Sunday, 30 September 2007

World in Conflict

Wow. It's fantastic. I was sent a copy of this new military RTS title to review for Rewired Mind and I'm still playing it. My only regret? That I only had 500 words to review the game in when I could have filled up plenty, plenty more.

For the uninitiated, it revolves around a fictional scenario set in 1989. World War Three is raging and, with American backs turned fighting in Europe - specifically France, Norway and Russia - the 'damn Commies' (it's a game dripping with Cold War pleasantries) launch an attack on Seattle and invade the mainland United States. You're caught totally by surprise and, in a story narrated by Hollywood's own Alec Baldwin - follow your character, Leuitenant Parker, which his CO Sawyer and colleague Bannon, as they retreat and force the Russians back. You also relive scenarios in Europe, where the men were fighting before being called home.

It's nothing new for the RTS genre, because the units, HUD and style are all something we've seen before in a million other modern warfare titles. It's just that the exception is so visceral, explosive and almost perfect that makes it stand out from other similar games.

Graphically, it's like a first-person shooter rather than a strategy. The unit balancing is impeccable, as is the scenario design. It's hugely atmospheric because everything is both massive - developed by a company of that very name, it's expected - and realistic. You feel explosions because you get to watch cars being flung and new craters being dug. Bullets fell enemy soldiers like you've seen in a thousand war films. Tank barrels recoil rhythmically after expelling another shell.

It's pretty difficult to describe because there's so much going on - unlike other strategy games, that place you in the role of Commander with little regard for individual squads of troops, World in Conflict thrusts you into the middle of battle as a middling officer with a relatively small squad of troops. There's a lot of emphasis, as well as destroying enemies, upon protecting your men, chiefly because you don't know when you're going to get any more.

It also helps that you can watch the multitude of encounters over your soldiers' shoulders, as it were, because you can also zoom in to worm-eyes view, too. There's so much going on, you just can't help being caught up in it all, and I physically ducked - as embarrasing as this is - when I saw the reflection of a bomb explosion in a tank and wheeled the camera around to see a block of flats collapsing as a wave of smoke whooshed out from the debris. And it's not just the traditional RTS collapse of a building - the collection of polygons, or the texture ridiculously sinking into the ground as if it was quicksand - you can see the windows smashing, girders buckling and floorboards splintering.

This game has an average score of 94%, out of all it's reviews. I gave it 5 out of 5 for mine. It's one of the most near-perfect games I've ever played.

All I need now is an add-on pack where I can play as the Russians, because trying to invade America after helping defend it would be awesome.

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