MechWarrior Mercenaries: 3Dfx Version

a game by Activision
Platform: PC
Editor Rating: 8/10, based on 1 review
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Overview

The battle among the manufacturers of 3D video cards has in the last year or two become as frenzied and intense as any war among giant motorized units in their huge mechanized combat simulations. Most experts agree that out of this competitive carnage, one chipset -- 3Dfx -- has emerged on top, at least temporarily. The success of this chip has had such an impact on the gaming industry that many of the upcoming Christmas releases plan to include a special enhanced 3Dfx version in order to attract greater consumer interest. Game players with other 3D video chipsets (such as non-3Dfx cards from Matrox, ATI, STB, and Number Nine) have found themselves increasingly relying simply on generic Direct3D support (in applications using DirectX) or, even worse, finding little support for their video card's special 3D capabilities except in the special versions of games bundled with their 3D cards themselves.

Nonetheless, it is still rather surprising that Activision decided to release a stand-alone retail version of MechWarrior 2 Mercenaries that runs only on four video cards using the 3Dfx chipset -- Diamond Monster 3D, Orchid Righteous 3D, Deltron RealVision Flash 3D, and Hercules Stingray 128/3D. Normally game companies have included a 3Dfx version either with the mainstream version of the game itself or as a patch or upgrade to an earlier release lacking 3Dfx capabilities. While Activision has a history of releasing separate versions of games for different operating systems -- for example, the original Mechwarrior 2 had separately boxed DOS and Windows 95 versions -- it is a little different to produce a retail version for a chipset that still represents only a small fraction of the potential audience. No doubt part of the motivation was to get a bit more revenue out of the mechanized battle crowd before long-anticipated holiday season releases of Sierra's Earthsiege 3, Microprose's MechWarrior 3 (now back under the control of FASA), and Activision's own Heavy Gear.

This 3Dfx version of Mercenaries appears to be identical to the original, with the exception of the 3Dfx graphics support. This newly-enhanced version does not disappoint at all, with truly incredible 16-bit visuals that really do improve the gameplay. In comparison to the 3Dfx-enhanced version of the earlier MechWarrior 2, Mercenaries incorporates considerably more detail and special effects. A boosted frame rate, realistic texture maps with perspective correction, and animated skies with cloud movement (a hallmark of recent 3Dfx games) all make the game even more fun than before. I noticed, for example, that it is a lot easier to spot enemies and structures from a distance and to devise attack strategies because you are now able to see a lot wider horizon with a lot more going on within the view than before. The backgrounds are so beautiful that it is hard to keep from being mesmerized by them, distracting you from playing the game.

System Requirements and Comments

Minimum requirements: Pentium 166 Mhz CPU, 16 MB RAM, 75 MB uncompressed hard disk space, VESA Local Bus or PCI video card capable of supporting 16-bit color with either the main Video Card or an add-on Video Card supporting the 3Dfx chipset, 2X CD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster-compatible sound card, Microsoft-compatible mouse, Windows 95 operating system. These are, quite frankly, the steepest system requirements I have seen in any game released thus far.

Bottom Line

With or without the 3Dfx graphics, MechWarrior 2 Mercenaries remains a great game. The non-linear missions are really enjoyable and involve surprising twists and turns, the economic system provides a challenging option for those who want to transcend a mere "shoot-em-up" atmosphere, the customization and network play capabilities are awesome, and the music and sound effects are superb. Unlike the initial release of MechWarrior 2 Mercenaries, this 3Dfx version is not full of bugs, although I did notice that the setup procedure blundered badly in its identification of my computer's capabilities. I feel that the 3Dfx version does significantly enhance the gaming experience, and thus I would highly recommend purchase of it to fans of this kind of mechanized combat if they have the extravagant hardware needed to run it and the strong desire to play it with nothing less than state-of-the-art visuals.

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