It’s been 17 years since we’ve seen a single-player MechWarrior game, with the last one being released in 2002. Thankfully, with this release, not only have I witnessed a triumphant return to the series but I get to smash the hell out of stuff in giant mechs. Who doesn’t like that, right?

Game Name: MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries
Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Piranha Games
Developer(s): Piranha Games
Release Date: December 10, 2019
Price: $49.99 on the Epic Games Store

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries takes place in the Battletech MechWarrior universe, right smack in the middle of the Inner Sphere. Players take control of a pilot who also happens to be the son of a famed war hero. Right at the start, you find yourself being introduced to a mech that has seen better days, and the very same one that you’ll be taking out for some training maneuvers. After a short while, you’ll be given some battle practice and should you be successful you’ll be ready to see your father get blown to bits? He’s been hiding a secret that involves something very important, and he’ll end up taking that to his grave. You being the next of kin, you want nothing more to see the bastards who did this to your father to pay.

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But not so fast, you first have to find them and to do that you need to take on missions. Dashing off into space takes money, money means battles and thus you’re up to date with current events. Dashing off into space takes money, and to do that you’ll have to planet hop throughout the vast Inner Sphere taking on contracts. Those contracts will range from various tasks, including assassinations, raids, demolitions, and a few others.

For those wondering if this takes place during the Clan Invasion, it does not. It takes place quite a few years before this happens. Which is fine as you’ll be busy dealing with the Great Houses; Davion, Marik, Kurita, Liao, and Steiner. You’ll work with many of these organizations and should you earn their favor, they’ll reward you with free mechs, supplies, and changes to earn better negotiation rates which benefits you greatly. This also means you’ll be upsetting other houses who’ll be upset at you when you side against them. Not by attacking you directly, but charging you a higher rate for parts, and repairs or offering less payment on contracts.

Mechwarrior-5-Mercenaries Inner Sphere Map

Yes, this is a very large map.

As you see from the image above, there are a lot of planets and locations that you’ll be visiting. Which ensures you’re not going to run out of activities anytime soon.

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This ain’t no Lonewolf affair

Sure you can be a lone wolf, but where’s the fun in that? You’ll want a buddy or two to watch your back. Sure, you’ll have to pay them, provide take care of their mechs, but it’s worth it. Besides, having a pair of extra laser cannons on a mission never hurt anybody that isn’t in their crosshairs.  Here you’ll be able to recruit up to three other AI controller pilots. Each of which has a specific skill set that can prove useful and they’re handy in a battle. They don’t just sit there and watch you, they do work. I’ve watched my team wipe out scores of other enemies while I sat there during the earlier battles. The more they do, the better they’ll level up and become even more useful for the cause.

But there is a downside to having teammates out there with you. You’ll have to watch out for them during battles, as they can get hurt or worse. Having their mech get wrecked during a fight can put them in traction or even kill them off. So you’ll need to watch for how much damage they take and get them out of the fight if you can. Sadly, there’s’ no option to tell them to get the hell out of the action. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve told my squad to form up on me and the next thing I know it, they’re dashing back into the fray with their mech being held together with duct tape. Good times, good times.

Mechwarrior-5-Mercenaries Mech getting blown up

Oh yes, mech explosions are pretty this time of year.

Mech 101

The mechs themselves aren’t like those found in more recent mecha titles. They don’t turn on a dime, they will not come to a complete stop and most are ugly as sin. But they can take a hit (well, most can), they’re armed to the teeth and they do a decent job of conveying just how massive they are. Movements aren’t graceful and there’s a feeling of heft when you’re crashing through buildings or when you’re stomping across the battlegrounds. I was worried that Piranha Games wouldn’t get this aspect right, but they nailed it as far as I’m concerned.

There’s also a vast amount of mechs you can choose from, or I should say purchase. As the story progresses, you’ll take on missions that grant you more money and from there you’re free to buy whatever mechs you deem fit. You’ll find everyone from small and annoying mechs that are great for scouting or drawing fire. Medium mechs that are the jack of all trades, master of none or these huge lumbering giants that can take a ridiculous amount of damage and dish out the same. But they all cost money, money that you may not have.

Mechwarrior-5-Mercenaries Battle in Action

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There’s also a surprising amount of flexibility when you’re outfitting your mech. Autocannons, lasers, missile launchers, machine guns, and a few others. Of course, each weapon type comes with varies advantages and disadvantages. Lasers tend to fire faster but will cause you to heat up faster, while autocannons do a massive amount of damage but they require ammo and are slower. You aren’t restricted as to how you customize your mech, but going about it the wrong way may lead to some frustration when you’re on a mission.

So far that all sounds good, right? Well, this isn’t just about taking your mech out to blow stuff up. Sometimes (all the time) you’ll end up taking damage, and to get that damage fixed will cost ya. Simply due to everything on your mechs can be damaged. You can and will experience times where all your limbs are useless and where you’re weapons will be blasted clean off of you. You’ll quickly find out that repair and replacement costs are expensive. This also causes the game to slow down at times as you’re picking up missions just to repair your mechs. This means you’ll need to do some planning on not only how to take on missions. I’d recommend picking up multiple mechs so you can rotate them out to save money fixing damaged ones when needed. Or selling them when they’ve served their purpose. Least you run out of money and are left no other choice.

Speaking of parts and mechs, all of which you can purchase throughout the Inner Sphere. But you also can salvage those from contracts, depending on how favored you are with a Great house. If you’re a fan favorite, you can demand what you want. If you’re hated, you’ll be lucky if they give you any scraps at all. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to outfit your ever-growing team.

Mechwarrior-5-Mercenaries Pew Pew

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This leads to some frustration that I have with the game. Story progression is gated and you need to earn a certain amount of reputation before you can move on through the campaign. Rep is earned by completing various missions, including some that provide extra reputation and other rewards. However, it’s a slog that can become frustrating at times. There were times that I stopped playing due to this, despite how much I enjoyed the other aspects of the game.

Did I mention that the game looks amazing in action? Sure, still shots don’t do the game justice. But when you’re out in the battle and watching the mechs go at each other, it’s breathtaking. Weapon damage is accurate, especially when the metal is touched by a laser or PPC, you see it glow as it starts to melt. Or when you’re being pummelled by missile fire and suddenly your shiny mech is now blackened. Even the cockpits are nicely done. It’s the little touches that go a long way and the longer I played, the more I enjoyed what I saw.

Instant action and Co-op

If you’re not one who cares about story progression and you just want to see the world burn, not to worry as there’s something for you as well.  Instant Action is a mode that lets you drop in at any time, pick from any mech that’s available in-game, any specific mission type and change the difficulty before setting you loose on the world. You don’t earn anything that transfers over to the main game, but it’s a nice way to enjoy it. Plus, an added benefit is you get to check out any number of mechs before you decide to spend money on it during the campaign. It’s also a nice stress reliever if I do say so my self.

Co-op is also in, however, it’s handled differently than what I expected. Here, co-op isn’t available until you manage to pick up a couple of mechs and pilots. The reason for this is that co-op players will utilize those resources, instead of bringing over their own. This way they can work through campaigns with you, but at the same time, this ensures that you can’t power level through missions. That also means if you don’t have any spare pilots of mechs, then you won’t be able to partake in this mode.

Some assembly required

Sadly, despite Nvidia hyping up the as yet another RTX showcase, Ray Tracking didn’t make its way into the game. Piranha Games assures us that it will come to the game later, we just don’t have any ETA as to when.  The game is completely playable with a keyboard and mouse and it felt natural to me. I didn’t even try using a gamepad, as that’s blasphemy playing a simulator such as this with a controller. At the time, only a certain number of HOTAS can be used to play the game and even I don’t own one. I had planned on picking one up in the past, but I had little reason. Now I have a reason so if I do pick up one, and I’ll revisit this review my impressions when I do.

I would have liked the ability to change up the HUD as well. As it is now, your weapons are disabled at the bottom right of the screen. Yes, you can enable a cooldown time that hovers around your reticle but it doesn’t display damage. Being able to customize the HUD would have been a nice touch, or at least being able to reposition the weapons display. Not a fan of where it is currently.

It’s worth mentioning that the first build of the game I played was very rough. However, throughout the press release being available, Piranha Games has been optimizing the game and it shows. Prior I was seeing performance issues all over the place, more so when the mech action got hot and heavy. Now, it’s smooth (mostly) and it doesn’t drop as many frames as it previously did. There still another patching coming after the official release as well that will introduce more optimization updates as well.

Outside of that, the Unreal Engine 4 looks as good as ever, despite some hiccups.

Piranha Games has done a commendable job with MechWarrior 5. If you’ve been longing for some sweet mech on mech action,  then this game is right up your autocannon. I’m eager to see the MechWarrior community make their way over so we can get more people involved in the co-op missions.

Review Disclosure Statement: Our copy of Mechwarrior 5 was provided for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.

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MechWarrior 5 is an explodingly good time.

MechWarrior 5 is a glorious return to the MechWarrior universe. Lots of mechs from the past return, while the gameplay stays true to the original formula. The campaign is lengthy, insuring you won’t beat this anytime soon. The wait was definitely worth it.  If you’re a fan of the mech simulator genre, don’t sleep on this.

Pros

  • Lots of familiar mechs from the past
  • Combat is fun and engaging
  • The single-player campaign is quite long
  • Co-op is enjoyable when it works.

Cons

  • Story progression is gated behind reputation
  • Earning reputation and money can be slow at times
  • Some minor collision detection issues
Overall
4

About The Author

Keith Mitchell
Editor-in-chief and all-around good guy!

Keith Mitchell is the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Outerhaven. A grizzled IT professional during the day, but a passionate lover of video games after his 9-5 grind. Loves playing the Dark Souls series and has been gaming since he was 6 years old. Yes, I am a black gaming journalist.