MechWarrior 4: Vengeance
Kentares on sixty tons of missiles a day: Tactics
MechWarrior 4: Vengeance is very good at making you feel powerful. If an
tank is poking at you with its puny little cannon, you can just step on it. If a
building is getting in your way, a few seconds of firepower will reduce it to
rubble. The very ground trembles between your feet.
Then a Steiner MadCat Mk II neatly shears your legs off with a quick gauss rifle
barrage, and you suddenly don't feel so powerful after all.
The purpose of this guide is to help you make the journey from baffled scrub to
semi-accomplished MechWarrior. Perhaps you're the sort of player who gladly goes
into Instant Action in a ShadowCat against two Daishis and two Awesomes, pitting
your gauss rifle against their PPCs and LRM 10s. If you understood that previous
sentence, this guide probably won't help you much. You are already on the right
track. If the battle tactic "Run right up to the enemy and mash all the buttons
on your joystick until it's dead." is still a sadly recent memory for you, read
The Basics: How To Kill A 'Mech
The heart and soul of MechWarrior 4 is killing enemy 'Mechs. That's your job,
it's not an easy one. Learing a few basic principles, however, will make your
A 'Mech is split up into body parts (center torso, left torso, right torso,
arm, back, head, etc.). Each part has armor. When you shoot a body part and its
armor is gone, you do internal damage. Some internal damage destroys weapons. Do
enough internal damage and the 'Mech dies.
What this means is that the quickest way to kill an enemy is to focus as much
damage as possible on a single area. If you do ten points of damage to each body
part of a 'Mech, it won't even be breathing hard. Do all that damage to the
torso, however, and the 'Mech is dead. Nothing is more frustrating than fighting
a 'Mech that has lost all of its armor on all of its body locations but is still
running around merrily shooting at you with all of its weapons. It should be
dead, but it's not.
So what do you do about it? First, focus on weapons that do a lot of damage in a
single punch. All other things being equal, one gun that does ten points of
damage is worth more than two guns that do five points of damage. The bigger gun
will do more damage to one spot. Similarly, weapons that tend to spread damage
along several locations (such as a spray of Long Range Missiles) are sometimes
less effective at scoring quick kills.
When you get a chance in combat—when an enemy is running at you from long range,
for instance—focus your firepower on one spot on the torso. When a 'Mech has one
spot that's sparking, aim for that spot, since it's already damaged. While
shooting off an arm or leg does weaken a 'Mech's ability to move and fight, it
doesn't bring it that much closer to actually being dead. In the long run, the
torso is a better target.
In a first-person shooter, circle strafing is the best tactic. Basically, you
move sideways while turning, so that you circle the enemy while keeping it in
your sights at all time. This is the gold standard of first-person shooter
strategies. In MechWarrior 4 you can't walk sideways, so you have to adapt.
The best basic move to learn is circling while torso-twisted. Basically, you
torso twist to one side so that you are looking at the enemy, move forward at a
good speed, and turn so that you are circling your foe while constantly keeping
it in your sights. It's the 'Mech equivalent of circle strafing, and the game
tutorial gives you a good chance to practice this move. This way you can bombard
your enemy and, at the same time, be in constant motion. It takes practice to
this maneuver down, but it's the best place to start.
Whether fighting the computer or humans, it's a very good idea to keep moving.
makes it much more difficult for an opponent to get a missile lock on you, and
course it's harder to hit you with direct weapons. Also, even if the enemy gets
lock-on and fires some LRMs as you, it is actually not that tough to dodge them
if you're already moving quickly.
The distance from which to circle your foe depends on the weapons you are using.
One of the strengths of large lasers, Particle Projection Cannons, and gauss
rifles is that you can circle your enemy at three hundred meters or more and
still shoot. Even on Elite difficulty level, your enemies will have a hard time
hitting you if you circle them at a distance.
When playing single-player missions with lancemates, other tactical options are
open to you. While your assistants distract your foes in dogfights, you can
a safe distinct away and snipe. You will often find that you are much better at
focusing on specific and vulnerable target areas than your helpers are, and
their 'Mechs can be destroyed without ending the mission, yours can't. So feel
free to stay a safe distance away from the brawl, zoom in your targeting
reticule, and hammer away at enemy torsos with direct weapons. When an enemy
zooms in on you, run away for a little bit, and, when it forgets you, start to
snipe again. This tactic will be a great help in much of the single-player game.
Take advantage of long-range weapons. Always advance slowly, and, when an enemy
comes into range, take the opportunity to snipe at it with a few shots and let
come to you. You can often heavily damage an enemy 'Mech before it gets you
within range. Even better, you can frequently destroy turrets entirely before
they can take a single shot at you.
Finally, forget about honor. Shooting people in the back is the way to go. If
see an enemy running somewhere, start to tail it, then shoot it in the back as
rapidly as you can. Back armor is always weaker. Always remember: being cowardly
is bad. But it beats the heck out of being dead.
The MechLab: Your New Best Friend
The MechLab is the screen you can use to customize your 'Mech. You can change
weapons, add ammo, and tinker with your armor and heat sinks. Sometimes it's
to be lazy and not use it. After all, each 'Mech already comes with a mix of
weapons and your controls are automatically configured to fire them. Just as you
wouldn't play all the way through Quake using the shotgun, however, you
be content with what you're given. You can do much better.
MechWarrior 4 is based on FASA Corp.'s BattleTech boardgame, and to maintain
faithfulness to the original source, all of the 'Mechs have the same weapons
had on paper (though damage values and other parameters have been adjusted
slightly). What works really well in a board game, however—where you have time
carefully think and plan each shot—doesn't necessarily work so well in the heat
of combat. In a computer game, you have to scramble to steer and aim, and you
only have a split second to choose a weapon and fire.
Consider the Thor, one of the classic 'Mech designs. It has AC5 autocannons,
medium lasers, an LRM 15, and a machine gun, plus jump jets. In the board game,
this works great. In the PC game, however, you probably won't be fighting at
efficiency. The default weapons groups have your weapons scattered among the
buttons, making it difficult to fire different sorts of weapons simultaneously.
Long-range missiles are almost worthless without a lock-on, which can be
difficult to get. In a close range dogfight, when you get your target in your
sights, your good weapons may be on different buttons, so you won't be able to
hit the enemy with everything you have. The machine guns hardly do any damage at
all. And if your play style doesn't involve jumping, jump jets are a lot of
So what should you do? First, remember your goal. You need to do a lot of damage
to one location on each enemy 'Mech. That means that tiny weapons (like machine
guns, flamers, and the smaller pulse lasers) are suspect. So are combinations of
weapons that hit the target at different times (such as autocannons combined
lasers). You might want to consider switching from a mix of different weapons to
several of the same type of weapon.
Also, figure out which sort of weapon you like best. Most players have a
preference for a specific sort of weapon, such as PPCs or LRMs. If there is a
sort of weapon which goes along with your play style better than any other (and,
given time, there probably will be), start replacing the weapons that annoy you
with the ones you like. Avoid any 'Mech chassis that won't let you have your
preferred weapon types. Give those 'Mechs to your lancemates.
Now suppose that you have the perfect weapons mix in mind, but it weighs just a
little bit too much. There are ways to make a little bit more room. If you have
jump jets but you find that you never jump, you can free up several tons by
getting rid of them. You can free up tons by reducing your maximum speed,
dropping heat sinks, or reducing your armor. These are extreme solutions, but
increase in firepower may be worth it.
Also, don't forget to give your guns and missile racks at least a ton of extra
ammo. Nothing makes an extended mission more aggravating than having to conserve
Of course, having all of these guns won't do you any good if you can't fire them
when you want to....
Setting Your Weapon Groups
Most joystick controllers have three weapons triggers, each of which can be set
to fire several of your 'Mech's weapons. Each 'Mech is configured with default
weapon groups. Usually, the repeating weapons (such as pulse lasers) are set to
the forefinger trigger, and the other weapons (large lasers, autocannons, LRMs,
etc.) are set to the thumb triggers. Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily the
best set-up for maximum carnage in the heat of combat.
When you get your target in your sights, you want to be able to pull a single,
easy to reach trigger and launch all of your appropriate weapons simultaneously,
so that they are all sure to hit the target in roughly the same spot. Also, it
best to put all of the best weapons on the button you have the easiest time
reaching (usually the forefinger trigger).
Use the thumb triggers for other groups of weapons. If there's a special sort of
weapon (such as an LRM, for the occasional long-range attack), assign it to a
button of its own. Also, if all of your weapons are attached to the main
assign just a few weak weapons to a different trigger for shooting small things
(like tanks or choppers).
In general, it's a solid and simple principle. Figure out what your core,
preferred weapons are. Put a lot of them on your 'Mech, with a good ammo supply.
Then put all of them on the trigger you are most comfortable with. This will put
you in a good position to do some serious damage.
Using Your Controls
If you don't have a joystick, this might be a good time to get one.
Unfortunately, while many action games are best played with the mouse and
keyboard, controlling a 'Mech is much more complicated. You have to choose from
variety of different speeds, torso twist, and do any turning and aiming that
might be required.
If you're determined to use a keyboard, however, there is hope. First, be sure
set the mouse to control the torso. This will make it much, much easier to aim.
Second, change your weapons groups so that the mouse button fires all of your
weapons. You will probably have enough trouble hitting all of the correct keys
the keyboard without having to lurch for the Help and Home keys as well.
Finally, you will need to rely on your lancemates a lot, since it's can be
difficult to maneuver nimbly in a dogfight using the keyboard. Try to control
your lancemates carefully and support them using sniper tactics.
Using Your Lancemates
In the single-player campaign, lancemates are a necessary tool for your
Unless you are extremely skilled, you won't be able to handle everything by
yourself. Lancemates provide an excellent buffer between you and your foe. After
all (at the risk of sounding callous), if a lancemate gets blown up, you merely
are unable to use him or her for a little while. If you get blown up, game over.
Another great thing about lancemates is that they're pretty good in a fight. If
you're not the best warrior in the world, they can take up the slack. First you
have to learn how to control them, however.
While they can operate without any orders from you, this tends to be an exercise
in frustration. You will find that they tend to fall well behind you when you
running somewhere, and they will tend to fire at different enemies, instead of
concentrating their fire on one foe.
To give an order to all of your lancemates at once, hit F4. You can then make
sure that they all follow you by hitting F3. A better way to control them,
however, is to target a strong enemy. Hit F4 (for select all), and hit F1 (for
attack target) and they will all move quickly towards your designated target. By
getting them all to focus their fire on one foe, you reduce the amount of
firepower that the enemy can direct at you more efficiently.
Also keep in mind that lancemates aren't necessarily as good as you are at
concentrating fire on one damaged spot. Try sniping. Let the lancemates take the
brunt of the action while you stay safely back and fire carefully targeted shots
at vulnerable enemies.
Choose Your Weapon
There are three different classes of weapons, essentially. Each has its plusses
and minuses, but, before long, you'll probably find you prefer one over the
The first class of weapons is missiles. There are long, medium, and short-range
missiles. To hit something with a long-range missile, you probably need to get a
lock-on. You get a lock-on by keeping the targeting reticule on your target for
several seconds, which can be extremely difficult (especially if they are
or if you are moving, or if both of you are moving). To hit something with a
short or medium range missile, you aim in the correct direction, press the
trigger, and hope.
While missiles do solid damage and generate little heat, they are very difficult
to use effectively. Unless you can get a lock-on, they are difficult to aim.
if you do hit, the spray of missiles will probably strike your enemy in multiple
locations, minimizing their impact. You will run out of ammo quickly, and even
you do fire an LRM with a lock-on, a hit is far from guaranteed.
If you really like missiles, STRK missiles work like SRMs but they automatically
get lock-ons. This makes them much easier to use, but you would probably still
better off with autocannons.
The second class of weapons is projectile—autocannons and gauss rifles. These
weapons do solid damage, generate minimal heat, do all of their damage in one
location, and are easy to aim.
Their first drawback is obvious. They use ammo, so you can't fire
indiscriminately. Adding a mere one or two more tons of extra ammo in the
will give you enough bang to last through even a long mission, however. Also,
can get more ammo from field bases and 'Mech Repair Bays.
The second problem is the need to lead the target. Autocannon shots take time to
reach the target, which makes these weapons less effective against targets at
long range. Gauss rifles shots, on the other hand, reach the target instantly,
which makes them extremely effective. The combination of heavy punch in one
location and easy aim makes all varieties of gauss rifle excellent choices in
The final class of weapons is beam—lasers and PPCs. These are extremely powerful
weapons. They are common in salvage, they do excellent damage, they don't
ammunition, and the ray they fire is instant or nearly instant, so they are easy
to aim. The NovaCat is one of the most popular 'Mechs for dedicated MechWarriors
because of its capability to bear a wide variety of beam weapons. Give it two
large lasers and two PPCs or as many medium lasers as it can carry and boost its
heat sinks and you have a 'Mech that can carry you to the end of the game.
Beam weapons have one serious drawback: heat. Were it not for the warmth these
weapons generate, beam weapons would easily beat everything else for power and
versatility. Don't be afraid to shed weapons and speed and fill the open space
with extra heat sinks. If using a beam-heavy 'Mech, the most important goal is
make sure you can fire your weapons as fast as you can for several volleys
you are forced to let them to cool off.
Finally, be sure to experiment with pulse lasers. They can fire a lot of shots
a short time, so they're much easier to aim. On the down side, it can be
difficult to focus the damage on a wounded location, so they may be more
difficult to use in the long run.