MechWarrior Online contest puts free BattleMech up for grabs this weekend

One good way to get pilots into the hot seat of a new 'Mech is to let them fight for it. This weekend MechWarrior Online is giving players a clear path to ownership of a hulking and asymmetrical Thunderbolt variant—win five matches and the machine is yours.

The contest, part of MWO's on-going "challenge" system, began this morning and runs through 10 a.m. PDT Tuesday. It's just the type of event developer Piranha Games had pointed to with its overhaul of MWO's user interface earlier this year. Beyond that, the Thunderbolt-9S challenge is also an early-access look at some of the new 'Mechs set to be released into the wild with this Tuesday's regular patch. The image above is concept art of a similar Thunderbolt 'Mech.

Whether you're an infrequent player or a hard-bitten veteran, this challenge is a massive shortcut to a new BattleMech that would normally require many hours of successful gameplay in order to purchase outright using MWO's in-game currency, C-Bills. Five match wins is a good deal. Since every fighting machine in the game is different, a fresh 'Mech means additional loadouts, new obstacles to overcome, and a different experience in-game.

Although MWO has had a third-person camera for a while now, the cockpit is where players spend most of their time. For those curious about the sight lines and layout of a Thunderbolt pilot's workstation, I grabbed an image from another variant which your can see below.