REVIEW : MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries (XBOX Series X)
After a tense encounter with some House Kurita forces, I’ve learned that one of my employed MechWarriors will be away for 57 days due to injuries. Oh, please! That’s more paid vacation time than I’ve ever had in my life! You slacker, take the weekend to recuperate up and be back in the Jenner on Monday! I have a tough business to manage here, structures to stomp on happily, and many big robots to blow up. MechWarrior 5 delivers some fantastic old-school fun, and it hasn’t developed much nostalgia in its absence.
It’s been nearly two decades since MechWarrior 4, yet it appears that Piranha Games has gone to great lengths to avoid ruining the task of picking up where it left off. Mercenaries include over 50 mechs to drive, ranging from the nimble Locust to the monstrous Annihilator, and each comes with a variety of variations with varying weapon loadouts. Moreover, they can be further customised in extremely spectacular ways using a wide range of devastating lasers, missiles, and ballistic weaponry.
You can even fine-tune the armour on every element of your mech down to each point… or there’s a helpful “Deck me out fam” button that fills in the gaps for those of us who don’t want to get that granular.
A few classic characteristics are missing from the mix I’ve been accustomed to from playing sister game BattleTech, like stealth, electronic warfare, and melee strikes. I did miss them, but the sheer variety of what’s here still gave me the modular, freeform sensation of maximising my death machines that’s so important in MechWarrior.
Assuming Direct Control
To top it off, the control options are quite extensive. There includes mouse/keyboard support and gamepad support, which works surprisingly well for such a sophisticated game. But I was also thrilled to see complete joystick compatibility, as well as an editable HOTAS remapping file, as that’s how I remember playing MechWarrior back in the day. Of course, I quickly learned that I’m no longer any good at it after taking out my Logitech Extreme 3D Pro, but I was delighted to have the choice.
If you’re new to the series or just rusty like me, there’s a distinct learning curve once you’re inside the cockpit. Managing your throttle and moving the mech torso independently of your legs’ direction isn’t easy (and never has been), but it felt amazing once I got back into the swing of things. However, MechWarrior has always attempted to control this massive, lumbering lump of steel and destruction, and MechWarrior 5 faithfully recreates that internal fight. Heat management and location-based damage are back as significant factors, adding to MechWarrior’s
Early on, my AI lance buddies may feel more like a burden than an advantage since they were more likely to get themselves into trouble and lose some expensive hardware unless I treated every op like an escort mission. However, their utility scales well with their pilot skill as they level up, and the ones who stayed were finally able to pull their weight, making some tricky shots and saving my bacon by covering blind spots.ng some tricky shots and saving my bacon by covering blind spots.
The Mission Is Clear
While there is a considerable variation between blowing up hostile installations, assassinating enemy VIPs, and raiding strongholds for salvage, most of the missions I experienced were quite basic. Now and then, they’ll throw in an extra twist, like a jamming tower you have to destroy to get your HUD to work, but it didn’t stop the endless stream of contracts from seeming rote and repetitive after a while. If the combat wasn’t satisfying by itself, it might have even become a slog. Fortunately, mechs can handle very differently and afford and try out other technology along the road added to the variety. And the maps themselves can be fairly varied, ranging from Hoth-like frozen worlds to volcanic hellscapes with randomly generated terrain.
Heavy Metal Management
The open-ended single-player campaign isn’t always as exciting to manage. It takes place during the stormy days of the Third Succession War on an almost intimidatingly huge interplanetary map of BattleTech’s Inner Sphere. There is a loose tale with some nice voice acting weaved throughout. Still, it often faded into the background as my attention was drawn to the seemingly endless work of exploring the stars, accepting mercenary assignments, and trying to keep the business solvent while boosting my reputation.
The economics of it all, especially early on, might feel onerous. The lighter, weaker starting mechs with novice pilots suffer a lot of damage, which means you’re spending a lot of your take on repair expenses and waiting for injured warriors to heal. You can quickly end up in a financial death spiral unless you have the time and money to build up a stockpile of extra mechs and spare components to swap in for those that get blasted beyond repair.
It even costs money to switch between systems, which is a practical way of avoiding dangerous waters before you’re ready but severely limits your ability to explore and acquire a sense of your surroundings.
Part of me enjoys the sense of being desperate, broke, and on the lookout for the next job. As a freelance writer, it may be relatable. However, having to reload a save or start over when you discover you’re too far into the hole to climb out might be aggravating.