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Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps Review
publisher: Encore Software
developer: Digital Reality
PIII-1000, 256MB RAM, 1GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Mar 31, 04 (released)
|» All About Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps on ActionTrip|
Real Time Strategy (RTS) is one of the most used (or overused depending on who you talk to) genres in gaming today. Most RTS titles follow the typical formula of harvest generic resource(s), and build structures to construct units or research new technology to increase or enhance unit pool, thereby consuming harvested resource(s). Then use constructed units to achieve goal; such as move to point on map, destroy structure and enemy units or a combination of both in a specified time limit. Game companies try to change things up by changing the setting from space to medieval fantasy, to current technology warfare. Been there done that over and over again. Digital Reality in their latest offering, Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps, emphasizes the S, in RTS: Strategy. Like Praetorians and Mech Commander, players start each mission with a set number of units and must use strategy, rather than an overwhelming force, to accomplish their goals in each mission.
Keeping a tight formation...
You look like you could use a hand.
Desert Rats is set during World War II and focuses on conflicts that occurred in North Africa between the Axis and the Allies. As the game opens, a rendered cut scene introduces the player to four heroes that players will be guiding through the game. While the heroes themselves are fictional creations used to move from one mission to another, everything else about the game is based on real world history from units to locales.
Each mission starts with a letter or journal entry from one of the heroes and a tactical briefing with maps and estimates of what sort of resistance you can expect. Following these briefings, you then head to the unit selection screen. You can jump right into the action using the default selection of units the game has chosen for you or you can 'buy' additional units (or special command units) using points that are awarded by completing primary and secondary tasks in each scenario. These points are incentive enough to risk your precious few units to explore the entire map and to try to complete secondary and extra objectives so you can earn more points. Also, it is possible to claim additional vehicles in each scenario from the enemy and in some cases, you will be hard pressed to fulfill all your objectives without commandeering enemy mechanized armor.
As you progress through missions you can hit the space bar to pause the action. This will allow you to issue specific commands to your units (such as hold fire, dig in and fortify your position or switch to a special attack). Sometimes pausing the action makes all the difference between success and failure, but may cause some purists to call in question whether it can still be called a Real Time strategy game. I don't care either way. It's a feature that has come in handy and it works well.
Every unit has its role and purpose in Desert Rats. Just as in real life, (and unlike some other games) infantry does not stand a chance against tanks unless they take cover in buildings, use tactics and have a fair amount of luck on their side. While it is possible to take out the crew piloting the tank, it is much more likely your soft targets will be hamburger helper not long after they engage the target. That being said, it shows the attention to detail that went into the game and only increases the fun factor as you are forced to use your noodle for better planning and to make use of strength of the units you are currently commanding in order to complete the mission. It's an incredibly rewarding experience.
Units include a wide (and I mean wide) variety of infantry, tanks, artillery, transport vehicles, recon vehicles and 'other' units. Different infantry types can crew vehicles that allow more than one crewmember and will aid in firing speed, accuracy, and view distance. Little boosts to unit effectiveness will encourage the player to regard your different classes of infantry as a valuable assets and not just beginning game fodder like so many other RTS titles. While there are quite a few units for you to command, the game does an excellent job through its tutorial and in game help manual to get you up and playing in no time.
In addition, terrain comes into play. Several times I made use of structures to play cat and mouse with enemy tanks. I would send a fast but fragile recon unit to get the enemies' attention and slip down a side street in hopes of luring a few panzers into my waiting forces which had been dug into the sand to add better protection. My tactics had limited success. While the tanks did show up, it was not down the path I had chosen. Rather, their forces came in from behind my dug in units and quickly reduced them to smoking ruin. It was a hard way to learn that the AI was not going to be suckered into an obvious trap like I had employed so many times before in other RTS titles.
Our desert convoy appears to be punching through!
What ever you do, don't turn right! Alright?
On another map, it quickly became clear that I could get a leg up on my enemy by moving some of my tanks to a hill overlooking a road. As the enemy convoy made its way north, my vantage allowed me to see further and pepper their trucks with shells. As their escort force rushed to defend them, I was able to beat a hasty retreat due to the cover the hill provided.
Graphics are very well done. Units are well animated and if you zoom in on your forces, you are rewarded with well-detailed skins. Tanks leave tracks through the ever present sand, trees are knocked over as you pass through foliage and buildings and enemies explode in a very rewarding fashion when enough damage is dealt.
Sound effects are also well done with one exception. While the four fictional heroes are from France, Germany, Great Briton and the U.S., it almost sounds like the same actor did all the voices and accents. It's only a bit distracting and the gameplay more than makes up for any voice over shortcomings. The pops of gun fire, the booms of tank cannon and the motorized noises your vehicles make sound great and caused me to turn up my speakers way too loudly at 10 p.m. on Friday night to enjoy them all the more. Damn the neighbors, I'm trying to win a war here!!
Desert Rats vs. Afrika Korps also includes multiplayer support over LAN or Gamespy so there are plenty of ways to extend the fun after you complete the single player missions.
8.3 Very Good
Great graphics, engaging gameplay, large variety of units, nice departure from typical RTS gaming;
Cheesy voice overs, sluggish unit response.