I decided to write these up when I finish a game, just to let you know what I thought about an experience. I will add them as I finish titles, so you can expect a number of these, but not too regularly. I will cover mostly older titles (from around 2000-2002) but some newer ones will also make an appearance (or so I would think). Do not expect any new releases, as I don't buy premiere games at the moment (and even if I did, my laptop would not be able to run them). Alright then, here's the first of these short reviews.
Mechwarrior 4 is set in the Battletech universe, which originated as a tactical battle game, later also having an RPG equivalent - although the battle game itself has stayed the most popular. FASA Corp, the company behind it, has went under early in the 2000's, but before that happened, Mechwarrior has been translated into a simulation kind of game (of which the reviewed title is the fourth part) and a tactical game where you command a mech lance in various operations (MechCommander).
You are Duke Ian Dresari, who's family has been murdered in a treacherous attack by House Steiner. You come back to your home planet, Kentaris IV, and lead the remaining loyalist forces in an uneven fight against Steiner. Soon, an all out rebel movement also appears, aiding you in your actions.
For those of you who know the series, this is nothing new. You get inside your Mech and wreak havoc on your enemies, fighting tanks, helicopters and other Mechs along the way. There is a good amount of options - you can have a fast mech, but he won't have much armour, or you can have a very heavy mech but pay the price in speed. You can pick your weapons, modify a lot of small stuff (adding equipment, modifying the amount of armour and pick weapons from a large number divided into Ballistic, Missile and Energy weaponry) and basically have your own take on a mission.
The AI is ok, although later on in the game it seemed to me that it's not very good in dense cities. Your lancemates are a nice lot, although they don't have too much personality. The plot is fine, with a dramatic turn here and there, which nicely complements the overall "fighting theme" of the game. The missions are not very varied, but the gameplay is very fun anyway. What I found very useful, was that every mission allows you to choose an "Infinite Ammo" and "Invulnerable" options, so if a player finds the game too difficult (or simply doesn't care much about a challenge, as myself), he can always enable these and have a romp without too much consequences. The controls can be difficult at times when using a keyboard and mouse, but when you get used to them, it becomes pretty satisfying, and easy, to shoot down a helicopter or snipe an enemy Mech while moving with your torso turned 90 degrees.
My only real gripe about the game, and a small one at that, are the cut-scenes. First of all, there are no subtitles, and the characters do not speak at the same volume. Ian Dresari talks very silently, while some other people's lines are clearly understandable. The second problem is that the cutscenes turn themselves on each time you get the mission briefing screen. So if you watched the whole sequence, and then entered the MechLab to modify your machine, when you get back, the briefing starts over. Luckily, you can skip it, but it's still a minor annoyance. Finally, the quality of the acting is very uneven. Most scenes are ok, but some are just badly acted out.
That aside, I found Mechwarrior 4 to be a fun experience, even though not a very gripping one. I played the game over the course of several months, just because it wasn't interesting enough to keep me playing mission after mission. Those are very short (rarely does a mission last more than 20, 25 minutes), but there is just that something lacking. I haven't played the expansion (called Black Knight) yet, but I'm planning to when I feel the Mechwarrior call again.
Final Rating is 7+/10. Good experience, but lacking that special something which would keep me playing. I guess that multiplayer could be pretty fun, but I'm not planning on trying it out, as I don't know if the servers work any more, and also, I suck at this game ;)
PS: Mechwarrior 5 is supposedly on the way, and it's looking glorious - http://www.piranha-games.com/MechWarrior.html