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SummaryChange in combat tempo and mechlab hard to adjust, but otherwise a fine game
The GoodThe detail graphics, as there's a lot of things moving about you. Walk through a forest and scare up a flock of birds. Walk through a town or a base and see people running about (sorry, you can't squish them or shoot them). You get a lot more camo paint jobs. The towns and terrain elevation details are a lot more significant, as you can stand on top of a hill and snipe at other mechs. The LRM salvo now looks absolutely gorgeous as they arch into the sky in white contrails and rain down upon your enemies... Good variety of terrain (coastal, swamp, moon, urban, desert, and more). Good variety of enemies (there's a mission where you need to engage two naval ships!) Some new equipment available (like laser anti-missile system, ECM, flare launcher and light intensifier), ability to choose day or night missions (in most cases)
The BadThe damage to the mechs are much simplified, as the parts are just "charred". (compared to MW3's broken bits trailing sparks). The combat tempo is faster, and mechs seem to be more resistant to damage or the weapons are weaker. The new mechlab is MUCH more restrictive on what you can or cannot put on a mech compared to previous Mechlabs in MW2 or MW3, as the mechs now have different types of hardpoints for different types of weapons (hints of Starsige!), lousy mission briefings as they don't tell you about the mission itself.
The Bottom LineMW4 is a step in a different direction for the Mechwarrior series. The game came on two CDs. The install is either compact (at 450 megs) or full (1.1 gig). The game also installed DX8, which is required.
The backstory is improved, as the intro movie, a combination of CGI and live action / blue screen, sets up the struggle quite well.
The initial control scheme is quite strange, as they use three of the buttons to control the 3 fire groups, but you COULD remap the keys to what you like (strangely, there's no way to simply LOAD another control config or to save your config).
You get a lot of "video-mail" as part of your mission briefing, which is surprisingly UNDETAILED, with NO discussion of the nav points what's at each location, etc., at least when compared to MW3.
Once you got into the game, the in-game engine is used to render most of the cut-scenes. The graphics are good, as the weapons effects are a bit over-the-top, but looks good. The PPC weapons effect, however, looks quite bad, and the gauss rifle now has the standard "Eraser/Quake" backtrail. The mechs are quite nicely detailed, and they now walk with a bit more "bounce" than before. However, the graphics seem to be designed for 1024x768, as they look fuzzy at lower resolutions.
The combat tempo, however, is very different from the previous games. It used to be that an assault mech can destroy a scout mech in one or two salvoes. Not any more! Even a small mech like Cougar takes a dozen PPC bolts to destroy. While this look good, I'm NOT certain it a step in the right direction.
There is ONE branch in the campaign tree (yep, just one). I'm not going to spoil the surprise, but it's a big decision, as you must choose between winning, and the cost of winning.
There's no bugs that I've noticed. The game did not crash even once from all the hours of play of finishing the entire campaign (on easy mode), which is good. However, in the "End Game" final mission, the game resolution did NOT take into account the possibility of "mutual annihilation", thus rather "duh". I call that a design error, rather than a bug. Also, the gauss rifle appears to be a bit too powerful, as a few shots of those will take out any mech.
Overall, MW4 is a good intro to the Mechwarrior universe, but it's a big change from the previous MW's, and a lot of veterans will be yelling. I'm not certain those changes are good, but I can understand them. If you like your MW the old fashioned way, then MW4 may not be for you.