MechWarrior 4: Black Knight

a game by Microsoft
Platform: PC
Rating: 8/10

Overview

I’m not a great fan of expansion packs. They’re usually a trite attempt at recapturing the same flavor or feel of the original game, which is usually well enough done on its own. Adding extra missions or new characters, expansion packs rarely live up to the original, much like most movie sequels. I am sad to say that Black Knight is one such expansion pack, although not for lack of trying.

Set just after the events in the original MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, you’re Eric McClair, a commander in the Black Knight Legion, a large group of mercenaries that works for the highest bidder. Formerly an officer in the House Davion military, you were dismissed for Less Than Honorable conduct, a trumped up charge created by a superior officer to stain your record. Dispossessed and seeking a way to return to your old ways, you’ve joined the Black Knight Legion and gained the trust of their leader, Col. Lawhorn. Starting your campaign with a little pirate hunting duty, you’re quickly pressed back into the conflict on Kentares IV, the location of the last MechWarrior 4 conflict.

Gameplay, Controls, Interface

Black Knight uses the same engine and interface as the original MechWarrior 4, with two noticeable differences. They’ve added a few new mechs, including the impressive Black Knight, which can round out your force as an excellent top-end heavy mech unique to the Legion, and the Sunder, a retrofitted clan mech that is one of the heaviest mechs you’ll ever pilot. Don’t worry about the terms that you don’t understand, as these games either butcher or misrepresent the detailed backstory of the [[Battletech]] universe such that it doesn’t matter.

The other addition to the game is the black market, a new way of acquiring new weaponry. Unbound by Davion laws regarding salvage and purchase of parts, one of the benefits of being a Black Knight Legionnaire is being able to contact the black market for a few discreet purchases. This not only expands your possible inventory quite a lot, it makes up for the fact that severely damaged weapons are tossed out of your inventory instead of being kept for repair.

Multiplayer

Aside from updating the game with the latest patches, Black Knight adds new maps and mechs to the game, and a few new gameplay modes. Goliath is one of the more interesting modes that it adds, where a smaller force of Heavy and Assault mechs go up against a larger force of Light and Medium mechs. Rewarding you for the damage your team inflicts and suffers, it particularly rewards daring players, giving extra bonuses to smaller mechs that take on large ones.

System Requirements

Windows 98/Me/2000, PC with 300 MHz equivalent or higher processor, DirectX 8.0 or later compatible sound card, DirectX 8.0 API (included with MechWarrior 4: Vengeance) or later, 64 MB RAM, DirectX 8.0 or later compatible 8 MB VRAM PCI or AGP video card that supports Direct3D API, 650 MB available hard disk space for typical install, 125 MB of hard disk for swap file, 8x speed or faster CD-ROM drive, and a mouse or compatible pointing device.

Bottom Line

Once you play, it’ll be obvious that the new mechs that they’ve added with the Black Knight pack are excellent choices, ones that really add to the flavor and choices you have at your disposal. The biggest flaws come in the storyline and lack of new material, this game really fails to add anything interesting to the MechWarrior universe. Assuming that the first game ended poorly, your missions as a Black Knight Legionnaire take you back to Kentares IV to fight the newly elected Ian Dresari. Apparently, unlike your experiences in MechWarrior 4: Vengeance, Ian is just a bumbling idiot who inflicted pain and suffering on the people in the wake of the recent civil war. If you enjoyed the first storyline, you’ll probably hate this one.

Lastly, there’s very little in the way of new material supporting all of these small enhancements, as the only voice-overs and very short in-engine scripted scenes serve to move forward plot. All in all, this feels like a slapped together excuse for a patch instead of an actual expansion pack. It can’t take away from the really good parts of MechWarrior 4, but there’s still not that much good about it.

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