, and lakes nestled between the peaks where enemies can be blown up. Chasing after and firing at opponents from hilltops adds a welcome level of complexity, and, while this is the best example, it's not the only one. The rest of the environments are similarly convincing. In-game graphics are incredibly detailed, with enemies flashing visible weapons and defining characteristics that make them recognizable on sight.
A notable aspect of gameplay is the level of customization offered for weapons. Essentially, each Mech has a maximum available tonnage, which must be allocated to weapons, armor, and peripheral items like jump jets, anti-missile systems, and lights. You can either accept the initial configuration, which is usually good, or tweak it anyway you desire.
In combat, MechWarrior 4: Vengeance provides excellent checks and balances. Generally, firepower and increased armor is gained at the expense of speed and mobility. There's a real difference between short and long-range fighting, and you must choose carefully which type is best for any situation. Strategy actually plays a central role here, as storming blindly through a level with guns blazing will work some of the time, but a little planning can go a long way. Missions usually require some amount of finesse.
Despite the game's strong aspects, one major flaw centers on the AI that controls your lance mates. The orders you give these apparent half-wits have no discernible effect beyond the clipped, purposeful responses the pilots give. Inane replies like "Roger!" or "I'm on my way!" don't in any way correlate to the action the person is about to take. Indeed, it's not unusual to find that instead of running ahead to a specified point as he was explicitly asked to do, he'll head off inexplicably to some remote corner of the map, or just spin in place. The mental anguish this inflicts probably puts Microsoft in a state of non-compliance with the Geneva Convention.
Additionally, your lance-mates are hopeless at navigating in close quarters, like city environments, and their aim can be terrible. At times they seem afraid to get their 'mechs up to full speed. These shortcomings are especially problematic since the enemies are generally much smarter and more numerous.
The trouble stems from the attempt by the designers to make combat somewhat realistic, at least in terms of the odds. Unlike a FPS, you're not a one-person army slaughtering hundreds of opponents, but are supposed to be part of a team. The team may be involved in pitched battles, but won't be expected to perform superhuman feats of endurance, and you really need your comrades in arms. Unfortunately, the good guys need to function as a credible team, which rarely happens in MechWarrior 4.
Fortunately, though, most of the time when the missions take place in an open area where your lance mates can navigate without problems, the sense of excitement never really flags, making the time investment definitely worth the effort.
Graphics: High level of detail of 'Mechs and environments.
Sound: Satisfying booms that leave no doubt that someone has just blown up. Somewhat inane dialogue at times.
Enjoyment: Mission objectives are varied, gameplay can be exciting, and combat is quite detailed, though half-witted lance mates often cause problems.
Replay Value: The numbers tell the story: 30 missions, 15 campaign maps, 21 customizable 'Mechs, including new models. Coupled with the dramatic flow of the story, replay a good possibility.
People who downloaded MechWarrior 4: Vengeance have also downloaded:
MechWarrior 3, Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, MechWarrior 2 (Limited Edition), MechWarrior 2: Mercenaries, MechCommander 2, Mechwarrior, MechCommander Gold, Star Trek: Starfleet Command 3
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