Initially I was fairly certain I wanted a relatively realistic visual style in this game. The clean sleek look of the mechs would only be truly visible with high-poly models with a large amount of detail. However, I'm now leaning towards more of a PS1 era visual style, and for a few different reasons.
One of my major influences in this project is the first three entries in the Wipeout series of games, all originally released on the PlayStation. I was playing Wipeout 2097 earlier this week, and something about those low-poly edges and low-res textures really stuck out to me. Part of it I think is nostalgia; growing up in that era, there's definitely a vibe I get from looking at those visuals that takes me back to the mid-90's, when these games were released. Every model has crisp, clean geometry, and the chunky textures do just enough to get the visual across.
I managed to find a website where a developer created a WebGL viewer for the track and ship models from Wipeout and Wipeout 2097, and taking a closer look at these models really hammered home the true beauty of that sort of visual. Careful review of the models also shows that, while the detail is definitely there, there's a certain disregard for things I previously thought were important with that sort of design. Polys connected to each other have slightly differing texture resolutions, things aren't all perfectly aligned, etc. It's actually kind of heartening to see that, because even with those flaws the imagery still works brilliantly.
Another major influence is MechWarrior 2, which has a similar low-poly look. While I don't have a model viewer for that game, I'm fairly certain the poly count is actually even lower than the Wipeout games. This makes sense, given that it was released a year before the first Wipeout title. Additionally, you can travel all over any of the maps in MW2, while in Wipeout you're restricted to the track you're racing on. It's that restriction that allows for a more geometrically detailed level, since there's no need for polys in places you can't go.