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    Pirate Moon
    Reviewed by the jaded critic

      Publisher
    Microprose

    Developer
    Zipper Interactive

    Requirements:
    - Original Mechwarrior3
    - 200 Mhz or faster Pentium
    - Windows 95/98
    - 32mb RAM
    - High Color graphics
    (640x480x16-bit color -
    - 2mb video RAM min.)
    - Quad-Speed CDROM drive
    - 150mb (HD space) free +
    200mb swap file
    - DirectX-compatible sound card

    Recommended for advanced
    graphics options

    - Original Mechwarrior3
    - 300 Mhz or faster Pentium
    - Windows 95/98
    - 64mb RAM
    - High Color graphics
    (1024x768x16-bit color)
    - Direct 3D graphics accelerator
    - Quad-Speed CDROM drive
    - 335mb (HD space) free
    + 200mb swap file
    - DirectX-compatible sound card

    Required for Multiplayer
    - Windows compatible 28.8 kps
    modem or faster (2 players)
    - Local area network with IPX or
    TCP/IP (2-8 players)
    - Interplay play with a true
    TCP/IP connection (2-8 players)
    - 64mb RAM
     
    Sometime ago, when I reviewed Mechwarrior3 (M3), I predicted the appearance of an expansion pack. M3 was a good time, but far too small. So, when Pirate's Moon (PM) appeared, it was no surprise. All the same, I had to give it a chance. I will spare you most of the grisly details of game play, mainly because anyone who's familiar with M3 knows the drill. PM is, after all, an expansion pack. So the only remaining question to ask is what are the major differences?

    Click to enlargeUnfortunately, one of the first things you'll notice is the voice acting. The briefings, (conducted by your Intel officer in M3), have been replaced by you (the player) reading your "commander's journal". I can't begin to imagine why Zipper Interactive felt it necessary to put words in my mouth. Perhaps it was done to lend some sense of character, and greater story to PM. However, in the end, all it managed to do was make me anxious to get out of the briefings as quickly as possible. I don't have any quibbles with most of the voice acting, but Connor Sinclair (AKA-Damocles One, AKA-the player), got on my nerves real quick. His long-winded stale readings, pointless moralizing and innate need to state the obvious gets old fast.

    More then once I had to restrain myself from blowing up my own mech in an attempt to kick my own ass. Good lord, if they had to hire someone to put words in my mouth, couldn't they at least hire someone who knows how to pronounce Lyran properly? The sad part is, once you've endured these "daily diary sessions", all they really serve to do is make the mission objectives more hazy. Sigh. (Don't even get me started on the voice acting in the pirate missions.)

    Click to enlargePM does include a buffet of other features. At the head of the table is a half dozen new mechs. Battletech fans will almost certainly enjoy the addition of such classic molds as the Atlas and the Awesome. There is a certain special pleasure in seeing the models that date back to Battletech 3025, portrayed in 1024x768, 3D accelerated glory. There are various new weapons to play with. However, the majority of them are heavy and light versions of standard weapons. (Be still my beating heart). True, these are accurate to the Battletech universe, but I think it's safe to say they fail to generate much excitement. There are a few standout weapons, such as the thunder long-range missiles.

    PM also includes night missions. M3 did not. As much as this is a new feature, I could do without. PM forsakes the "low-light mode" (a kind of infrared used in Mechwarrior2, Mechwarrior2: Ghost Bear's Legacy, and Mechwarrior: Mercenaries), in favor of headlights. We are talking about the 31th century, and they can't come up with anything more advanced than headlights. From a design standpoint, it was probably intended to show off the game's lighting effects, but from a game play standpoint it sucks worse then a WB sitcom. The headlights are useless at long range, useless for reading terrain and terrain obstacles, and won't illuminate targets any closer then point blank. (at which point you don't reallyneed them anymore anyway)

    Click to enlargeM3's worst sin was its lack of depth. Its 20-mission campaign was downright skinny. PM is an emaciated 10 missions. This is just plain sad. If the trend continues, remind me to skip the next expansion. In its defense, PM does give you the option to experience thesame battles from the Pirates' point of view. In theory, that's a great touch. It loses something in the execution. The pirate missions are just that, missions.

    Essentially you're re-reading the same book from the opposite point of view. Amusing, but of no lasting value. Call me crazy, but you're better off just playing the "instant action" option. There is talk of AI enhancements, and I will readily admit that PM is more challenging then its older sibling, but in truth, that seems more like a by-product of disturbingly high weapon accuracy on the part of the pirates. I played M3 start to finish without dying of one head hit. I died on five separate occasions of head hits in PM. (Despite the fact that PM is only half the length of the original). Still, mechs will torso twist, circle strafe, shoot out your legs, and aim for the head. They will also bump up repeatedly against their lance mates (rather then go around), and expose their backs to you on a regular basis. (The AI modifications are definitely a mixed bag).

    Click to enlargeThe good news is, that if you've made it this far, you've heard pretty much everything negative that I have to say about Pirate's Moon. The game play that made its bigger brother such a fun ride is largely intact. Graphics and sound are both excellent, and PM's new scenery can occasionally be a site to behold. As for the "Improved Special effects" that the box boasts of, I didn't see it. PM is a visual and audio treat, but no more so then its big brother.

    What we have here is a classic example of development crews trying to fix what isn't broken and making allot of highly questionable design decisions along the way. PM is definitely the black sheep of the M3 family, but it does have interesting missions, dressed up and delivered with all the graphical and audio flair that we'd expect from an M3 expansion. If you were only marginally interested in the series, I'd recommend steering clear. If you're a devotee of the Mechwarrior series or enjoyed Mechwarrior3, then PM is probably worth a look.

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