Friday, September 23, 2011

MW3: MechWarrior 3 That Is

As far as deals on poverty games go, my local Goodwill has been a great source of old, cheap PC games, and not just those budget PC games that Target carries, but good, sometimes classic, stuff like Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders. At $1.99, I was hard pressed to find a reason to leave MechWarrrior 3 on the shelf. Granted, I've never gotten into the whole BattleTech thing, but I am a fan of various walking tanks and large death-dealing machinery, though the mech designs of the franchise aren't really my style. This 1999 title was developed by Zipper Interactive, the company that went to make Crimson Skies for Xbox and the majority of the SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs titles for various Sony platforms.

The game, much like its mechs, is quite clunky. I'm okay with a mech game being slow, it only makes sense in the context of the world, and a proper feeling of weight is integral to the game. I guess the whole point of this detail is that the game is considered a “mech simulation,” and though I find it odd to simulate something that doesn't exist in reality, but it is a good way to describe the game. It isn't a typical FPS with mechs, and it isn't an arcade-like experience, it is a slow, methodical, and mostly complicated.

MechWarrior, and I guess BattleTech in general, comes off as impenetrable to outsiders, with a huge world filled with a bunch of different factions and mechs involved in some sort of war. This game starts off with some lengthy cutscenes that didn't do much to bring me into this world, and I don't think I can say I know any more about it now than before I played it. Seriously, I applaud anyone that is able to read through this game's plot synopsis without declaring “fuck this” partway through. I'm sure there are fans that eat that stuff up, but to an outsider it is hard to understand and even harder to care.

Controlling the mechs in this game is probably intentionally complicated, what with the simulation angle and all that, but really it just feels like there would be no intuitive way to to control all of the complicated features that are present. Sure, Steel Battalion had a lot of similarly complicated features with relatively easy to grasp controls, but that had the advantage of a gigantic controller that made sense in context. Still, both games have a severe learning curve that rewards dedication to the game, but I could never get past the point of them being frustrating.

It isn't a common FPS, as the mouse doesn't control where the mech looks, but where on the exposed screen the mech's weapons are aiming. The arrow keys move the mech forward, backwards, and rotates left and right, but there are separate keys to rotate just the top half of the mech so as to more quickly allow aiming in different directions. Between this, the controls for changing weapons, and about a million other things, it is a very difficult game to get a handle on.

By today's standards the graphics aren't particularly impressive, but it looks about par for 1999. There are some nice touches though, like the way different parts of mechs can be destroyed, instead of everything just having some boring stock explosion. This also affects how the game is played, in that if a part is destroyed, then any weapons that were on that part will no longer function. It's a nice detail that encourages focusing attacks to one area. It's generally an interesting game, but I just can't get past the complicated controls to get into it. On the plus side, the options allow the player to turn on invincibility and infinite ammo, which is convenient for getting used to things, even if it declares the player “DISHONORABLE.”

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