By Jordan Hall (ApocaRUFF)
MechWarrior Online is a Mech-based MMO that has just left Open Beta and is now fully released. It's been developed by Piranha Games using the CryENGINE 3 and is published by Infinite Game Publishing. The game offers a wide variety of gameplay modes, from team death match, to capture-the-point, and a map domination campaign between the different factions in the MechWarrior/BattleTech universe. Utilizing the capabilities of the CryENGINE, Piranha has managed to create an impressive Mech Experience in a deeply loved franchise.
MechWarrior Online has just the kind of customization you would expect in a Mech MMO. You can customize your individual mechs with components bought with c-bills that you've gained through battle. You're also able to choose a faction, or join a player-run Merc Corp and fight for the highest bidder. Heck, you can even put some dash ornaments in your cockpit to give it a personal touch. But, lets be honest, the only thing a true mech fan will care about is the ability to customize the components, which is something MechWarrior Online offers and does quite well.
Pretty stunning. By far one of the best looking mech games ever made, surpassed only by Hawken as far as I am aware. At full quality, everything looks superb, at least outside of the cockpit. Some of the stuff in the cockpit has high quality textures, but there is one thing that totally ruined the cockpit immersion for me every time I saw it – the jumpsuit your 'pilot' wears is some of the most horrible, pixelated clothing I've seen in a long time. Excluding the horrible jump suit (that I hope will be improved SOON), I completely loved the level of detail put into MechWarrior Online.
Controlling a mech can be hard. There are a lot of variables you need to pay attention to, such as someone trying to shoot you with lasers. Fortunately, Piranha seems to be doing their best to make it as easy as possible. WASD along with mouse will be used for your movement and aiming. By default, movement is done in a traditional FPS/TPS fashion, where you need to hold W to keep going forward. However, this is not the way a mech was meant to be piloted, and it is often suggested that you turn off this feature in favor of the “increment” system where you can set your speed and not have to worry about holding down W to maintain it.
One thing that a lot of people who haven't played a MechWarrior game in the past will have trouble getting used to is the difference between torso rotation and leg rotation. Where your torso is aimed won’t always be where your legs are facing. If you've played games like World of Tanks, you'll be more used to this concept. Other than that, the only thing you will probably have a lot of difficulty with is weapon grouping, where you set weapons up in groups so you don't immediately cause a meltdown when you fire them all at once. Heat management is important and setting up efficient groupings of weapons for individual fire can help a great deal – I suggest you get a mouse with more than two buttons.
A majority of the MechWarrior Online community are MechWarrior enthusiast who have been playing these games since the beginning. They love mechs and have spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours with them in one form or another. Luckily, a lot of them are extremely friendly and helpful, which means you've got access to all their knowledge to help you learn the game. I was completely surprised at how great and friendly this community was and I am happy I got to be a part of it. Out of all the matches I played, I've only run into a handful of bad apples and they were quickly put down by the others in the match and we all got a laugh from it.
Epic mech versus mech action. That's what MechWarrior Online is all about, and that's what it delivers. I'm borderline fanboying at this point, but the game (at least in concept) deserves it. I'll be one of those that has to admit that Piranha has had a couple of screw ups, and features aren't coming out as fast as people (such as myself) would like. However, the fact that you get to play in the MechWarrior universe with thousands of other people (in arena-type matches, mind you), battling it out in massive robots that contain immense destructive power is fantastic.
Currently there are two types of matches, one where each team has a base and the goal is to capture the enemy base while protecting your own or destroying all enemies. The other is a capture the point type game where there are multiple bases around the map and the goal is to hold them and accumulate points to win the match. There are eight or so maps, some with alternatives such as night time or snowy, to play these matches on. The end goal is to create a map conquest campaign where you play these matches for a chance to take control of territory for whatever faction you're a part of, or whichever faction has hired you or your merc corp to fight for them. That is the feature I'm looking most forward to.
As I mentioned in the pro's, it's possible to disable or destroy individual parts of a mech. For example, you can destroy an enemy mech’s leg and slow them down immensely, possibly blowing up some ammo in the process as it's a popular place to store ammo on some mechs. If you destroy a part of a mech, whatever other components are on that part of the mech are also gone, be it weapons, ammo, heatsinks or jumpjets. This is great as it makes combat a lot more tactical and intense, while you try to destroy a specific part of the enemy to take them out as quickly as possible, while at the same time you're doing your best to reduce your damage. While being shot at, you might try twitching your torso in different directions to spread out the damage instead of having it all concentrated in one spot, or maybe you want it to be concentrated in one area that has thicker armor than other parts of your mech.
Nothing like blowing the arm off of a mech that is double your size, crippling his damage out-put.
MechWarrior Online has almost everything I've been looking for in a mech game. Ever since I played ChromeHounds back on the original xbox I've been searching for a similar game. The epic battles that can be found in MWO fit the bill almost perfectly. Things are looking up in terms of development, too. If you need a new mech game and Hawken isn't doing it for you, be sure to check this out.
Features: 3/5 – What's there is fun, but more can be done.
Customization: 5/5 – They didn't skimp on giving us customization options and it's great.
Graphics: 4/5 – Simply stunning, though there are a couple of places that need improvement.
Controls: 5/5 – Perfect and exactly what I expect from previous experiences with MW games.
Community: 5/5 – A great community that is quite mature.
Overall: 4/5 – Piranha pulled off a lot with MWO, and it's been a very fun experience.