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MechWarrior: Tactical Command

For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

Runs out of legs

Product: MechWarrior: Tactical Command | Developer: Personae Studios | Publisher: Personae Studios | Format: iPad | Genre: Strategy | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
MechWarrior: Tactical Command iPad, thumbnail 1
The MechWarrior series is renowned for bringing visceral simulator-like mechanics to a sci-fi world filled with hulking suits of mechanical armour.

Opting to zoom-out to a bird's-eye view and grant you command over a squad - or lance - of these walking tanks, then, would seem like a bit of a backward step.

That's the situation we find ourselves in with MechWarrior: Tactical Command, where a critical lack of responsiveness and nuance blows the legs off an otherwise decent real-time strategy game.

We are the robots

If you're unfamiliar with the MechWarrior fiction, think of it as a futuristic, militaristic universe filled with bipedal tanks like the ED209 in Robocop or the big bad dude in Ironman. But much taller.

You're placed in command of a up to four of these mechs, each of which has its own load-out and defensive capabilities.

One of the most attractive features of earlier games based on this IP is the strategic load-out element where you must balance offensive capabilities with the trade-off in carrying capacity and heat generation, then manage these elements out in the field.

After a pretty dull and restrictive first world you're given access to some of these load-out options, which is a major plus over many other generic iOS RTS games. However, without direct control of your mechs it loses some of its appeal - you're still just directing units to attack targets.

The game also lacks guidance on the nature and benefits of each modular weapon and piece of equipment. Unless you're a fan of the fiction, it might feel a little too much like hard work figuring out the differences.

Artificial stupidity

You can bring up additional offensive options when engaging an enemy by pressing and holding on them, but when controlling an entire lance these options don't seem particularly nuanced beyond standing still to aim or opening up completely for a few intense seconds (at the risk of overheating).

It pays to select team members individually and use their unique abilities, such as the facility to jump on an opponent's head like a 60-foot Mario. It's a nice way of discouraging a simplistic tank-rush approach.

Another famous aspect of the MechWarrior universe is location-specific damage. You can literally cripple an opposing mech by blowing off its legs or weapons, but it's a shame there's no way to specifically target these components as part of a deliberate tactical approach.

You can also initiate powerful direct attacks like ballistic bombardments or bombing runs, but this is slightly fiddly - you have to deselect your entire team in order to utilise them, and they don't always seem to work in the heat of battle.

Indeed, fiddly and glitchy controls are a common problem in MechWarrior: Tactical Command. If you want to repair your mechs, for example, you have to do so one at a time, which is annoying.

We also found that contextual command prompts would simply disappear when things got hectic, or would prove unresponsive.

Meching your mind up

MechWarrior: Tactical Command leans heavily on its Campaign mode, as there's no multiplayer element.

While the missions are fine, the story is pretty predictable and the script and voice-acting are typically cheesy. Cringe-inducing lines like "we've bloodied their noses, but HQ still wants us to kick them in the ass" are delivered with irony-free machismo.

We should also note that the software frequently chugged and paused on our third-generation iPad - usually when a scripted attack was about to take place.

Taken into consideration along with the game's other failings, MechWarrior: Tactical Command is like a big walking robot with its guns blown off and one of its legs damaged - just about functional and still capable of pulling off some impressive feats, but not quite as effective as it should be.
MechWarrior: Tactical Command
Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy | 22 March 2013
A half-decent RTS that only partially embraces the strengths of its source material and suffers from irritating performance and control issues
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