Battletech/MechWarrior — Controlling Mechs in Pods, and it’s Awesome
This week, I’m on vacation with my girlfriend and her family. A couple of days after we got here, I was asked if I wanted to play MechWarrior (also known as Battletech). I had no idea what it was when I was asked, but I was told that it was a video game, where you sat in a pod, controlled a giant robot, and battled each other.
That was enough to sell me on the idea, so I agreed to go. I wanted to try to get a better idea of what it was, though, so I went to YouTube. There was only one video that I could find that seemed to talk about the game, and it was from 1992.
Even with the description, they gave me, and the video I found, I still wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there. I asked if it had been updated since the video, and it has, but not a whole lot. Despite it’s age, though, it was a lot of fun!
We got to the venue, and it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. I assumed it would be in an arcade or something similar. Instead, it was in a really cool, really nerdy, game shop. One of those places that people meet up to play Magic and Risk the same way some people meet at a field to play ultimate frisbee or at the gym to play basketball.
Towards the back, lined up against a side wall stretching to the end of the store, there were these big pods. Each one was probably about six-and-a-half feet tall, but narrow. That is where the game was to be played.
The manager of the store gave us a rundown of how to play the game, how to set it up, change our bots, change the maps etc. I think he was in the middle of a game of Magic himself, so he taught us how to control the MechWarrior system.
He also told us how to control our Mechs and some vital information about movement (you have to push the throttle forward while holding the reverse button in order to back up; if you just pull back on the throttle, you’ll stop). Once we got all of the information we needed, we gave him our gamertags, and we were ready to play.
There were a large number of mechs to choose from, in a few different “classes”. There were heavy mechs with a lot of armor, but slow; assault mechs who had average stats; light mechs, very quick, but not a lot of firepower or armor; and many different ones in between. Overall, I think there were almost 100 mechs to choose from.
Once you choose the mech you’d like, you find the pod that was assigned to you, climb in, and slide the door shut for total immersion. Inside, it looked a lot like the cockpit of, well, a giant robot. There was the throttle on your left, that allowed you to move forward and backwards (remember hold the button while pushing forward).
There was a joystick on the right for aiming and shooting your primary weapon and missiles, and there were buttons all over the place that allowed you to do things such as jump (if your mech was able to); eject, if you’re about to die; and even shut down your mech if you so desire (or if you just accidentally hit that button on accident on 3 different occasions while trying to jump, as I did).
There were also foot pedals on the ground that would allow you to do a torso twist, so you can strafe, etc. I tried it once, and got kind of confused for a bit when I was running sideways, until I figured it out. I decided, that was a bit too much for me on my first attempt at the game.
There was a large screen projected from an old-school tube TV that displayed the game. The graphics weren’t great, but that was part of it’s charm, and the game played very smoothly.
Most of the people I was about to play with chose heavy mechs, so I did as well. Since I was a noob at the game, I chose Atlas, who though had very little speed and fire-rate, had almost maxed out firepower and armor.
It took me a couple of minutes to get used to the controls, but once I did, it was smooth sailing. I don’t know if it was the fact that I had an OP mech, or beginners luck, but I ended up going 13 – 5 in my very first game. We did play with bots, which helped me get that score, but I killed my fair share of actual people I was playing against.
The next couple of games, I started to go downhill. I ended up going 10 – 9 and then 5 – 10. I changed up my mech though, each time, and chose ones that I thought would be more “fair.” In hindsight, I should’ve just stuck with Atlas, or gone back to Atlas, but I kept feeling like I’d be cheating.
After each game, you’re able to get a printout of the battle. It shows you everyone’s KDR, how many times each person killed each other, and a lot of other stats. At the bottom of the printout was a description of what happened, along with the in-game time of when it happened. It was an awesome way to compare how you did and brag a bit if you did well.
I only ended up playing the 3 games. The people I came with were ready to leave, so I had to oblige.
I really had fun playing this game. Instead of just having a controller and using 2 fingers and 2 thumbs to control your character, you’ve got a full immersive experience. The game is pretty old, and you can tell it hasn’t been updated in a while, but that’s a good thing. It not only is fun to play, but it gives you that feeling of nostalgia.
I heard there was an online version (without the pods you get in), so I’ll look into that, but it probably won’t be as much fun. I hope this game gets some traction so that it can stay around for a long time, and get bigger and better updates to it. I look forward to the next time I’m able to go play!
Thanks for reading! Have you ever played Battletech/MechWarrior? Let us know in the comments what you think about it. Also, I did my best to use all of the tactics from my eBook “Winning at Video Games” to ensure I played as well as I could have. You can get these same tactics for free just by entering your name and email address above! It’ll help you take your gaming to the next level.