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Game Info:

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries
Published by: Piranha Games
Developed by: Piranha Games
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
Reviewed on Windows PC
Available on: Windows PC
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Genre: Action/Simulator
Number of Players: 1+
Price: $49.99

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries is the latest in the venerable MechWarrior series, whose last entry was nearly 20 years ago in 2002. Set in the universe of FASA's BattleTech tabletop war game originally created in the '80s, it is the latest title to hit the digital medium. Despite being the latest game chronologically in real life, it's actually set earlier than any of the previous titles in the series in-universe, beginning in the year 3015. The time period in the game predates the Clan invasions, and takes place during the Succession Wars.

If you played MechWarrior (any version) then you'll find MW5's game play familiar. If you liked them and get a chill down your spine when you hear that computerized voice say "Reactor... online. Sensors... online..." and are ready for more, then this game is here to scratch that itch. If you haven't played any MechWarrior title before, then the best way to describe it is this: Imagine piloting a massive armored war machine with legs, weighing anywhere from 20 to 100 tons. You get to fire lasers, gauss rifles, missiles, autocannons... the works.

The setup for MW5's campaign mode is not exactly original when it comes to BattleTech related video games. Veterans of the old BattleTech Crescent Hawks Inception all the way up to MechWarrior 4: Vengeance will feel like they've heard this story before. You begin the game as the son of the commander of a Mercenary Company who is thrust into the position of leadership when your company's base falls to a surprise attack by an unknown and hostile mercenary company. Dad gets killed while holding off the attackers long enough for the survivors to evacuate. It's up to you to rebuild the mercenary company from the remains. See what I mean? Games based on the BattleTech universe often use this template. It's like Madlibs. "It all started when my (family member(s)) was killed in a surprise attack by (antagonists), driving me and the survivors from our (place where you lived). Now I'm in charge with (some number less than 4) surviving 'mechs and I have to rebuild by running missions, accumulating salvage, recruiting new followers and having technicians fix my broken stuff." We don't really have a category for story in our reviews here, but if we did I'd give this one a 6/10. It's serviceable but not original. To be fair, there aren't really a whole lot of narrative setups to put the player in a position to build up a force almost from scratch at the beginning of the game so that it can be grown and developed over the course of the story, complete with a built-in antagonist. I get it. That said, the story is engaging enough and does provide a believable narrative to link the missions together that's consistent with the BattleTech universe.

It feels like a merging of the two previous titles (MW4 Vengeance and MW4 Mercenaries) rolled into one. (Yes, I'm aware of the Black Knight expansion. That was MW4 Mercs lite). You have the resource management of MW4 Mercs with the story elements of MW4 Vengeance. I mean that as praise. The two separate story elements combine well.

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries
Highlights:

Strong Points: Destructible Scenery; Immersive Feel; Fits nicely into the series 
Weak Points: Story not terribly original
Moral Warnings: Language  (PG level.  Think late night TV), violence

The game play is exactly the same as previous titles. You pilot one BattleMech with up to 3 other lancemates you can give commands to. (In the BattleTech universe, a lance is a formation of four BattleMechs). Weapons mounted on the 'mech can be organized into firing groups, allowing a single trigger pull to fire multiple weapons, with the game controls set up to allow for multiple such groups as desired. Combat is reasonably fast paced and highly tactical, with the various different weapons systems offering different advantages and disadvantages. For example, energy weapons like lasers and PPCs (Particle beam Projector Cannons) never run out of ammunition but produce significantly more heat than other weapon types. (Heat management is critical in this universe. BattleMechs overheat very easily.) Projectile weapons like machine guns or autocannons run much cooler and do plenty of damage, but ammunition is limited. Missiles come in categories of short, medium and long range, and cause damage over a wider area of the target, but are slow to fire owing to the need to achieve a lock and carry relatively low ammunition.

Another tactical element in this game is damage management. BattleMechs are compartmentalized, thus an arm can be severely damaged or even blown off without necessarily affecting other parts of the 'mech. Of course, if there are weapons mounted on that arm, they're lost, and damage to legs slows the 'mech down. It's also possible to kill the pilot by hitting the cockpit which is lightly armored but much harder to hit.

As mentioned above, heat management is critical. A 'mech that is overheating will shut down, leaving it completely vulnerable to enemy attack until it cools enough to restart. This only takes a few seconds, but feels like an eternity. A shutdown can be overridden, but that risks the reactor going critical...
If you keep having this problem it’s time to allocate more heat sinks to your ride.

Speaking of which, between missions you can make modifications to your ‘mechs. Want to add more armor? Maybe swap out one weapon for another? Add or remove heat sinks? Maybe you don’t need those jump jets so much and would rather put that tonnage into armor. Lots of options exist though, as always, there’s a hard limit to weight on a BattleMech. Repairs and refits take time however, and while you’re waiting for that to happen your mercenary company still needs to pay its bills. Maybe that’s a good time to head on over to that next star system for a new contract, or perhaps out of the conflict zone to save costs on repairs.

Mechwarrior 5: Mercenaries
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 82%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Stability - 5/5
Controls - 4/5

Morality Score - 82%
Violence - 6/10
Language - 8/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 7/10

There’s also a market for buying and selling ‘mechs and related equipment. Prices vary by where you are and your mercenary company’s reputation in this region. You can also hire or dismiss warriors from your roster. Useful, if one of your lancemates has maxed out their skills, or maybe you need to replace a fallen pilot. Yes, that can happen too.

Is it fun? Yes... though it feels a bit less smooth than its predecessor. The control setup gives the player three options. Keyboard/mouse, game controller and joystick. I always used a Logitech joystick with throttle when playing MechWarrior so naturally I used it here. It very quickly became apparent that the responsiveness to the inputs was probably not designed with that joystick in mind. It was very difficult to hit smaller, faster targets like enemy helicopters and light tanks, but fortunately this is all configurable and after reducing the input sensitivity I found it much easier. All controls are configurable in the options menu, for which I was very grateful. Playing using the keyboard and mouse made it a bit easier to hit targets, but made the game feel more like a first-person shooter and that just felt wrong.

At this time, PvP is not available in multiplayer though a co-op mode can be unlocked after completing the tutorial missions. This allows you and some friends to run missions together.

The sound quality is good, making it feel very immersive. The audio cues for things like engine power, weapons fire, environmental events and so on not only feel real and easy to believe but also can be highly useful if it isn’t entirely clear what direction that machine gun fire is coming from… I was less impressed by the music in this game. It adequately sets the mood but not something you’re likely to hum or want to grab the soundtrack for.

Graphics are amazing, though in a game released in 2019 that's what one expects. When shooting at scenery items like buildings and other structures, the dust and debris is pretty convincing and really adds to the feel of realism. Lighting effects are great and I do greatly enjoy watching the glowing hot slag being flung off an enemy ‘mech when I strafe it with laser fire. Damage to ‘mechs is also rendered realistically enough that you can get a pretty good understanding of how badly damaged a ‘mech is, and what parts are damaged, by looking at it.

There is some strong language in the game, though it falls within the PG level so not for the little ones, but at the parents' discretion it may be an option for teens. Think late night TV level and you won't be wrong.

Violence is naturally present in games that feature big honkin' armored robots, missile launchers and laser guns. The player is shooting at 50-foot tall armored warmachines as opposed to people, but it's still clear that there's a pilot in that 'mech, and the cockpit can be targeted for a nasty end to that person. The biggest issue for me personally is the ability to destroy buildings that may or may not have innocent people inside them. You don't see human bodies falling or being crushed when you fire into a building and the facade collapses, but they're in there, and you know it. It can be very difficult at times to avoid collateral damage in battle, as there's just nothing subtle or gentle about giant robots blasting away at each other in an urban environment.

The BattleTech universe doesn't feature intelligent aliens, ghosts, magic or any other subject that might fall under the heading of "occult." By the same token, it doesn't discuss faith in God either, and keeps itself firmly in the secular space without advancing any particular agenda.

Revenge is a theme in this game, as the player takes on the role of a young man whose father was killed by others, and this crime isn't going to be prosecuted by any civic authorities. There's really an interesting discussion to be had in the difference between revenge and justice, so make of it what you will.

Overall, MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries plays like a worthy successor to the MechWarrior franchise, and is definitely worth playing, especially if you're a fan of the BattleTech universe in general.

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ArcticFox

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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