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reviewed by Ray "Falcon" Lee
P2 300 or equivalent+
Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000
650MB Disk space for typical install, + 125MB for swap file in game
8x+ CD ROM Drive
8MB+ 3D Accelerated card, supporting D3D
Microsoft is no stranger to the gaming industry with several major titles under its belt, including the Age of Empires and Mechwarrior series, as well as several simulation games. Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance is the latest installment in the Mechwarrior series, following on the storyline and main features of the predecessors, but with several gameplay and feature enhancements, as well as greatly advanced graphics. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, you are the pilot of a 30 foot, 100 ton "BattleMech", designed exclusively as a machine of destruction. If you have trouble picturing one, think of a walking tank, retrofitted with an armament of energy and projectile weapons, capable of speeds of up to 100Kph and with the firepower to level an enemy base in minutes. In addition to several existing Chassis types already existing in the series, Microsoft has added 7 new Mechs to bring it to a total of 21.
The background story of the Mechwarrior series is fairly complicated, and rather than spend a page ctrl-c/v-ing the story, those of you who are interested can read it at: http://www.microsoft.com/Games/mechwarrior4/battletech.asp . Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance is set in 3063, where the clan invasion has ended and you are returning to your family. The introduction movie shows your family throne being destroyed by an act of treachery and you as the son returning to learn of the lead in of events. You now fight for vengeance, for revenge and to reclaim your position and birthright.
Microsoft has made leaps and bounds in the development of the graphics of Mech4 over the predecessors, utilizing the (surprise) DirectX8 and Direct3D graphics rendering. They have provided a high level of customizability of the graphics settings to match your specifications. The resolution can be set from 640x480x16 up to 1600x1200x32. Options such as FSAA, lighting options, graphics and texture detail, as well as special effects such as footsteps and water detail can be set to match your preferences and system requirements.
The in-game graphics are superb - there is intrinsic attention to detail, from sprouting geysers in the landscape to the charred armor surface of a battle worn Mech. The settings are generally large, relatively barren, wilderness landscapes. Your Mech will leave footprints in the dusty ground, kicking up small dirt clouds as your feet stomp over the land. Charred remains of enemy units and structures scatter the landscape, while your missed shots will blacken or leave dents on the landscape around you.
The game follows the physics of the real world, including the speed of your Mech being dependant on the weight of the chassis and type of engine. Moving up a hill will slow you down, and jump jets can be utilized in order to gain temporary flight with limited maneuvering capabilities. Also after certain amounts of damage your weapons could be destroyed, or even worse an arm blown off. Critical parts of the Mech include the torso (the strongest part) and the legs (weaker, but also harder to hit).
One change of Mech4 over the previous installments includes a more technical approach to the BattleMechs. Under each chassis, specific details are included, including the acceleration/deceleration speeds, as well as turn rate and torso twist ability.
As you advance further in the game (campaign only - not skirmish) more advanced Mechs are available which are capable of wielding increasingly greater destructive power in terms of size, armor capability and maximum tonnage. Customizability of your BattleMech down to the finest detail is also allowed, from the type of amour, to any weapon you have available to use.
This is done in the Mechlab, where information on each Mech available including firepower, speed, maximum tonnage, shape and size is shown. Camouflage is another feature exclusive to the latest in the Mechwarrior series. There are also features such as light amplification, and AMS (Anti missile system), both physical and energy that will act as a defense against incoming missiles by destroying them. Physical AMS will eventually run out, while energy ones will require engine power and cause heat.
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An affordable, ultra-portable headphone set.