Raven Squad Review
|Release Date:||September 18th, 2009 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
"Good attempt, must try harder."
If Raven Squad were a primary school child, that's what it would say on its end-of-year report, though perhaps with a few swear words thrown in for good measure.
Passing itself off as a shooter/RTS hybrid, this game sets out to do too much with the idea and therefore achieves very little, despite its good intentions.
Your squad consists of six men, split into two fire teams, each with their own skill set (sniper/machine gunner etc), and obligatory silly call-sign of course. The teams have to take on a few various missions amongst the lush jungle setting, including storming buildings, sniping bad guys, protecting civilians and generally shooting things in the face, but with a story which is barely worth mentioning it's hard to see the point of the whole enterprise.
Though the action is fun enough, there's very little substantial difference between each level, and a lack of decent sidepiece battle is a glaring floor in the missions' flow.
The game isn't bad looking though, despite the rubbish story. Though the graphics are a bit out-dated the tropical scenery is rendered reasonably well, and the switch between the game's first-person mode and the overhead 'Operation Command' (RTS) view is smooth and effective.
Offering a service akin to Ghost Recon's CrossCom, the RTS mode allows you to see your enemies ahead of time, locate supplies and handy cover and order your two squads about by clicking where you want them to go.
You can zoom in on the enemy and check out where they're hiding, as well pick out the FPS-cliché of the big pile of exploding barrels littering the streets of the tropical towns.
The main problem is that when you've got your troops in the right position behind a sandbag barricade they're too dumb to take cover, and instead spend their time standing in the middle of the dirt path shooting at enemy.
But, despite the AI's incredible stupidity, the game is so easy that I never had to take cover for more than a moment, as the enemy soldiers are really bad shots and totally idiotic. Even on hard mode I very rarely got incapacitated, and as you can revive your soldier in a matter of moments, it's easier just to try and run down the enemies with a wall of fire than plan a stealthy approach.
Also, as the enemies are so dumb, even if you sneaked up to a decent firing position and threw a grenade at them they wouldn't even care, often they just stand there and let the wave of deadly shrapnel hit them. They're also prone to randomly charging at you, making them an easy target for your soldiers (if they ever stopped trying to shoot at the enemy through a building.)
Your teammates are also notoriously stupid. Unable to take cover, they instead often get stuck on the corners of buildings and resolutely refuse to move into battle. While the game's weapons are appropriately deadly, when you're in the RTS mode your team suddenly become terrible shots, and only start scoring kills when you inhabit one of their skins.
You can, however, switch between your teammates as you see fit. Each team member carries the stereotypical loadout for their class, and clearing a bunker with the grenadier is much easier than with the spook, but the weapons are so generic (and the enemies such weasels) that it hardly matters.
The weapons themselves do, however, sound the part. The machine gun has a healthy growl and the rocket launcher an appropriate bang. The reloading process is also much longer than you'd expect in an FPS, making the strategic approach a little more necessary, if irritatingly slow- it's quite easy to forget to reload and get caught in the middle of the animation while a tank fires at you, so prudent planning is necessary.
The rest of the game's sounds are not so good however. The voice acting is terrible, with flat inflection and boring lines. The operation commander is particularly bad, his horrible nasal voice a constant irritation as he hands out instructions, but even he's pipped at the post by the fire teams themselves, who yell out lines like "Tango down!" at every opportunity, lending the battle an incredibly irritating edge when compared with the decent sounds of the weapons and bullet casings hitting the ground.
Even if you manage to blast your way through the whole campaign (which, at just under 5 hours, even on hard mode, shouldn't be hard) you then have the option to go online and play through the campaign with a friend- if you can find one who's bought Raven Squad.
It's a shame that a game with such an interesting premise turned out to be so unmemorable. Despite some decent sound effects and clever hybridisation of FPS and RTS, the game is let down by a poor story, very bad AI and a horrible obsession with the phrase "Tango down!" I have no doubt this one will be confined to the bargain bin, but here's hoping the developers will have another go someday, as I think the idea itself had some promise.
"Good attempt, must try harder."
- Interesting idea
- Good weapon sound effects
- RTS mode is great for recon, but not for much else
Not so good stuff
- Bad voice acting
- No plot
- Terrible AI
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