Strap yourself in and hold on to something!!
This game is neither for the armchair strategist nor for the valium-taking MYST junkie. Mechwarrior II shows exactly how close a PC can get to a pure gaming machine. It will strap you into a giant, beast-like robot and force you to play a three-dimensional style brand of dogfighting on the ground with other mechanical monstrosities. Sparks will fly, realistic computer voices will warn you of impending disaster, and explosions jettison giant churning chunks of metal as your lazers find their mark.
The scene is the future, the 31st century to be exact (as the title states), and you have the opportunity to fight for one of two warring Mechwarrior clans. These graphics are largely bit-mapped polygons. Battles take place on landscapes of desert or snow, in the shadows of mountains, crags of bare rock, or man-made structures. The player can choose to engage in instant action duels to the death or take part in a longer campaign for glory. There are opportunities to rise in rank and command squadrons of "mechs" so as to control the destiny of the clan. A superb tutorial with a mini-storyline is provided for the player to become acquainted with the game before he or she goes on to the full experience. Types of missions include working to destroy enemy installations, patrols to destroy other mechs, or prestigious battles of honor.
Mechwarrior II can be played with a keyboard, but it screams for a joystick. If one owns a joystick, this game becomes a transcendent experience, especially if it has a throttle control. Control of the "Mech" is very smooth and one even notices the regular stagger of the unit as it moves across the terrain. The sound parallels the movement of the unit almost exactly and one soon becomes completely immersed within the illusion created by the virtual environment. Of course, it helps to have a Pentium 90 like this reviewer does, but it should work fine on a DX4 or even a DX2 with some of the graphics features disabled.
Another of the more favorable aspects of Mechwarrior II is the realism. There is quite an artificial intelligence at work here to oppose the player. The enemy mech will hide behind buildings or rocks, only to fly out when the player is right on top of him. This creates a sort of Doom style of gameplay that builds up a certain amount of suspense that is released in a sudden adrenalin surge. Another aspect of this game is the non-stop chatter one hears either over the radio inside the mech or from the onboard "computer". Even during training, the instructor appears to be a real person as he is continuously shouting instructions and insults in a loud, barking voice.
One of the best features of this game is the fact that there are not too many controls. How many times have companies released games whose documentation look more like F-16 Manuals than instruction booklets? There are no multi-function keys and no crazy keyboard overlays, simply what is necessary for play and that is all. In a nutshell, this game was designed well. It does what it was set out to do, and it does it well. That is all that the general public or the writers at this magazine can hope for. This game should serve as a textbook example for all game designers and programmers of how to make a game right.