Today marks the launch of MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries on Windows PC, which is a pretty big deal for any gamer who likes blasting massive robots to bits. This is one of many video games based on the biggest Western mech-combat franchise out there, BattleTech, but most of the recent games have landed in tactical, top-down territory.
That befits a series that began life as a tabletop strategy game, but any hardcore PC gamer who came up in the ’90s remembers when the series’ bombastic, first-person offshoot, MechWarrior, debuted as a drool-worthy highlight of the 3D-gaming revolution. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen a traditional MechWarrior campaign game: 17 years.
As such, you can’t take a single mecha-stomp through MechWarrior 5‘s gameplay without trampling some fields of nostalgia. For some players, that rewind may go back to 2002’s MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries. For others, it’s a brief rewind to 2013’s MechWarrior Online, an MMO that’s still in operation and resembles MW5:M.
My personal rewind goes further. I’m not a BattleTech or MechWarrior expert by any stretch; far from it. (And I never played MechWarrior Online.) But my early ’90s exposure to the franchise by way of a mall entertainment center was enough to have me suiting up, quite elaborately, to test MechWarrior 5 ahead of its launch today—and to offer my altogether positive impressions.
A major reason I’m writing this is because I came into custody of a Thrustmaster T.16000M FCS kit in preparation for another game launch: the 2020 version of Microsoft Flight Simulator (which I tested in preview form in September). Its closed tech alpha test will soon begin, smothered with non-disclosure agreements, and that’ll likely benefit from controls other than keyboard and mouse. To that aim, Thrustmaster kindly sent a loaner kit for the aforementioned HOTAS (“Hands-On Throttle And Stick”) rig, which includes a button-smothered pair of joystick and throttle, along with a robust foot-controlled rudder.
When the kit arrived, I didn’t yet have MSFS access in my inbox. Instead, I noticed an email about MechWarrior 5, whose pre-release version landed at my home office while I was on a Thanksgiving vacation. There had been an internal update, the email read, to get the game up to snuff for owners of HOTAS equipment. That included a “plug-and-play” patch for the T.16000M FCS.
I connected the joystick and throttle (without the rudder, MSRP $160, but can be found for less), positioned them on my desk, and booted the game. And my head started spinning. I’ve done this before, I thought.