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MechWarrior 3 - Review @ GU  

  MechWarrior 3 - Review @ GU (6/8/99)
DEVELOPER: Microprose / Zipper Interactive

PUBLISHER: Hasbro Interactive


  • Processor: Pentium 166mhz
  • OS: Windows 95+
  • RAM: 32MB
  • Videocard: High color graphics (640x480x16bit color - 2MB VRam)
  • Hard Drive: 240MB Free
  • CD-ROM: 2X
  • Processor: Pentium 200mhz
  • Ram: 64MB
  • VideoCard: High color (1024x768x16bit color), Direct3D compatible, 8MB Vram
  • CD ROM: 4X
  • Hard Drive 390 MB Free


  • Modem: Windows compatible 28.8kbps or faster
  •  - or - LAN network with TCP/IP or IPX
  • True TCP/IP connection for Internet play
  • Processor: Pentium II 233mhz
  • RAM: 96MB
  • Videocard: STB Velocity 128ZX (RIVA 128ZX chipset) with latest Nvidia reference drivers.
  • Soundcard: CrystalAudio
  • CD-ROM: Sony 24x
GENRE: Sim/Shoot'em'up

RELEASE DATE/PRICE: June '99, $44.99

DEMO : Available Here


First Impression:

This game was one of the most waited-for in recent history, given the success of the MechWarrior line and the number of changes made, including a switchover to Microprose from Activision in the licensing. I looked forward to it, having already reviewed the demo, but had my doubts as to whether it could deliver.  Story Line: The attack by the Clans on the Inner Sphere has stalled, thanks to the efforts of the newly formed Star League. An elite strike force (that's you) has landed on the world of Tranquility, to take down the 'Mech producing capabilities of Clan Smoke Jaguar and end their Clan, proving that the Inner Sphere is a foe to be reckoned with.  As your pods come down, however, the strike force's dropship is shot out of the sky, stranding you there... unless you can complete the various missions, break through the enemy lines, and get to the other dropship beore it is forced off the planet by the Smoke Jaguars. Good luck!


Gameplay: 9.5/10  The gameplay was simply incredible -- Fluid moving, fast-paced, and definitely tough to handle.  The 'Mechs all cornered as they should, and moved as they should handle, down to limping when the hip joint was damaged. The jump jets, even in relaxed mode, are much more true to the game: no more flying along at 240kph in a Daishi (Dire Wolf for the Mech2 players), machine guns blazing.  You want to get there? March, soldier, March. Equally different was the ability to toss off a shot with the arm weapons, directly sidewards -- that is, if said arm hasn't been blown off yet.

The only points lost go to the tendency of the enemy to start plinking at you before you can even tell they are there, and the once-again distressing impossibility of getting one's wingmen to use grouped fire modes to do better damage.

Graphics (Eye Candy): 9.5/10 The Graphics in the game are spectacular -- sparks, fire trails, smoke plumes, they're all there -- even footprints and pits left by ammo explosions.  "Deformable Terrain" was fun, even if it didn't live up to the hype: you can't actually dig yourself a hole with missiles, then duck down in it to hide, but you can at least tell the missiles hit something

The best part of the graphics was the variable modes -- 3rd person camera now incorporates the targeting reticle, making it a useful feature in this game instead of just something fun to play with. 

My only gripe? It's impossible to see over 800 meters away... EVER. This means you take a lot of blind potshots with the long-range weapons, while getting picked apart by enemies at the same range. It also means that you'll occasionally catch mountains or houses snapping out of nowhere if you happen to have your zoom reticle turned on.

Interface: 9.5/10  What can I say? The menus were all incredibly intuitive, leaving no stone unturned when it came to options.  The campaign trail saved EVERY mission, automatically, making it easy to go back and replay any one of them if you feel the need. Why 9.5? Simple.  The 'Mech customization screen, while incredibly intuitive for selection of parts, made it extremely hard to keep track of where they were all going.  Worst of all, a menu click was required to select an area to place things -- the ability to click on the 'mech area itself would have been a much better choice. Controls: 9/10  The controls were nice and fluid, with little left to chance.  Everything in the default configuration was easy to get to. The problems, however, were twofold.

First of all, plain and simple -- BUTTON OVERLOAD.  At peak times in the game, I felt I needed 4 hands: one on the mouse to aim, one to torso twist, one to steer my 'mech, and one to toss off wingman orders. The fact that torso twist didn't atuomatically occur when the mouse moved too far right or left really hurt the gameplay, as did the lack of an adjustable slider for mouse sensitivity. 

Second, the ability to double-bind keys was gone. Why is this important? Simple.  The best example is the right mouse key -- not only does it zoom, when in zoom mode it acquires a target lock.  But I could have used it also with a "next weapon" or "next weapon group" command as well, and never messed up a target lock or a zoom in doing so.  Similarly, a bind to select a PARTICULAR wingman at will would have been great -- especially if the fire button were set to "kill my target" as well, leading to massive weapon focus on the enemy. 

Expandability: 5/10  Microprose plans an expansion for Mechwarrior 3, with production beginning soon. Watch GU for more information as it becomes available, as well as for a review of the expansion when it hits retail. AI: 9/10  The enemy AI was incredibly good, really.  A few bugs, though, leave a point gone. First off was the tendency of the computer to snipe from exreme range, usually from off of the standard 1km radar distance. With visibility at only 800 meters max, due to an aforementioned engine limit, this makes the AI seem incredibly cheap at times. Also, the AI never uses one of the prime options -- group fire mode and the "alpha strike".  Wingmen especially would be SO much more effective if they'd use this even occasionally.

The other AI flaw is the tendency of enemy units to just sit and take long-range shots, not bothering to power up to fire back or move in most of the time.   This leaves you quite capable of sneaking around the back way of some missions and killing the enemy, having them literally never expend a shot.

Multiplayer: 8/10 The multiplayer game was good -- the 'mechs seem very balanced, and the communication is solid even on modem. While I didn't much like the use of MSN gaming zone as the internet game finder, I will admit it got the job done pretty well. The online game is betrayed, however, by the loss of a few key features.

First, there's no way to limit the weight of the 'Mechs chosen for a match. The host doesn't control what can and can't be used, all he does is set the locale and frag limits. This leads to a tendency of people to use the heavier 'mechs all the time -- and for good reason.

The second problem is RANGE. The average map places people down about 1.2km away from each other -- or in other words, just in the range of a Gauss rifle. The smaller 'mechs are quickly overpowered, simply because by the time they get close enough to fire they've taken several missile salvos and long-range laser blasts. Random placement would have worked a lot better than "farthest nav-point" dropins.

Soundtrack: 8/10 Soundtrack, soundtrack... good killing music.  Really good killing music. Extremely typical of the Mechwarrior games. Why only an eight?   Because the music could have intruded a *little* more, and been welcome -- the low and rumbling marches kind of get old after a while.

Overall:   9/10

Final Comments: An excellent addition to the Mechwarrior series and the BattleTech universe.  With a few fixes and tweaks, this game could easily go all the way to a 10/10 score. 

Screen Shots

Screenshots captured using the Print Screen key, then converted from 24-bit bitmap to Jpeg compression.

Cinematic: A Thor Menaces a FireFly

With Cinematics Like These...

Your Briefings are Pretty In-Depth.

Your Wingmen will follow you around like puppy dogs...
protective ones, too!

Look close and you can see the reticle zoomer... as well as 
my 2 Wingmen in their Annihilators.

Hrmm... footprints, and a water puddle left by missiles...

My Wingmen goofed up, so here I lie, dead as a doornail.

It doesn't even look that bad to pause the game.

A volcanic pit, site of the final showdown... check our the rain effects,
smoke and sparks, and most importantly note how far away I had to stay from all this to live through it.


Added:  Tuesday, June 08, 1999
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf


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