The legendary Mechwarrior series, in summary: great big robots stomping about, shooting each other with heavy weaponry. What’s not to like?
While the past few years have seen a marked lack of massive robot carnage, the Mechwarrior series will be making its triumphant return as a free-to-play MMO. But it’s a whole year away--if you hope to be at all competent once the game arrives, you’ll want to start practicing now. Fortunately, the 2002 game Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries became a free download a year ago.
You’ll need to download MekTek’s MTX client to get your hands on Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries. The installation process is rather straightforward, albeit a bit convoluted. The MekTek download page serves up all of the links you need. We’re interested in the first one, the MTX client.
Run the installer. The MekTek site warns that some users have encountered conflicts with certain antivirus suites, so to get around that issue you may need to disable your antivirus program temporarily, or make exceptions for the application. For what it’s worth, I encountered no such conflicts on my own machine, which runs Microsoft Security Essentials.
Once the application is installed, launch it via the shortcut that it dropped onto your desktop. A dialog box should pop up, asking you where to put the games that MTX downloads. I recommend creating a subdirectory under MTX, to keep everything in one place. Afterward, you’ll see that nothing happens--in actuality, the application moves directly to the notification area of your taskbar, over on the right. You may need to click the 'Show hidden icons' button to find it. Once you’ve tracked down the icon, click it to open its window.
You’ll be greeted with a page that says 'Our Servers are under heavy load!' Ignore that. Click the Games Available tab, and look down in the Games You Can Install section. You want Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries. Right-click that entry, and click Install game. The download process will begin; it defaults to using BitTorrent. If you wish to change those settings, you can do so by heading to File, Options, but BitTorrent will be the fastest way to get your hands on the game. Go get a cup of tea (or reacquaint yourself with your joystick and throttle) while you wait.
Once the download is done, you’ll need to patch the game. It should update automatically (version 51.03.01.0030 is the latest, and probably last, one). I had to give it a little nudge, however, by right-clicking and then selecting Update Game. After it updates, you’re good to go!
If you’ve fired up the game, you’ve likely noticed that it’s a little rough around the edges, visually. There’s only so much one can do to spruce up a title this old, but enterprising fans at Mechstorm have created a texture pack that makes things a little easier on the eyes. Download that torrent, and open it with your favorite BitTorrent app. It will download a .zip file; extract that, and run the executable. Once you point the Mechstorm texture pack toward the location of Mechwarrior 4, it will back up the existing textures, and replace them with shiny new ones.