MechWarrior 4

The latest build of MechWarrior 4 boasts updated graphics and complete Mech models.

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We were given a behind-the-scenes look at the latest build of MechWarrior 4 at the Microsoft booth. Even though we saw the game only a few months earlier at the Gamestock event in Redmond, Wash., the designers seemed to have completed a significant amount of work on MechWarrior 4 since.

Obviously, the most impressive aspect of the game is its robust 3D graphics engine. Developed from the ground up specifically for this game, the engine renders outdoor environments beautifully. Although no height maps were used to draw the rolling terrain, all the hills, mountains, and canyons are displayed accurately, with no visible polygon edges at all. The Mechs are impressive. While their models don't look dramatically improved over MechWarrior 3, their movement looks quite realistic. Mechs slam into the ground and kick up dusts of cloud and dirt, and their shoulders dip and raise with each step. Additionally, the laser and rocket effects are spectacular as well. We watched a sequence where a mech crested the top of a ridge and looked down on an open plain with a number of enemy rocket emplacements firing salvo after salvo of guided missiles toward a faraway location. The whole scene looked like something out of the Persian Gulf War.

According to Sebastian Motte, Microsoft's product manager, the MechWarrior 4 development team at Microsoft has been trying to make the Mech Lab (the interface that lets players fiddle with and customize their Mech's weapons) much more accessable and easier to use, as it's been a sticking point with fans of the previous games in the series. The game will focus on character development and interaction for the first time in a MechWarrrior series as well. Your lancemates will also play an important role in this Mech game as well, as you'll be able to upgrade not only their Mechs but also their individual skills and experience. All said, the game will have 21 new Mechs, 7 of which will be brand new in the BattleTech universe.

MechWarrior 4 will be out later this year.

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