To help with the integrity of this review, itâ€™s only fair I tell you the system on which I run it;
2GB OCZ DDR2 RAM
Pentium Core 2 Duo (2x3.4ghz)
19â€ LG Monitor Widescreen
450W Power Supply
Sierra. A trusted name in gaming, at least for me anyway, with their names on games such as Half-Life and Half-Life 2, F.E.A.R, and the upcoming and revamped Timeshift, it is a name which promises to deliver, and nine out of ten times, they do it with a bang! This time around, Sierra has literally done it with a bang, the bang of a billion-odd quidâ€™s worth of ordnance arriving at your doorstep (or tank hatch).
Just to recap, World In Conflict is set during the cold war, where, instead of surrendering, a Russian army has invaded the USA by coming in on civilian freighters and taken the whole country by surprise. This counter-attack by the Russians has hit America so suddenly, theyâ€™re forced to retreat multiple times, until they can eventually scramble together a defence.
Getting into the meat of things, Iâ€™ll start aesthetically; the graphics are awesome. Even without all the pansying around with Direct X10, Direct X9 does a highly commendable job of producing detail never before seen in a strategy game of the slightly smaller battlefield scale. The particle effects are extremely pretty and detailed, with the water being one of the best instances of shader technology in the game. The textures have also been produced in such a clever way to show effects such as lighting types, which, upon closer inspection, appear to be non-existent. Techniques such as this mean that you can have more system resources free, without making a huge sacrifice.
The graphics are also very well optimised; most people will find they can squeeze more performance out of the game than they may have thought. Craters use excellent bump mapping to create ultra-realistic surfaces, rarely before seen.
Unit animations are beyond fantastic, they arenâ€™t robotic during combat, making it feel natural and realistic, it feels as though you really have a fighting chance if your units push hard enough, often Iâ€™m left thinking; â€œFire faster! Reload quicker damnit!â€ This is a well sought after break from the â€œstiffâ€ combat of past RTS games, and shows that the genre is ready to move ahead once more.
Soundwise, the audio reflects the weapons and TA strikes very well (TA points are accumulated by killing the enemy and capturing perimeter points, which in turn allows you to call in napalm strikes, air strikes, and even tactical nukes). The swooping of a plane feels like its coming right in front of you, and I often cringe as I see my bomber fly by and drop fiery death onto some sitting duck infantry. Or maybe I feel sorry for a playerâ€™s reinforcement pool, as I destroy some expensive heavy artillery thatâ€™s been bugging my team for an eternity.
The voice acting is also brilliant, the actors have really conveyed the message of people in a desperate situation, and itâ€™s very easy to feel for characters such a Bannon as he races to get to a bridge before it blows, and Sawyer, who is a returning veteran general, as he gets constantly irritated by Bannon.
Gameplay mechanics may feel a bit out of the ordinary to some strategy players, other than those who have played the classic Ground Control series. The interface takes many common elements from this game, including mini-map positioning, arrows above units, and having the active units posted at the bottom of the screen. There is no economy to manage or base building to be done here, which means you donâ€™t get the classic strategy game scenario of super-unit spam (as all units work in a slightly more complex version of rock-paper-scissors) or rushing before youâ€™re ready.
Naturally, the beginning of a round is a rush to the objective, but both sides have that opportunity, plus the chance to queue units up to order before the match starts. The reinforcement point system works nicely to keep the battles under control, as each player rarely controls even ten or so units at once, thatâ€™s probably the most youâ€™ll ever get, and even then only if youâ€™re playing as infantry.
â€œQuickiesâ€ - The Good
â€¢ Textures are crisp and clear.
â€¢ Geometry is smooth and not jagged.
â€¢ Smooth framerates even on higher settings
â€¢ Units are balanced well in a slightly more complex â€œrock, paper, scissorsâ€ formula.
â€¢ Interesting mix of units.
â€¢ TA Points and reinforcement points keep the battles under control.
â€¢ Unprecedented RTS game visuals.
â€¢ New RTS formula.
â€¢ Not in any way buggy.
â€¢ Unhealthy amounts of Kablammo! Kaboom! And pretty particle effects.
â€¢ Spam is severely limited by the TA and reinforcement system.
â€¢ Animations are unbelievably accurate for an RTS game. When most RTS games arenâ€™t so bothered about close-up story sequences and character animations outside of gameplay.
â€¢ Will feel familiar to Ground Control players.
â€¢ There are not actually many bad things about it.
â€¢ Craters! Big Ones!
All unit types are potent in the right hands, and even with helicopters, artillery and tanks against them, infantry can often end up being the most potent unit in the game when under cover or occupying a building.
Some people complained that air was overpowered in the BETA test, but that appears not to be the case now, as they are much more vulnerable.
The main problem with infantry is that they are sitting ducks, only at their most useful when blowing up tanks and helicopters from bushes and buildings (not necessarily respectively). If a tank attempts to run them over, they neglect to dive out of the way, and if you send them to capture perimeter points (which are always in the open) an artillery shell can take out most of them in one go, and thatâ€™s without the rest of the artillery to come.
Despite this, no unit in this game is for messing with, as all are deadly, even some of transport trucks. Ah, my major gripe, transport trucks. You can have a transport jeep, or a transport truckâ€¦.they still only carry one squad of infantry, and if you order them in a 1:1 ratio for your own infantry squads, youâ€™ll find you only get about 4 actual squads, and end up with 4 useless trucks once theyâ€™ve done their jobs. My advice; if youâ€™re going to use these, order one to take a squad to a specific location, or order a load and use them to help your team-mates.
The multiplayer is an easy top scorer, asymmetrical maps (which is good in my opinion at least) keep the action varied and the required roles different, plenty of explosions, death, truck and tank bits flying everywhere, not much bloodâ€¦.ohâ€¦did I say not much bloodâ€¦..? Thatâ€™s right, there does seem to be a distinct lack of blood. However, that matters not, as youâ€™ll rarely be that close up to notice infantry fighting in detail. Buildings explode in a spectacular fashion throughout the game, single player and multiplayer â€“ in fact, thereâ€™s little better in this game than letting your artillery loose on a town to flush out those goddamn tank-busting infantry Russkies (or Yankees, whichever side youâ€™re on, oh, and even those NATeeâ€¦.NATOeesâ€¦..errrrrâ€¦..Europeans!). The main gripe here is that the buildings appear to leave near identical ruins each time, which makes things look a bit too uniform, especially as the buildings are placed to appear as individual as possible.
â€œQuickiesâ€ â€“ The Bad
â€¢ Far too easy to kill infantry by running them over.
â€¢ Getting your team to co-ordinate isnâ€™t always easy, but pre-defined objectives keep the action rolling.
â€¢ Transport trucks arenâ€™t very different from one another.
â€¢ Granted that even though servers are player made, connection losses and lag are frequent annoyances.
â€¢ Craters in roads suggest endorsement by the City Council ;).
â€¢ Campaign is one sided.
The single player mode is intense from moment to moment, albeit hardly freeform at all, as you are often restricted to calling in the units the game lets you at the time, and TA is sometimes strictly limited as well. Not to mention strictly following orders. On occasions in some missions, such as the second mission in the game, it will allow you to let all hell loose with a whopping 100 TA points, which constantly recharge, and very quickly too! There are also some special TAâ€™s which arenâ€™t featured in multiplayer, such as the USS Missouriâ€™s cannons, which function as rapidly firing, rapidly recharging, free of charge precision artillery. Some would go as far as to say the single-player was tacked on, but I find this hard to justify, considering the effort that has clearly been made with animations and cut-scenes, as well as little slideshow stories of individual charactersâ€™ lives.
All in all, World In Conflict offers an awesome amount of bang for your Buck (or Quid if youâ€™re like myself, or perhaps youâ€™ll be spending Euros or Australian Dollars), features plenty of Kablammo! Kicks an awful lot of ass, shows the strategy genre a slightly alternative route and offers hours of intense, cringe inducing (in a good way â€“ only because youâ€™re imagining that poor sod you just nerve gassed) entertainment, suitable for fans of all branches of strategy, and is a fantastic ambassador for bringing in those who wish to start playing strategy games!
Buy if you liked; Command and Conquer, Ground Control, DEFCON, Warcraft, Dawn of War (definitely one for you DoW veterans who like their strategy with a visceral layer). Also recommended for Supreme Commander fans (even though in ways it is wildly different).