Opting not to mess too much with a successful formula in favour of delivering more of what works, Microsoft's PC sequel MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries is a well mixed cocktail of action and resource management. The idea is simple: the player kicks off with some sub-standard, big mechanical fighting machines, each of which also needs a suitably skilled pilot. By picking and choosing missions, albeit safer, but with a smaller cheque at the end, or the riskier ones with greater reward, cash is then accrued to be invested into these fighting machines and their personnel. The game features over 35 mechs--up to eight of which you can deploy on a particular mission--and a mighty arsenal of weaponary to equip them with. For the novice, it's a bit of a steep learning curve to navigate at first, but it's time well spent. The more experienced gamer will easily be able to jump straight into the action though, and if anything, it's even more frenetic than before. With guidance to where you need to be, the game simply lets you get on with the real fun of blasting away, enjoying the explosions and generally blowing any enemies out of sight. Over time, the various mechs improve as cash is built up, and there's a broad selection of missions to take on. Furthermore, extra cash can be built up by fighting in a tournament against other giant mechs. Reality? Who needs it when you can have as much fun as this, and it simply gets better when you take the bounteous multiplayer maps into account. The biggest drawback to the game though is its lack of ambition, as it's content to be highly entertaining but without ever pushing the MechWarrior format further. Forgive that though, and there's little doubt that even in its fourth generation, this is a franchise a long way from running out of steam. And the mercenary angle does it no harm whatsoever. --Simon Brew
- Money matters: Different missions offer different awards or cost a certain amount. And, for the first time ever in MechWarrior, players can bring up to 8 Mechs into battle if they have enough money.
- Dynamic single player campaign: Players can choose from over 40 missions across 10 different planets. How they play determines what other missions open up to them and how the game ends.
- Multiplayer improvements: Features 19 new multiplayer maps, including the brand new jungle environments, and 2 new multiplayer game types.
- More Mechs and goodies: Includes 10 brand new Mechs, 2 new weapons and 2 new electronics packages.