Act of War: Direct Action
Company: Atari

Title: Act of War: Direct Action
Genre: RTS
Platform: PC
Developer: Eugen Systems
Launch date: Spring 2005

Picture perfect

Act of War: Direct Action® takes the player on an epic techno-thrilling battle around the world. From the deserts of North Africa to Europe, the US and Russia, players will be able to enjoy Eugen Systems' highly detailed architecture and painstakingly accurate cities including, amongst others, Washington DC, San Francisco and London.

Eugen Systems have taken their time to accurately recreate some of the world's most famous monuments to ensure players feel convincingly submerged in the gameplay. They have thought long and hard about where to spread the war and have included such iconic locations as Buckingham Palace, the White House, Capitol Hill, the Air Space Museum, the Federal Triangle and the Presidio in the scenarios.

However, it's not just the major cities that have received Eugen Systems intense scrutiny, the accurate recreation applies to all the environments, taking in all the smaller cities, villages in North Africa and the striking Soviet architecture of Russia. The amazing detail goes a long way towards convincing the player that AoW is a truly believable international military thriller.

From the very beginning Eugen Systems wanted to offer players a lot more than a straight forward traditional RTS and the very fact that it's the first RTS to feature actual real life units in the cities of today helps them realise their vision. To fully submerge the player in the action, AoW allows players to zoom in and engage the battle from a street level perspective, bringing players right into the heart of the battle without slowing down the action or losing any of the detail. On urban battlefields such as San Francisco, Washington DC, London and Moscow this gives the player a taste of real urban warfare.

Each building can be destroyed piece by piece so the player can really see the damage that war brings to these urban locations. However, Eugen have also designed the buildings with tactics in mind and a player will be able to position troops within them, taking advantage of the protection whilst firing from windows at nearby targets. Although players will have to remember that opposing troops can rush into these blocks to create ambushes.
Along with setting out to make a lot more than just a traditional RTS, Eugen wanted to make AoW one of the most attractive looking games. To help obtain this goal they used satellite and aerial photographs to ensure that the cities are as accurate as possible, taking great care to model specific buildings like the White House, the Capitol (more than 100,000 polygons), Buckingham Palace, the Golden Gate Bridge and many others. AoW can render full cities including buildings, parks etc to real life scale, whereas previous RTS's have limited rendering to just a few short buildings. Small touches like street signs, residential areas, roundabouts, along with the inclusions of obvious landmarks, make AoW a visual treat.

Since there are many large buildings, game characters or vehicles, depending on the case, can enter them, or move onto bridges, walk up/down stairs etc so that the fighting environment extends to use the surfaces made available by man made constructions. Also, the real time precise fog of war allows the player to use buildings as hiding places. Additionally, Act of War cities contain a wide variety of small urban furniture that changes depending on the city/country.

Total destruction

Every building or structure is made out of hundreds of individual parts and each part can suffer damage, so during battle the immediate area will inflict the type of damage typical to modern warfare. Trees can burn or be crushed, lamp posts and phone booths can be run over by tanks and debris can fall from the buildings as they get damaged. Even the most famous buildings can get destroyed by super weapons, terrorist attacks, or sustained fire.

Realistic movie-grade lighting

Act of War uses a "warm lighting" system that includes high resolution real-time depth shadow maps for bright and sharp sunlight and pre-computed radiance transfer (part pre-computed / part real-time radiosity) to provide a warmer feeling in shadowed areas. The AoW PRT scheme uses many more lights than just the sunlight to offer full sky lighting and the objects are then ray traced with many rays per surface element so the player can see how they are influenced by the sky lighting. The result is then compressed using a lossy compression scheme using spherical harmonics. The rendered objects then use the compressed information to figure out how they are lit by the sky. This way Eugen can almost create the same quality of radiosity in scenes where the objects move. The clouds also modify the way in which objects are lit. The engine can also render volumetric lighting, although its uses are less obvious than in first person shooters since in RTS's the camera is not generally close to the ground.
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Game: Act of War Direct Action (PC)