In the future, the ultimate weapon on the intergalactic battlefield isn’t a tank or a high tech fighter jet, but a big, stomping mechanised fighting machine, or mech for short. In Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, you and your band of soldiers for hire will travel around the universe, deploying your heavily armed walking machines wherever the highest bidder tells you to. By taking on ever increasingly risky missions, you’ll grow your reputation as the most fearsome band of mercs in the universe.
Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries has officially been released for free, meaning anyone who fancies a little old-school mech action can download and install the game and start playing right away. To install Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, we are going to use a tool called Mechwarrior-XC. If you’re lucky enough to have an original copy of the game, you can safely leave it on your shelf as a collectors piece this time, since the Mechwarrior-XC program will take care of downloading the game and all the latest patches.
Start by downloading the Mechwarrior-XC installation file. Download the latest version (0.61 at the time of writing) from the official Google Code page here. Once the download is finished, double click on the executable file or choose “Open” or “Run” in your browsers download manager. Follow the on-screen prompts to install the program to your PC.
Once installation is completed, you can start Mechwarrior-XC by searching for “MXC” on the Start menu or Start screen and clicking the icon that appears. When you launch the program, it appears initially to do nothing, but don’t be fooled. Look in your notification area (system tray) for the icon circled in the picture below.
To install Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries, right click on the Mechwarrior-XC icon in the notification area and from the menu that appears choose “Install” and then choose “Mechwarrior 4 Mercenaries”. The window shown below should then appear.
If you need to change the default installation directory, click on “Choose”. Otherwise click on “Install” and the program will take care of installing the game for you.
About the additional components – You may have noticed on the installation menu that there was an option to install Maps and Evilbot. If you want to play in multiplayer, you may wish to install the additional map packs, though they aren’t required to play the single player campaign. As for Evilbot, we weren’t able to install this component, but it appears it is only required for players who wish to run their own Mechwarrior 4 multiplayer server.
Tweaking visual quality
Before you start the game and jump into your heavily armed mechanoid, you may want to configure a few settings so that you can enjoy the game with the best possible visual quality. In the Mechwarrior 4 – Mercinaries game folder is a program called “autoconfig_MERCS.exe”. Run this program and then click on the “Advanced >>>” button. The window shown below should then appear.
The box second from the top on the left is where you select your graphics hardware. Make sure that your graphics card is selected here and the box is not left blank. Below that, you can select a screen mode. Although Mechwarrior 4 was never designed to run in widescreen, it actually works pretty well at 16:9 or 16:10 resolutions, with just a minor stretch to the HUD graphics, so select your monitors native resolution in this box. The “x32” part on the end of the screen mode is the colour depth, on a modern PC this should always be 32 bit and in most cases the configuration utility will only list 32 bit modes.
The other options shown in the picture have all been configured for highest visual quality. Since this is an old game, you should be able to do this even on a relatively modest PC. If you have an older PC and find the game doesn’t run as smoothly as you’d hoped, run the utility again and choose “Graphics Settings : High” or “Graphics Settings : Medium” instead.
When you are done configuring these options, click on “Continue”. The configuration utility should now close and you can proceed to start the game.
Starting the game
Once installation is complete, you will need to start the game from the desktop shortcut or by browsing to the Mechwarrior 4 folder and running the MW4Mercs.exe file. For some reason the installer does not create Start menu/screen shortcuts for you. If you want to manually add a shortcut to your Start menu/screen so that you can launch the game from there, see this tutorial. You can also launch the game by right clicking on the Mechwarrior-XC icon in the notification area and choosing “Launch Mercs”. The game requires administrator rights to run. The first time you run the game you will need to accept the end user license agreement too. Finally, if a Windows firewall prompt appears, you should opt to allow the game to communicate on private networks if you intend to try multiplayer games at any time.
The game is already set to play with a 360 pad so most gamers can dive right in and start playing. You will still need your keyboard for some functions, such as for barking orders at your fellow mercenaries. If you have a different controller you want to use, such as a twin joystick or fancy mech controller, you can configure it from the games main menu by choosing “options” and then “controls”.
Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries had a strong multiplayer following when it was first released. Of course, nowadays there are only a trickle of players around to test your skills against. With the game being completely free, however, its a good choice of game if you can get a group of friends together and you want something new to play on your home network.
To play against another player in your home, simply select “Multiplayer” from the main menu. The following screen will then appear.
One computer needs to be the server, this should be the most powerful PC participating in the game. This player should click on “Host”. The other players should click on “New” and follow the on-screen prompts to set up a LAN game connection. Once that is done, click on “Connect”. After a short pause, you should see a server browser and hopefully the game that is being hosted on your LAN.
Playing across the internet is trickier, to do this, you should download and install the Gameranger utility. Once you have Gameranger installed, you will need to run it as administrator in order to use it with Mechwarrior 4. Typically Gameranger will not automatically detect that you have Mechwarrior 4 installed, so open the “Edit” menu in the program and choose “Options…”. Under the “Games” tab, scroll down and find “Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries”. You now simply need to click on the “Browse…” button and point Gameranger to your Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries installation folder.
You should now be able to host Mechwarrior 4 games or join them using Gameranger. Watch out, any opponents you encounter are likely to be highly skilled.
Multiplayer troubleshooting and other notes
We have not extensively tested the multiplayer component so if you do get it working please let us know in the comments. If you have trouble connecting to other players, you may need to open the following ports on your router. Please note you do this at your own risk and since there are so many different types of router available we can’t offer much in the way of help with this process.
For hosting games online, you may need to open the above ports and also the following.
The MechWarrior 4: Vengeance mystery
Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries is actually a standalone expansion pack for Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance. Mechwarrior 4: Vengeance was at some point in the past also released for free, however we could not find a current download link for it. We do not know if this title is now in copyright limbo or if the game simply needs a new server to host the download. If anyone knows of a legal download link for Vengeance, we would appreciate it if you could let us know.