World In Conflict Review
A Fresh and Exciting RTS which breathes new life into a highly structured and well-worn genre
During the 1980’s, The Cold War has escalated into open warfare between the USSR and NATO. The Berlin Wall remains standing while fierce fighting in Europe and Eastern Asia occurs between Soviet and NATO forces. Unexpectedly, the Soviets turn their attention to the United States, and launch a devastating surprise attack on Seattle. This alternative outcome to the Cold War is the meticulously crafted setting for one of the best and most innovative Real Time Strategy games of the last few years: World in Conflict. The story and setting will strike particularly close to home with Americans who play this game, as most of the campaign takes place on American soil, fighting for and defending the second Superpower of the world as the Soviets drive towards the Nations heart.
The story told during the single player Campaign in World in Conflict is surprisingly heartfelt and personal for a RTS, and does a good job of backing up the consistently high quality gameplay offered up throughout the campaign. You start off defending/retreating from Seattle at the start of the game, and as the story unfolds you will fight in a variety of locations with a good number of different objectives. No two missions are even remotely similar in WiC; one will have you driving around rescuing civilians, attempting to hold back overwhelming forces (and they are always overwhelming in this game), another will have you defending strategic locations from enemy assaults, others will have you re-taking a town that has fallen to the Soviets. The variety of mission types and structures in WiC, and the well-told story (narrated by Alec Baldwin of all people) create a very enjoyable, although somewhat short around 10-12 hours, single player campaign.
The story and mission structure is not the only thing done differently in WiC. The game controls are vastly different from the usual zoomed-out isometric perspective usually offered in real time strategy games. Instead of moving the mouse to the edge of the screen to move the camera position, you use the WSAD keys to move the camera around; adjusting its height, angle, and direction, giving the camera controls a much more dynamic feel than what is offered with the usual isometric camera. These controls are so intuitive that after playing World in Conflict for a couple of months, I tried going back to another, more traditional RTS, but had to give up because I simply could not get used to the regular RTS controls again. Hopefully more games will adapt this method of controls in the future.
Another innovation is that instead of building a base from which your units come, you are given a set number of resource points for each mission which you can use to fly in units. When a unit is killed, the points gradually trickle back into the main pool, so you can continually reinforce your army throughout missions. You can also change the drop point, which is the place your units will be flown into, as the frontlines move forwards or back. Something else that is different is that you are almost never fighting without allies during the single player campaign. CPU controlled units will be all around you, making it feel like you are part of a much bigger battle than what you and your units are doing. Generally you control only 5 or 6 units, which are split up into four categories: Air, Armour, Infantry and Support. The more powerful the units, the fewer you will have; you could have either 8 medium tanks or 5 heavy tanks. Many units come with special abilities, which are easy to use either through hot keys or by selecting them with the mouse.
Apart from Unit control, off-map tactical support plays a very significant role in World in Conflict. Whenever you do anything, kill someone, capture a point, or destroy an enemy building, you are rewarded with tactical support points. During the campaign, you are usually given a certain number of tactical support points and only a few different kinds of support, which range from artillery strikes to unit drops to tactical nuclear missiles to my personal favourite, the daisy cutter (I’ll let you use your imagination on that one). The more powerful options are used seldom in the single player portion of the game. Some of the most thrilling and gratifying moments in the game come from landing a well timed, well placed artillery strike on an enemy position. The unit control combined with the support in the game means that you are always busy doing something, and since combat occurs almost non-stop in single player missions and multiplayer matches, the game is consistently intense and frantic.
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