The last time we saw a fully single-player MechWarrior game was way back in 2000, back when tech news was dominated by Metallica’s fight with Napster and thinkpieces on how silly all those Y2K fears turned out to be. But as is appropriate for this age of reboots, that’s about to change.
Last night at Mech_Con 2016, a event in Vancouver for fans of MechWarrior and Battletech, developer Piranha Games showed off a seven-minute trailer with footage from its upcoming MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries, currently scheduled for a 2018 release.
And it looks marvelous. The stomping around in building-sized bipedal robots, the blasting of other big robots with massive cannons mounted on your own, the need to repair the hulking chunks of metal, the very core of the MechWarrior experience, in other words—it’s all there. It’s set a thousand years from now, and players take the role of a newbie mercenary involved in a conflict for control of the expanse of space closest to Earth.
Only the full release will show how well it works in action, of course, but it looks like a marked improvement from Piranha’s previous work with MechWarrior. Since 2013 the studio has run a mediocre free-to-play MMO called MechWarrior Online, and in my review for GameSpot I frowned at how the series’ rich lore only appeared in snippets, “chiefly revealed through cosmetic skins and baubles you can buy for your ship’s dashboard.”
The trailer also screams “virtual reality compatible,” as the perspective is set within the cockpit much as in the style of longtime VR critical darling EVE: Valkyrie. Piranha, alas, didn’t say anything about such compatibility, but MechWarrior 5‘s Unreal Engine 4 graphics give much cause for hope. Epic Games’ upcoming and attractive giant VR robot game Robo Recall also uses UE4, and the Unreal Engine itself just became more VR-friendly thanks to a patch improving forward rendering.
The announcement prompted concerns that MechWarrior Online would get pushed by the wayside, but Piranha president Ross Bullock denied any such thing.
“MWO is now in its fifth year of development and operation, and there’s still a lot of really cool stuff planned for it,” he said.
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