World in Conflict Review
|Genre:||Real Time Strategy|
|Release Date:||September 21st, 2007 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Craig Dudley (Mani)|
World in Conflict takes place in the late eighties, a little less than twenty years ago to be exact, the Cold War has yet to end and it's a time of nuclear paranoia and a time I remember reasonably well; perhaps why I found the story so compelling at times. To cut a long story short, the Cold War doesn't cool down and the Soviet Union doesn't break up. Instead it invades Western Europe followed by a surprise attack on the western United States in the Seattle area whilst most of America's army is fighting in Europe.
The single player campaign casts you in the role of Lieutenant Parker, a unit commander who's in the Seattle area at the time of the attack. As you later find out he's on leave; lucky boy. Fortunately though, you won't stay in the same area for the whole game, the south of France, northern Russia and New York also make an appearance as events unfold.
Although you're obviously playing a game and things are never going to be overly realistic, a definite attempt to keep the plot believable has been made and for the most part it works well. A number of in engine cut-scenes mixed with some artistic works that have further side story dialogue over the top to further help to immerse. It's all very well put together as well as being a good way to disguise the fact that new levels are loading.
Voice acting and characterisation are excellent and further point to the high production values and the very professional, polished feel of the game. The occasional use of pop music from the era also works well, though I would have liked a few more tracks here and there.
Generally campaign missions will have you, Lieutenant Parker that is, in control of one unit of troops whilst other units fight around you towards a common goal, you certainly never have direct control over large numbers of units but the others fighting alongside do give a sense of scale. As do the hordes of Soviet vehicles you must defeat. However, let's be clear; this is not Supreme Commander and you'll rarely have control over ten or more units. An entirely different strategic experience awaits you. There is however a mega map function which allows the whole battlefield to be seen but since you generally control such a small group of units and have such defined tasks I didn't have the need to think on such scales very often and rarely used it.
Gameplay is not what you might expect from a real time strategy title either, resources are not harvested and you don't really build bases as such. Instead you will receive reinforcement points and tactical points to use as you see fit, at the beginning on missions you have a number of reinforcement points to spend on units and squads, as you units are killed these points are slowly given back and can be re-spent. Sounds simple enough but some missions do seem to change this model slightly by allowing more reinforcement points to be used after accomplishing certain tasks.
Tactical points are used to provide such things as large scale artillery attacks, laser guided bombs and even a tactical nuke though you'll need a lot of points for one of those. In their simplest form, tactical points accumulate as you destroy enemies of complete objectives but I suspect that's not always the case in the campaign and in most missions there does seem to be a limit on how many you can have and when you can have them, things like bad weather also deny the use of air support on occasions. However, you simply must use your tactical points wisely to be successful, the tactical strikes aren't instant either; all have an amount of time before they hit, this makes striking moving targets a real challenge. It's therefore sensible to use pin-point attacks on stationary targets such as bunkers or buildings and use area effect weapons such as artillery on those that may move.
As you might expect missions are objective based and usually involved something like capturing and holding a bridge or river crossing and as such your area of focus can tend to get quite small. You don't have a huge array of unit types to play with either. A few type of infantry units, light, medium and heavy tanks as well as APC's and jeeps will be your mainstay. Occasionally you will get the use of several types of Helicopters or anti-air units and sometimes even direct control of artillery pieces of some sort. Clever use of repair vehicles is also a must; keep you units alive and they do get promoted, though being honest as with most RTS titles the trick is using your units in tandem. For example; an anti tank infantry unit bunkered down in a building will easily take out large numbers of vehicles but clearly have no defence against an artillery piece levelling their hideout from afar. Likewise the artillery has no protection against air units; it's your typical rock-paper-scissor strategy conundrum.
Territory is captured via control points in much the same way as many an FPS game, however the control points are generally in pairs or more and linked; you'll have to have a unit in each to capture them. Keep you units in place for a longer time and fortifications will be erected on hard points around the control point; these give some very handy extra defensive firepower.
Whilst I am pretty positive about the game there are a couple of niggling caveats. First and foremost; performance, this is not the fastest of games but it does have a myriad of graphical tweaking options and can be made to run quite well on most systems, sans a lot of the visual quality of course. You'll need a beast of a PC to run it with everything turned on though. Secondly there are certain places on a few maps when you can see enemy units 'spawn', well they sort of fade into existence towards the edge of the map, under normal circumstances you wouldn't notice it I'm sure but it did disappoint me slightly.
Multi-player World in Conflict also has a number of parallels with first person shooters, firstly it's played in teams and rather than having a complete base and army per player, each participant controls one section of the same army; either infantry, armour, support and helicopters. There is a little bit of crossover though; for example the helicopter commander can air drop a light tank and it remains under his control. The game modes will also be quite familiar to fps gamers; maps obviously have a fixed number of control points and holding more of them than the opposing team will mean the domination bar at the top of screen moves in your direction and obscures the enemies flag, make the bar reach the end and victory is yours. It's similar to the way tickets work in the Battlefield series.
This isn't the only game mode of course and variety is the spice of life but whichever mode you do choose to play you will have to work closely with your team mates, perhaps why many suspect that many a clan will take up World in Conflict, it requires real teamplay, perhaps more than any other RTS I can remember. There's tonnes of multiplayer options and the bots do a reasonable job of filling empty game spaces too, a human can take over from a bot at any time though apparently.
I'm sure you all know that World in Conflict is Direct X 10 capable in Windows Vista as well as DX9 in Vista and XP and I suppose I should at least skim over the graphical differences, to be perfectly honest the game looks fine in DX9 and it can be quite difficult to see the difference until some smoke appears, there's plenty of that though as you might expect, this is a war game after all. Lighting and shadowing are also excellent; shadows cast by clouds sliding across the map on a windy day are particularly impressive. If you add all these evolutionary improvements together with cool physics features we certainly do end up with a revolutionary look and feel that can be breath taking at times, but frankly no individual improvement is really that huge; it all just works very well together.
World in Conflict is a beautiful and well made strategy title that strays from the norm and for the most part pulls it off, it has a compelling story line that's conveyed well by some great voice acting and music choices. There are tonnes of multiplayer options and maps to keep you and your friends going for a while. Finally, it's easy to play but hard to master and that's the sign of a good game in my book. As to whether it's the best RTS game ever? Probably not, but it is deserving of some of any strategy gaming fan's cash.
- Gorgeous graphics
- Good story
- Great voice acting
- Lots of multiplayer options
- Teamwork required in multiplayer
Not so good stuff
- Bit of a system killer at times
- Visibly spawning bad guys
- Not enough eighties pop tunes
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