Genre: Action Developer: Malibu Int. Publisher: Extreme Ent. Players: 1-2 Released: 1994
We all love to destroy things, and BattleTech is a game that lets you indulge your inner child by giving you the means to live out those dreams of mayhem. The objective is simple: take control of a huge Madcat armed to the teeth and kill everything that moves. Though underrated, it does have a cult following of sorts, and I’m sure that fans of EA’s Strike series and the Mech Warrior games are probably already smiling.
Before we begin, I must ask a simple question: is there anyone out there who doesn’t like blowing things up with a huge mech? No? I thought so. You can’t deny the power and awe they inspire, and I’m sure that if the U.S. army ever started using them, they’d have to turn volunteers away. Osama’s hiding in a cave? No problem! We’ll just level the entire mountain from the ground! Ah, the possibilities…
Now, before you get all giddy with visions of mindless violence, let me warn you: this isn’t a blazing shooter. Don’t get the idea that BattleTech is a sadistic free-for-all like the multiplayer parts of the Mechassault series on the Xbox. No, this is more akin to the single-player game, sans the cool cut scenes, and veterans of the classic tabletop war game will appreciate the slow and deliberate pace. You’re more or less in the same boat though, as you still have to complete several objectives in order to advance through BattleTech‘s five different worlds. This is accomplished in the same manner as the Strike games, and your radar displays each target’s location, as well as all resistance and power ups in the area. The maps can be absolutely huge, and your scant three lives aren’t enough to rush into a situation balls-to-the-wall.
Of course, what’s a mech without a buttload of weaponry? The Madcat offers a grand total of nine from which to choose. You can use three at any given time, and each stage demands a different set for the best results. Destroying buildings and the local landscape is the only way to replenish your ammunition, and some weapons can overheat. For example, charge up the powerful yet hard-to-aim PPC for too long, and it will explode, taking the Madcat’s left arm with it!
Hmm, a small reserve of lives, huge stages, and limited ammunition; yep, this sounds a lot like those Strike games I mentioned earlier. We can also toss in the difficulty level in there while we’re at it. BattleTech is hard, make no mistake about it. You can find yourself overwhelmed quite quickly, and it can be frustrating unless you tackle the enemy with a cool head. One minute you’re wiping the floor with armored infantry and the next your faced with the ominous news enemy mech approaching. Suddenly, you’re no longer the big fish in the pond. These bad boys pack firepower equal to your own, and you need to take them out quickly before they make you overheat and explode. Running is never shameful, as enemy mechs are among the most powerful members of their cast.
And oh what a cast of foes you will face! Throughout all five different planets, resistance will come in the form of tanks, helicopters, gun turrets, armored infantry, land mines, and large defensive mechs. Taking out a central base is especially hard, as the game concentrates the largest amounts of nasties in and around it. This is to be expected, but I must emphasize just how determined they are too keep you out. There are at least three types of emplacements (including missile launchers) and often your efforts to dodge and shoot are hampered by motion sensing mines. These suckers don’t just sense you, they seek you out! So now you’re dodging enemy fire and those pesky mines.
Thankfully, the landscape can be used to your advantage. Most of your foes can’t shoot from behind walls, but you can, providing you have the right weapon. When things get too hectic, running behind a cliff and blasting away with the gauss rifle or Arrow VI missiles can be very effective for clearing an area without having to go in head-on. Many rock faces and trees can be blown up, making for some easy get-aways should you need to retreat. Many enemy hideouts can be blocked off too. I just love caving in an access point on top of a tank!
The scenery is as beautiful as it is practical, and each world has some lush detail that really brings the BattleTech universe to life. Snowy plains, deserts, and sweltering jungles are all great to look at and colorful. It affects the gameplay too. Just try moving over ice or lava-filled crevices as you battle tanks. They can sometimes do more damage than your foes, so knowing the terrain is key to lasting the whole level.
Your Madcat is just as graphically impressive, fluidly animated and natural. It’s slow, yes, but how fast do you expect a 75-ton metal behemoth to move? The visuals are the more impressive part of the presentation, and though the audio isn’t bad, it’s not much more than the standard shots and explosions you’d come to expect from a game of this type (the few voice samples sprinkled there are do sound very clear).
Once you’ve beaten the single-player game, there’s a great multi-player mode to try. Instead of the standard “vs.” play – something that really wouldn’t have worked here – BattleTech has a unique cooperative mode. Here, player one controls the turret and weapons, while the second player handles movement. It’s a great way to get another person involved in a gameplay style that’s typically reserved for one person.
There are a few minor problems that can sometimes cause little things to quickly turn into a “Game Over ” screen, one of which is the radar scope itself. While it does show where each objective lies, it can be a bit slow to update. This can cause you to wander around aimlessly until you’re told where to go. While not a big problem by itself, some objectives are timed, and you can waste crucial seconds hunting for something that may or may not be in a given direction.
You also can’t jump objectives, as is possible in the Strike games. Completing say, task #3 before the first can trigger an explosion or other such calamity. For instance, level two’s huge power plants can’t be taken out until all the distributor plants are eliminated. If you destroy them first, boom! None of this really hurts BattleTech, but it can cause some needless frustration early on.
What else is there to say? If you like Mech Warrior and Mechassault, wanton destruction, big mechs, great gameplay, or any combination of the above; you need to check out BattleTech. It’s got a steep learning curve for the first hour or so, but it’s nothing that will frustrate any but the most short-tempered gamers. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think there’s some infantry begging to be squashed.