04/07/2021

๐Ÿค– MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries | Xbox Series X | Review | 7.5/10 | "Lock & Load" ๐Ÿค– @PiranhaGames #IndieGames #GameDev

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My history with mech games seemingly peaked in 1996 with Earthsiege 2. Prior to that, the only ‘big robot’ games I’d played were things like Cyborg Justice and Mazin Saga, I didn’t realise that there was an element of the genre that embraced the slower, weightier and more strategic element of piloting a skyscraper-sized behemoth.

Upon playing Earthsiege 2, I vividly remember thinking that it was the absolute zenith of ‘lifelike’ tactical combat and, even though it was a genre that was not on my radar at all, I was completely hooked and played through the entire campaign multiple times, something I rarely do (even now!).

I also remember playing the original MechWarrior on the SNES and finding it a pale imitation of the shining diamond that was Earthsiege 2, it seemed more arcadey, slick and, to be honest…I was never a fan of Mode 7.

Admittedly, in the quarter of a century since, I’ve rarely returned to the genre and when I have, nothing has captured my imagination in the way that Earthsiege 2 did *wipes away a single tear*.

When I received Mechwarrior 5 for review, however, I was completely in the zone. I’d just received the amazing EPOS H3 headset and the thought of listening to the whirr of a metallic torso, the thud of hydraulic legs and the pumping boom of a long-range cannon through tasty headphones had me bicycling my legs in anticipation.

Being someone that generally eschews online multiplayer, I was solely focused on the single-player campaign and - after watching the slightly odd, 30fps intro video, I wasn’t sure how this was going to play out.

You play as Commander Mason, the young leader of a mercenary band who has just seen his father die, sacrificing himself to save your life…and that’s pretty much all the narrative you get/need as you travel the galaxy, getting your Merry band of mercs souped-up with guns, upgrades and paint jobs as you take on various contracts from multiple factions throughout the system.

I was initially a bit overwhelmed when I got into the game, the tutorials keep coming and every button on the pad has at least one use, with the d-pad seemingly taking on the requirements of an entire PC keyboard and Z-board overlay. That said, after a handful of missions, I really did click with everything.

I got hips deep into trading and fitting weaponry – with one eye on the heat sink, natch – and every time I crested a hilltop to scan the horizon and zoom to a distant enemy before launching a load of mortars and quickly blasting a chopper out of the sky before reloading, I was THERE.

There are negatives. Missions and stages do feel quite lifeless, with only scattered buildings and tanks, towers and mechs roaming and whilst it was mildly disappointing in terms of immersion, I wasn’t here for a fully realised, open-world RPG …I was here to get hips deep into the rhythmic CLUNK-CLUNK of my footsteps, get into epic laser battles and build up my posse of merry mechs as we salvaged more and more parts in a bid to eventually avenge my father, whoever he was. Oh, and listen to Elias Toufexis whenever possible.

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries is a flawed game in the slightly shaky frame rate, dodgy AI, cheesy dialogue, repetitive missions and sparse levels but the sheer fun factor of building up your co-pilots, jazzing up the weaponry and upgrades then getting into a life or death, WEIGHTY battle really worked for me.

The further I got into the game and the discovery of each new class of mech had me itching to dive into the next mission and once again get to the heart of the game -  the thrill of your mech borderline shutting down due to the flashing red damage that peppers your HUD as your squad gathers round to take out an armoured mech that snuck past your long-range weaponry, all the while taking fire from above and hoping that you can make it to the escape ship with one arm and a dodgy leg…it feels so good from moment-to-moment with satisfyingly cumbersome controls and I can only assume that it’s also a great experience online with friends (I’m a solo pilot, baby).

Right, I’m off to earn some C-Bills.

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