MechRunner tries to bring something a little different to the Runner genre on PS4 & PC but forgets to bring the fun. The Finger Guns Review:
Disclaimer: I backed Mechrunner on Kickstarter.
When Spark Plug Games took to Kickstarter to look for funding to finish their endless runner, MechRunner, they promised “an endless-style arcade action game mixed with fast and furious mode-changing mech action”. They promised an “Amazing Hollywood quality soundtrack”. They aimed to deliver “Procedurally generated levels for endless variety” with “Dynamic environment obstacles”. To their credit, they delivered most of this. It’s just a shame that combined, these elements don’t make for a very entertaining game.
In MechRunner, you play as Allison Teterev, a mechanic and pilot. Using a Mech built by her uncle, she’s fighting back an evil army of machines corrupted by an alien energy source. Apart from unlockable videos, the story makes very little difference to the game and serves as nothing more than window dressing.
Game play wise, MechRunner shares most of its mechanics with the rest of the games in the genre. You barrel down a procedurally generated pathway, moving left and right, avoiding obstacles and picking up collectables. The longer you survive and the more collectables you collect, the more XP you earn, the more new weapons you unlock. The more weapons you unlock, the easier it is to travel further and earn more XP and pick up more collectables. The game play cycle spirals on like this ad infinitum.
How MechRunner differentiates itself from the other runner games is by jamming in combat sections at random. During these encounters, your Mech comes to a stop and enemy robots pop up ahead. Using the 5 weapons on the Mech, you have to destroy the enemies before moving on. Get hit and you lose some health. Lose all your health and you’re starting from the beginning.
I imagine these combat sections were meant to add a little spice to the game but if anything, it slows down the play. Just when you start to build up a bit of steam in the runner section, you’re brought to a halt.
The other way it differs from other Runner games is that instead of jumping or crouching, the Mech can switch between a Tank Mode and Combat Mode. Each mode has it’s own weaponry and while the Combat mode moves faster from Left to Right faster, the Tank mode can glide under objects like bridges without taking damage and it can rescue civilians when you drive over them.
The game has 4 environments to run through – City Streets, Train Tracks, A Sewer and an industrial district – each of which gets progressively more difficult, requiring high weapon unlocks to even hope of getting more than a minute into a new game.
The main issue with MechRunner is that it is incredibly bland and feels poorly thought through. The game play doesn’t ever feel exciting because the pace is constantly changing and the repetition-to-unlock curve offers very little motivation to try to do better until you have better weapons/upgrades. Then there’s the cheap game aspects – When turning a corner, the camera often drifts, obscuring your vision of the full track ahead. Buildings from either side of the track will collapse into the only passable point of the track meaning you have no choice but to take a hit to your health.
Then there’s the “procedural generation”. It only takes a handful of plays of each location to see everything that it has to offer. Each play might be based on a random set up but that doesn’t make it any more interesting.
MechRunner offers little more enjoyment or innovation than the thousand of mobile runner games on the market – except it cost at least 10 times more. Sure, it’s reasonably pretty, shiny and it does have a catchy soundtrack but the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. MechRunner is just not fun and a huge disappointment.
MechRunner is available now on PS4 (version reviewed) and PC.
Disclaimer: We received the game as a Kickstarter reward ($25 pledge) in order to complete this review. For more information on how we review and score games, please see our review policy.