Heavy Metal: MechWarrior’s Not-So-Smooth Moves

By Nathan Grayson on August 8th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

No, no, it's fine! Overheating is just a myth.

Believe it or not, colossal 50-ton steel monstrosities that have to be careful they don’t accidentally crush poor, helpless rhinos aren’t nature’s most graceful creatures. They do not prance or saunter or gallivant or float from place to place as though held aloft by the wings of angels. They lumber. That is the thing that mechs do. As you might expect, this leads to a fair deal of complexity where movement is concerned. As MechWarrior Online developer Piranha says, it’s “kind of like piloting a giant walking tank.” And I concur, only replace “kind of” with “exactly.”

So, in short, MechWarrior’s a sim. It definitely doesn’t control like a garden variety FPS, because it isn’t one. So you’re not walking forward and backward so much as you are accelerating and decelerating – like, well, a tank. Similarly, the top of your mech’s body swivels independently from its legs. As you might imagine, it takes some getting used to.

There’s also a new two-part aiming system, which allows the reticle for your arm weapon sets to reach targets more quickly than others when, say, turning. And then you also have to pay close attention to heat management – lest your mech suddenly transform into a sitting duck the size of a million normal sitting ducks – lending all sorts of moment-to-moment strategy to the proceedings.

So basically, it sounds exactly how you’d expect controlling a giant tank-on-legs to feel. I’m pretty excited about it, too. And if that’s not your thing, Hawken’s pretty much the polar opposite – with lightning-quick mechs that feel ballerinas (except, you know, with guns) who are also hobbyist Olympic gymnasts – so there’s something for everyone on the horizon. Well, except you, Steve. But then, there’s a reason for that. You know what you did.

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73 Comments »

  1. groovychainsaw says:

    Flippin ‘eck, controllin these big fellas sounds almost exactly like Mechwarrior 2. Which, as everyone knows, was the best mech game (nostalgia goggles notwithstanding). Interest levels are increasing rapidly if it’s as sim-like as this suggests.

    • mckertis says:

      “Mechwarrior 2. Which, as everyone knows, was the best mech game.”

      Still is. The better the graphics get – the less it feels like a 31st century mech sim. Even textures in Titanium were completely unnessessary.

      • Cinek says:

        Now, good luck with having decent multiplayer in it. MW2 got one of worst multi modes in any MW games up to date.
        I wouldn’t compare MWO to MW2 – these are completely different games, each shining in it’s own way. Though to be honest – if I’d be about to install a Mech game right now – MW2 wouldn’t be on top of my list, nor even a second one.

        • mckertis says:

          “MW2 got one of worst multi modes in any MW games up to date.”

          Good.

          • HothMonster says:

            You don’t want mulitplayer or graphics in your mech sim? Sounds like you want a cardboard box-fort mech cockpit and some reference material to make your own……

            (Hey guys do we have more boxes around here?)

    • SanguineAngel says:

      Truth has poured onto your keyboard and gotten all stuck, like honey!

      • Scythe says:

        Oooh I don’t know about MW2 being the best mech game. Mechwarrior: Living Legends would be an easy choice. That mod was stupendously good. Captured the MW2 feel to a tee.

        • SanguineAngel says:

          You are correct, living legends was delicious and I tackled it with pure unbridled glee. I felt 10 again and it was definitely the best mech game since 2, despite being a crysis mod. However, for me it was not quite as wonderful as MW2, even though it had some great new features. I particularly liked being able to play on foot or in other vehicles.

    • iaguz says:

      Pfft, Mechwarrior 3 is by far the quintessential mech simulatory experience. Proof: my brother still can’t shut the fuck up about the direct to cockpit from 2 km away Gauss rifle shot he got against a Thor that one time.

    • max_1111 says:

      Eeeh, I dunno’.
      Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely in love with Mech2 and the first time i played modem to modem with one of my buddies my mind was blown, but i think my best experience was still with Mech3.
      Great visuals aside, the fact that i could move my weaponry independent of my torso tipped the scales in its favour.

      • jrpatton says:

        I too prefer Mech3. Better visuals and it was still a mech simulator. After that though, it got all arcade-y.

    • Qabal says:

      Actually, Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries is the best mech game ever followed by Mechwarrior 2: Ghost Bear’s Legacy. I’d say vanilla Mechwarrior 2 is third, although I’ve never played Living Legends. I HAVE played Mechwarrior 3 and 4, but they just didn’t feel right to me.

  2. Mr. Mister says:

    Sorry, Steve. No new mech-who-wants-to-be-human simulators.

    • LionsPhil says:

      He’ll just have to make do with Warbot in Accounting: The Dating Sim. Now available for Microsoft Excel 2010.

  3. Waleebe says:

    ” with lightning-quick mechs that feel ballerinas”

    Well that’s not what I was expecting from a mech game.
    I say ban this sick filth.

      • Askeladd says:

        Interesting read, thanks. Sadly after the first third he’s starting to state things wrongly about physics…

        Here it gets wrong:

        “That’s not in slow motion. The scale is just really big. Proportionally speaking, larger things fall slower in the same gravitational field.”

        This is not true, which makes some of his later explanations that base on this ‘thesis’ either wrong or just badly explained. I can’t tell.

        Large fighting robots make no sense. Maybe in 1000 years.

        • njursten says:

          I think his point is that if you move a 2 m tall human up half his height in the air, it’ll take a shorter time for him to reach the ground compared to a 100 m being moved up half its height. Which is true.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            You are correct. However there are 2 things he should have probably added instead. Large things move slower and as they have a larger proportion appear to fall slower. A 2 cm ball falling 1 meter looks like it is falling faster than a 50 cm ball falling 1 meter. The second ball only fell 2 times it’s own height.

            So yes, things fall at the same speed. But giant mechs would move sideways usually with slower acceleration (due to being so heavy, unless you have massive moving power), and look like they fall slowly when they actually fall at normal speeds.

          • Askeladd says:

            Yes. He didn’t mention that if you see something fall that is really large it looks slow because you can see it really clearly, even though it’s still far far away. Your brain tells you it has to hit the ground any second, but it won’t. It an illusion your brain and your point of view create. He states it as physical fact.

            Imo he should make some more examples which explain the leg movement of a human vs the leg movement of a mech that’s 50m tall. The time it takes for a step to be made scale with the height.

            Wouldn’t a mech that is 50x higher than a human need 50x longer to take a step?
            If this is true a human would move 50 steps in the same time the mech does one.
            Which would mean equal speed.
            So which is faster: A tank or a mech?

        • Rhin says:

          I think that’s the point of “proportionally speaking.” I think the statement is perfectly fine. It’s just like saying “proportionally speaking, ants are stronger than elephants.”

          Strength of ant divided by size of ant is greater than strength of elephant divided by size of elephant.

          Falling speed of mech divided by size of mech is slower than Falling speed of ant divided by size of ant.

      • MrUnimport says:

        The article is summed up pretty well by this video.

  4. Dominic White says:

    I’m kinda bummed that the mechs aren’t nearly as capable as in Battletech. I want to be able to kick an enemy mech in the shins, or uproot a lamppost or tree to use as an improvised melee weapon.

    Oh, sure, it’s a fun game and all as-is, but there’s really not much sense that you’re piloting a giant robot beyond the view bobbing a little as you move. What’s the point in giving the arms, legs, heads and other such humanoid features if they handle nearly identically to, say, World of Tanks.

    • Askeladd says:

      I think it would work great with Kinect!

      AXE-MAN.

    • syndrome says:

      You need the legs for bipedal walk which is superior to tanks and great for the rough terrain. Tanks also can’t maneuver in tight places, and therefore don’t excel in urban settings. Because of this, future tanks will focus more on long-range semi-artillery combat, denial of area, and open ground skirmishing.

      You need the arms to increase the body surface, which is good for heat dissipation. You can mount weapons and systems on them, and you can also use them to destroy walls, push trees, and cause havoc with sheer hydraulic power. Most importantly, the arms can help the pilot to regain the balance, help self or other mechs regain their stance, etc (all of this, of course, is beyond the scope of this game; too much physics/animations/work when a great deal of strategy is already implemented; however, the game allows you to aim faster and independently with the arms-mounted weaponry). Some mechs are armless, usually reconaissance models.

      And the head is there to intimidate the opponent. There is nothing more frightening than the uncanny humanoid to a human brain. There are chassis without the head, usually the long-range and support models.

      • Askeladd says:

        I hope you aren’t serious.

      • Sunjammer says:

        Mechs look cool but are super, super dumb. Sorry.

        • Muffalopadus says:

          I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but GTFO.

          Fanboy zone only, haters not allowed.

      • EPICTHEFAIL says:

        Are you sure you understand how modern tanks actually maneuver? A tracked vehicle can turn on the spot. It can distribute its weight better than any other vehicle design. It has a much lower center of mass. All of this makes it superior to walking combat vehicles in rough terrain. The only practical use of a mech is as a terror weapon, like the AT-AT in Star Wars. Useless compared to normal vehicles unless the enemy is monumentally stupid, but it looks cool.
        I seem to be getting awfully lecture-happy today, what with this post, an entire morning of correcting people on ME wiki… The disadvantages of being a nerd.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          I don’t they’d even be effective as a terror weapon. The unknown is always more frightening than the known and you’d see (and be able to run away from/shoot) a Mech coming from miles off.

          They look cool and that’s it.

          • Dominic White says:

            They look cool and – in the Battletech rules, at least – they can do some seriously badass things that a tank can’t. Like so:

            http://www.myfreewallpapers.net/fantasy/wallpapers/battletech-brutal-punch.jpg

            You want to know why they gave the Atlas humanoid hands? That’s why. Sadly, nobody seems to want to make a proper mech game where they actually behave like the enormous walking titans that they are. We’re stuck with tanks-with-legs.

        • syndrome says:

          “Are you sure you understand how modern tanks actually maneuver? A tracked vehicle can turn on the spot. It can distribute its weight better than any other vehicle design. It has a much lower center of mass. All of this makes it superior to walking combat vehicles in rough terrain.”

          I actually understand how tanks work very well. Everything you say is true, however, you haven’t ever seen a military bipedal machine in order to compare its efficiency, haven’t you?

          Tanks are essentially armored gun carriers with offroad capability, high-powered engines, and additional reconaissance and even AA weaponry, depending on their role. They are highly mobile, and are able to cover vast areas of open terrain. Over the decades, their attack range improved tremendously, their profile was lowered further to the ground, to improve the weight distribution, as well as to conceal them better.

          Tanks suck ass at maneuvering in tight spaces. Although modern tanks are quick to rotate (both turret and chassis) and lock their target, a column of tanks is something else entirely. For urban and forest scenarios, and generally when the visibility is limited, you have to keep infantry close, otherwise you have a problem. Since WWII the only actions tanks are good for are: AT ambushes, infantry support, and wide area combat. Their ever-increasing range and profile lowering should attest to that kind of role. They cannot carry improvised equipment to suit some specific tactical role, they are too bulky to effectively suppress all flanks in tight places, and their guns aren’t that good for rapid firing — in fact they’re more like ultraheavy snipers.

          Once the wars escalate to the point where humans use automated drones to neutralize the infantry in close combat scenarios, tanks will have to enter the arena unsupported. Which is ridiculous. Same goes to areas with high biological and/or nuclear threat. You cannot send soldiers in hazmat suits and expect them to fight highly mobile automated drones, that need no air, and are immune to contamination.

          So the question is: What do you send in? Unprotected tanks with threads that break too easily?

          And another question is: If the wheels and tracks are so good and well adapted to Earth’s terrains, then why all the creatures have legs?

          First of all, the legs are much more energy efficient, and the second, the legs are much more adaptable to any type of terrain, additionally you can also leap or skip over (tripwires etc), and if the weight is balanced well you can’t flip over that easily. ?v=cNZPRsrwumQ#t=34s

          The other thing is, well, if you fight unarmored robotic drones along with the well-hidden infantry, you need to have a good view of your surroundings, and many smaller rapid-firing weapons, instead of one big ass cannon. You have to be able to maneuver extremely fast, to circumstrafe, to hide behind a corner.

          You people need to understand that this is basically an augmented soldier with the full freedom of movement. Except there is no crew, there is just one pilot, like in fighter planes. But he’s immune to elements, heavily armored (from all sides, there is no cockpit, just cameras), and a squad of these (let’s call ‘em gears) are much more effective in an urban setting than a batallion of tanks. These can surmount heavy obstacles (rubbles, hedgehogs, concrete teeth, minefields) usually without having to shoot them first or having to wait for the engineers to arrive. These can employ the usual squad tactics where needed, cross the pedestrian bridges and generally use pedestrian pathways, enter the malls, subway tunnels, even climb to a higher position using only its hydraulic claws to dig holes in buildings. Gears can also rearrange the surrounding, create a heavy urban defense by shuffling cars, dumpsters, and concrete around. You can’t do these things with a friggin’ tank! This is really the next step in military technology.

          The mech is just a fantastic extrapolation of that piece of hardware. They’re much bigger, much more armored and equipped, and they essentially present a multirole platform for dominating large areas of land (while denying air superiority due to their fitness to AA combat as well). Mechs are probably unfeasible, but should these machines turn out to be agile enough and customizable to such extent that they can dynamically fill a role in the field, they would probably replace all other land machines and even specialized foot soldiers, in the same way the main battle tanks of today dominate the land-based combat.

          Btw, just 100 years ago, many couldn’t imagine the modern warfare full of jet fighters, naval carriers, tanks, nuclear weapons, but here we are. You just have to think of the challenges the future will bring. So, be like those generals back in the day, and don’t believe me when I say that the automated drones capable of eliminating any living thing in its vicinity exist today! Laugh at me, like they laughed at airplanes, but what will you do? Who’ll you fight? Who’s gonna do it? Meatsack soldiers with EKG readings and IR emission? Stupid tanks alone? Guided missiles? It’s ridiculous.

          Tanks are the snipers, don’t ever forget that. They sit somewhere far away, concealed, and provide supportive fire: to penetrate an armor, to neutralize the infantry, you name it. When they’re on the move, it’s because the area is too exposed for the infantry on its own (and similarly unsafe for the tanks to just sit and wait), or they’re moving from parking A to parking B.

          • Amun says:

            “And another question is: If the wheels and tracks are so good and well adapted to Earth’s terrains, then why all the creatures have legs?”

            Oh boy.

  5. 0positivo says:

    To be honest, the way I would like a Mech sim to work is the way steel batallion heavy armor did. Minute control, more buttons and levers that I know what to do with them, complete subsistem access… minus the motion controls. Those could go away, thank you very much

    • Cinek says:

      I think you just found a reason why we haven’t seen any new game from that series recently nor heard about plans to resurrect it.

      • Dominic White says:

        A new game in that series DID just come out. And it’s one of the most broken games to use the Kinect controller, which is saying a lot. Microsoft leaned on Capcom to ditch the huge, complex mech-sim controller and make it an awkward hybrid of gamepad and gesture controls. It blew so very hard.

        • Cinek says:

          Does it really count as a game from the series if you waves some crazy stick in front of TV looking like an idiot?

  6. MeestaNob says:

    I don’t understand why this is free to play, it (so far) looks to be exactly what we’ve been crying out for for a decade – why wouldn’t they want to be paid for it?

    The Founders Packages all sound like astounding poor value. What’s the benefit here, other than early access?

    • Turin Turambar says:

      Because even being a “Free to Play” game they are taking from $30 to $120 who want to play.

      • Hanban says:

        Except that is not true.

      • PoulWrist says:

        It’s a free to play game where you can spend money to buy exclusive content and ingame credits and what not. Exactly like most other f2p games that have an economy. Nothing special about it…

    • Muffalopadus says:

      In pure economic value, you get three months of premium account (more exp, more money) and something like $30-50 of premium cash stuff. So that’s around $80 of stuff that has a known value.

      The unaccountable part is that you get 1 or 4 exclusive mechs. They’re exactly the same as the variant they replace (weapon hardpoint-wise) but have different paint jobs, slightly different models, and earn you more credits per round.

      Also you get your name in the credits if you spend $120.

      Also you get in the beta early.

      You just gotta ask yourself if that’s worth it to you. Personally, I love Mechwarrior, so I chose to support the product because I want it to succeed. So far, I am not disappointed.

  7. sinister agent says:

    Probably unfair to judge from just a few short clips, but the fixed HUD really kills the “you’re in a lumbering, shuddering cockpit” feel.

    Still, a minor complaint. I’m surprised by how thin on the ground mech games are, and will be even more surprised if this one isn’t a great success.

    • MeestaNob says:

      is it true there wont be distinct cockpits depending on which mech you’re piloting? Disappointing if that’s the case.

      • Askeladd says:

        It’s uniform… it’s not a real simulation yet.

      • Hanban says:

        They all share the same HUD but the cockpits are different.

      • Muffalopadus says:

        Cockpits are different but sort of samey. The main difference is the viewport thing you look out of, that changes drastically between mechs. The hud is the same though.

    • -Norbert- says:

      I don’t see why a HUD would be a problem.
      Modern fighter jets also have “real” tangible displays and dials and whatnot in their cockpit and have a HUD in addition to that.

  8. c-Row says:

    So Hawken is the Heavy Gear to MWO’s Mechwarrior 2?

    • Gnoupi says:

      My thoughts exactly. Though Hawken seems even more “mobile” than Heavy Gear. Or maybe I have only the light mech video in mind.

      Although one thing for sure. Each of these games needs to have the same feature as Heavy Gear 2, on Christmas day.

  9. aperson4321 says:

    Hello everybody.

    Insted of buying a founders pack to get into the beta you can (if you live in North America) buy the IGN Prime one month subscription and get a beta key from it.

    It will cost 7 dollars insted of ca 30 dollars.

    You get no bonuses as far as I know from the ign prime subscription.

    Hope someone find that helpful.

  10. HisMastersVoice says:

    They still don’t have European servers as far as I know, and I refuse to play with 200+ ping on US servers. So until they fix this, this game might as well not exists for me…

    • PoulWrist says:

      There’s no 200+ ping on the servers I’ve played on :|

  11. mikmanner says:

    Everybody! I’m making a game it’s called War Death JetMech Online. It’s a team based, online shooter – it will be released sometime in 2012. It is currently in closed beta but you can access it now by purchasing the ‘Sucker’ pack for £30 which grants you over £200 worth of in-game stuff! Including a lifetime XP booster, 60 !!!GOLD!!! coins and a VIP dog-tag which you will never, ever see outside of an achievement menu!

    • Askeladd says:

      Do you accept credit cards?

      • mikmanner says:

        Mate everything, Master Card, Maestro, Visa, Visa Debit, American Express, Direct Debit, BACS, Paypal, Cash, pay on finance, trade in your Xbox and all your games, dares, promises, mortgages, naked pictures of yourself, assassination contracts, fundraising, wedding invitations, love letters, hampers, servant / cleaning services, contraband smuggling, fasting, protesting, intelligence surveillance, book recommendations and cheque.

        • Askeladd says:

          I can’t find my CC right know but I have some real estate in Dubai, are you interested? It’s a bit sandy but the sun is nice. Just don’t forget something warm because at night it gets a little bit cold.

        • Muffalopadus says:

          …even bitcoins?

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          What about goats?

    • derbefrier says:

      but what about a cool forum title? I’ll pay an extra 50 bucks if i can get a forum title that lets me show all those poor people that didnt pay 50 bucks to play a beta how they are all scrubs and i am one of the elite. It also makes anything i say in the forums automatically superior to those who don’t have a founders title.

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      Not sure if epic sarcasm, or tripping on mushrooms.

    • Unaco says:

      Spambots are getting worse.

  12. Gothnak says:

    I’d be so over this if it had AI and a single player randomised campaign. Maybe even co-op vs AI, but i don’t really play online games against anyone, too worried about sucking badly, or not investing enough of my real life time/money to get better equipment and so getting beaten and getting angry because they had a better mech.

    If it were single player, i’d happily hand over 30 of my earth pounds.

    • Askeladd says:

      Then how about making friends in your timezone and play online with them? The LRM-boat mech is the easiest to play. Lock-on. Fire. Hide. Get found by a scout. Scream in mic. Die. Respawn. It’s just about how much damage you can do until they get you.

  13. vanosofmanos says:

    This actually reminds me more of the old Battletech VR pods ( some of which still exist from what I understand ) than the old Mechwarrior games for some reason. Those were fantastic solely for the level of complexity in actually trying to pilot a ‘Mech, even if your actually ‘Mech and weapon options were terribly, terribly low. Still, MWO feels like it’s captured that nice balance of being complex enough as a sim to make it feel like you’re piloting a giant 100 ton walking tank, while still being fun and approachable.

  14. Brun says:

    Rhinos can actually be quite fast, reaching speeds of up to 30 mph (or 50 km/h for you metric system types).

  15. DarkFarmer says:

    Was anybody else surprised that when they grew up and started building PCs after playing Battletech that Heat Sinks were a real thing?

  16. subshell001 says:

    I would love to play this with a couple of joysticks and the Oculus Rift. Oh, boy.

  17. adeptacheese says:

    do a post about mechwarrior living legends! it just got a massive update and the community is expanding, new servers have gone up to accommodate, and you can play it right now

    • adeptacheese says:

      i fear a lot of people waiting for mwo are not even aware of its existence