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World in Conflict Preview

publisher: Sierra
developer: Massive Entertainment
genre: Strategy

CPU 2.5Ghz, 128MB VRAM video card, 1GB RAM, 2GB HDD
ESRB rating: T

release date: Sep 18, 07
» All About World in Conflict on ActionTrip

If you're into real-time strategies, there's certainly a lot to look forward to this year. The dust has barely settled after the launch of Supreme Commander and Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars and we still have plenty of decent titles on the horizon - Empire Earth III, Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts etc. Claiming its rightful place among the RTS-making crowd is the experienced development studio, Massive Entertainment, mostly known for their strategy series, Ground Control. Their next project, World in Conflict, has garnered enough attention both from the gaming community and the press.

For the good of all mankind, Massive Entertainment, thankfully, didn't go for the WWII setting, leaving the path open for developers like Relic Entertainment and their upcoming continuation of Company of Heroes. So, instead of resting on the idea of yet another generic futuristic back-story or a mundane WW II setting, Massive chose to offer its very own take on history.

World in Conflict takes us on a trip through alternate history, when the Cold War grew into a World War, as opposed to ending with the implosion of one side. Set during the '80s, WoC allows players to side with military forces of NATO or forces of the Warsaw Pact. While the game walks us through a dramatic outtake of the Cold War aftermath, it also appears to rely heavily on authenticity. Sierra licensed footage from BBC's news archives, drawing on specific icons from the Cold War era, like former US President Ronald Regan and Soviet Premiere Mikhail Gorbachev (that sissy-boy - Ed). So, it's 1989 and a battle begins between the Soviet Union and the United States. After landing in Seattle, Soviet forces attempt to make their way throughout the rest of the American continent. In other words, most of the single-player campaign is likely to feature a majority of scenarios on US soil.

To help them reach an agreeable level of realism and political authenticity that befits such a backdrop, the developers conferred with Larry Bond, the designer of oldies like the Harpoon series and Command at Sea. Larry Bond also co-authored Red Storm Rising with Tom Clancy and has recently completed The Enemy Within. His job is to make sure that a believable storyline is portrayed as you progress through the main campaigns. (What fucking believable storyline? Let's all completely ignore the fact that Communism as such just crumbled from within like freaking Shakespearean Denmark. - Ed)

It's mostly fictional stuff, but Massive wishes to remind everyone that at the time, albeit most of us forgot by now, humanity came really close to a full-scale nuclear war on many occasions. Thankfully, it never came to pass. The game just serves as an "entertaining" reminder of what could've been if two of the world's greatest military forces went to open war against each other.

In terms of design, the developers are sticking to a few particular patterns to make sure the game is accessible to everyone. Though inexperienced strategy gamers won't have any trouble getting into the basics, only those who are persistent will be able to master the game truly. Quite simply, the gameplay mechanics are very easy to get into, but the sheer tactical depth of the game will be requiring determination and quick thinking. At the moment, the single-player portion is in early stages of development. The team is focusing on conveying a dramatic story, underlining the horror of war and accenting the emotional aspect of the whole experience.

In the single-player campaign, the game throws approximately 15 missions your way, which should offer around 15 to 25 hours of gameplay. The campaign follows a group of American commanders fighting to stop the advance of the Soviets.

The developers emphasized the importance of character depth. You start out as a voiceless character, called Lieutenant Parker. As the game progresses, Parker can receive higher rank, which in turns opens the door to a wider choice of items and weapons to use. An effort was made to make players feel close to the character, like they're actually right in the middle of battle itself and experiencing the hardship of war first-hand. You are one of the guys in the trenches and you have to look after your own life as well. The idea is to give gamers the impression of fighting alongside their troops, as opposed to watching the action and sending out orders to units from a war room miles away.

From the outset, the players will receive a set of specific goals in an effort to counter the assault of the Red Army. The crucial point is that you won't have to worry about any resource management. Instead, there's a handy reinforcement point system, devised to allow support practically any time the player needs it. The main pool of unit points is replenished each time a unit dies, so it's virtually impossible to run out of points completely. Though it may seem like an unfair advantage against the AI-controlled foe, it's actually a cool way to experiment with different units and, in turn, more tactics. Besides, most of the objectives in single-player missions are timed, so you'll have to think quickly.

The multiplayer is centered on team-play, naturally. The goal of the development team is to establish a mode that fits both long and short gaming sessions. For that purpose, they've designed their own online match-making and community system, called Massgate. According to Massive, Massgate give players an opportunity to load up the game and enter a match as quickly and intuitively as possible. Word is that it won't take you longer than 37 seconds, complete with map load times, to enter a match after you've launched the game itself, which is cool I have to admit. (They timed it with a stopwatch? - Ed) Since they're making an effort to emphasize team-play, the support for VoIP (voice-over IP), which can be fully configured from within the game, was also mentioned. Intention-based communication tools are going to have an important role as well, allowing players to understand each other without saying or writing about it. But more than that, you can always call for swift aid from teammates via the request system. For instance, if you're outnumbered by enemy land forces, it's possible to ask for reinforcements from other players. And, while your opponents think they've got you on the run, a quick nuke attack from your friend may come in the nick of time to save the day.

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