Looking back, it's apparent which direction Microsoft was preparing to go with it's gaming division. The leap from Mechwarrior 3 to Mechwarrior 4 was jarring of a lot of veterans (myself included). But for those willing to play the game the intended way (with a Precision Pro joystick!) it was a thrilling and rewarding experience that emulated the feel of piloting a mech. This was tempered somewhat by the more restrictive mech construction (finally doing away with the Classic Battletech construction rules). Weapons were now mounted in groups and ate up space dedicated to certain types, such as ballistic, energy, or missile. Battles often take place between Battlemechs, Tanks, Helicopters, Static Defenses, Battleships, Bombers, Hovercraft, and more. Mission objectives run a wide range of goals, including base assault, defensive missions, raids, scouting missions, and more. Combat is usually given a good purpose and context. Often you will work with a squad of up to three other members, who you may issue orders to. You are able to customize and assign each squad member a mech from your garage. The AI is pretty faithful about following your orders, though they're not afraid to shoot through you to get at their targets. They also tend to jump in your line of fire at an inopportune moment.
The only major knock I have with this game are the truly awful cutscenes. Each is a painful attempt to inject some story and meaning in the game; but consist mostly of talking heads in a tiny window on the briefing screen. it was a busch league move in an otherwise triple-A performance.
This series (and much of the game engine) eventually jumped ship from the PC to the more fertile shores of the console in the form of Mech Assault. With the IP in limbo with the decline of FASA it's hard to say if the series will ever see another launch. For me, though, the Mechwarrior series is what brought me into the world of giant killer robots, and I'll look back fondly on it.
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