Soldiers of Anarchy Review

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Graphics: 7.5
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 5.5
Multiplayer : 7.0
Overall : 6.5
Review by Bill
In the year 2004, an epidemic broke out. Billions died of a horrible disease that causes tremendous tissue growth. It is always fatal and there is no cure. In order to stop the spread of the disease, countries close their borders, cities quarantine themselves. The French resort to dropping a nuke on the city of Paris, attempting to burn the disease away. Nothing works, and the disease spreads like a fire across the Earth. Part of an international force, your team locks itself in a bunker, closing the only access to your valley with explosives. Intent on surviving, you live in your hole for 10 years. But there is only so long that anyone can live without the sky and the sun without going crazy. No matter what survives of the old world, you are done hiding.

After blowing a hole in the valley wall, your team finds itself alone in a savage world. Gangs now control the area, carving themselves pieces with what's left of old military equipment. Only you can help free the people again. Hopefully, along the way, you can find out just what happened and where the disease came from.

Sound

Richly detailed and powerful, the sounds in this game are excellent. Its obvious that a lot of time was spent on them. Weapons, in particular, carry weight and feel. Vehicle noises, guns and bombs, I could find nothing that was out of place or bad. Voice overs, on the other hand, are stilted and artificial at times. Overall, they are general decent, but sometimes the actors are unable to convey the emotional intent of the words. I did encounter a constant hiss at times. This seemed to be a little glitch due to the weather effects, as it only occurred after a rainy day in the game world. Almost like the rain sound just didn't turn off when the rain stopped. On longer missions, this was bad enough to force me to reload after a time. It just started to bother me after awhile.

Graphics

Very well done. Everything is detailed, and scales well whether close up or far away in the distance. There are several options for graphics, and the graphics menu is easy to navigate. Probably my only issues were that the trees look pretty pathetic. Basically two flat textures in an x. They just seemed out of place with the rest of the graphics quality being so high. Unfortunately, to really get the full eye candy, you need a very powerful machine. Even on my Ti4400, I couldn't use the upper two graphics settings without also bringing heavy chop into the game. This was disappointing. I would have wanted to play the whole game with the detailed shadows and sharper textures of the higher settings.

Gameplay

This area is a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part, the game is easily controlled and logically laid out. Objectives appear as flashing beacons on your mini map, and your team is in constant contact with homebase for more information as necessary. Your units are controlled with a unique right click menu. If you select a unit, right click and hold for a second, a dial of icons appears, allowing you to choose whatever action you wish the unit to take. Although this is relatively fast, you still need to memorize some hotkeys to really be on the ball. Levels range from just big enough to give you a fun time, to ridiculously large. What I found was odd is that the larger the map, the more difficult your mission tended to be. Save often. You really don't want the hassle of playing through one of the really big ones just to die and have to restart it at the end.

Now, here is the biggest issue with the game. The AI. The AI of this game makes it one of the most tedious and annoying games I've played in awhile. Any time you order your troops to move, they must stop, and then move. While on foot this isn't a big deal, this is incredibly annoying in vehicles. Each time you move a vehicle, it stops, puts itself in park, starts up again and then moves to your destination. This makes even short distances an exercise in frustration. On top of that, your vehicles don't seem to be able to travel in a straight line. If you tell a vehicle to go a longer distance, be prepared for endless u-turns and strange zig-zags. Half the time the thing will just go in a circle for a minute before even trying to go the right direction. Not only that, but if there is a road nearby, the thing will “snap” to it. Even if you really don't want to be on a road, or if you are going to opposite direction, it will still try to travel on that road a bit. This tedious process of trying to move completely ruins the fact that you have so many vehicles available for use. From jeeps and humvees to tanks and helicopters, there are quite a few methods of transportation available. Also an issue was the strange way the AI decides how effective your actions are. An example, there is a mission fairly close to the beginning with a town being rounded up for the slave market. The enemy has 5 troops and a Humvee. I attempted to blow the Humvee with a Molotov coctail, and then take out the troops. Then, when that didn't work, I tried several other tactics that also resulted in failure. I tried the Molotov a second time and it worked perfectly. I don't like inconsistent results, and this made it difficult for me on many missions. Also, I would like to make a suggestion to anyone trying to make this style of game. TURN BASED MODE. There isn't one in this game, and there were many times that it would have helped.

Multiplayer

In the game, your multiplayer choices are a bit limited. You can play either LAN games or directly connect to a server. There is no server browser. Included on the CD is the ever present Gamespy, and it works sufficiently well. At the time of this review, there aren't too many servers out there yet. LAN play is fairly responsive, with lag only becoming an issue during heavy firefights. Adjusting the graphics settings on the server box helped this, tho. Internet play was laggy at best. Hopefully this issue will be addressed by better servers coming online, and possibly some more streamlined netcode in a future patch. All in all, multiplayer plays like single player. Unfortunately, the game is limited to death match. Maybe that patch will also allow for some co-op missions.

Overall

This game is hard to compare against any other. A new step in the lagging Tactical genre, the only comparable game out there is Fallout: Tactics. As interesting as this game is, tho, lets face it. SOA is not Fallout: Tactics. A game with great potential, frustrating gameplay makes me suggest the bargain bin.

UPDATE: With the newly released patch, Soldiers of Anarchy is very much the game it should have been in the first place. Pathfinding has been corrected to a good extent. Vehicles no longer stop completely when given new move orders, your troops no longer go peeling off on their own for very far or long. Pathfinding is still a little bit of an issue, though. Your troops will still try to go the wrong way, at times, but normally will correct their path much more quickly. Vehicles still seem to “snap” to the road, although now they seem to at least take the road in the correct direction.

Also in the new patch is a rudementary Turn Based Mode. You can now pause the game and cue up actions for each soldier. The commands are carried out in the order they were entered. The only issue I encountered was that there seems to be no ability to counteract a given order. If you pause, tell someone to do something, realize you don't want them to do that action, they will still follow the original order. This can be a real pain, so be careful and plan what you want before starting to click around.

The last major change is with camera modes. A new camera mode has been added, allowing a better control while in “follow mode.” It works well, and is a good addition to the game.

Unfortunately, our scores are given for the game as it is released. If Silver Style had put these modes and changes into the original retail game, I can assure you the game would have gotten a much better score. The size of the patch may limit your choice about this game, weighing in at 37MB. If you can stand the download time, and the fact that people that bought this game before you were the beta testers, go for it. Before the patch, mediocre, after the patch, a good game.