MechWarrior 5 will release in September 2019

The delayed release seems to be working in Piranha Games' favor because I walked away really impressed with what I played of MechWarrior 5 yesterday.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries just looks better and better every time I see it, so I'm real interested in checking it out next year when it releases on September 10, 2019. MechWarrior 5 was supposed to launch this December but was delayed, but Piranha Games president Russ Bullock just announced the new release date during MechCon, where thousands of robot fans pour into Vancouver to celebrate all things BattleTech. To accompany the announcement, Piranha Games revealed an explosive new trailer to showcase some classic mech on mech action.

It's looking good, and it's playing really good too. Yesterday I got a chance to go hands on with a co-op demo of MechWarrior 5, with me and three teammates each playing in our own custom-built "mech pods" complete with HOTAS joysticks, Buttkicker rumble chairs, surround sound, and gorgeous 4K screens. It was quite the experience.

Below: the "mech pods" we played MechWarrior 5 in.

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But even playing on just a normal computer, I was having a blast trading long-range missile salvos against enemy mechs. When I first previewed MechWarrior 5 back in 2017, it looked promising but lacked a lot of visual oomph. A few months later, when I played it again, it had improved a bit but I found the AI to be pretty dumb.

Fortunately, the delayed release seems to be working in Piranha Games' favor because I walked away really impressed with what I played of MechWarrior 5 yesterday. Not only do the graphics feel significantly better and more detailed—I especially love how lush the foliage looked as I cleaved through forests in my Stalker—but the enemy AI was much more aggressive and fun too. They still had a bit of trouble running into objects and opening themselves up for a fatal strike, but it was a ton of fun picking them off with three other humans by my side.

But make no mistake, MechWarrior 5 is decidedly a singleplayer game. Though there's an option to have friends jump in and help you on missions, there's no real incentive for them doing so—any progress you make together is strictly for the benefit of the host. There also won't be any kind of matchmaking or server infrastructure, so you'll be playing using a peer-to-peer connection, but the option is there if you and three friends want to stomp around in mechs together.

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Fortunately, going solo with a lance of AI teammates is still fun. It really livened up the battle having a squad of mercenaries chattering in my ear as they pulled off impressive shots or suffered severe damage. But, at this point, I'm really keen on seeing how the meta-game of managing your own mercenary unit will work. It's clear that Piranha Games knows how to make mech battles fun, but it'll be the slow burn of going from greenhorn soldier for hire to deadly warlord that'll keep me invested, and so far Piranha Games hasn't shown much of what that looks like.

Hopefully Piranha Games will start showcasing how that overarching layer of strategy and management works in the coming year. But, for now, I'm happy to see MechWarrior 5 coming together so nicely.

MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries will launch on September 10, 2019.