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Korea: Forgotten Conflict Review
developer: Plastic Reality Technologies
genre: Action Strategy
PIII 733, 128MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 17, 03 (released)
|» All About Korea: Forgotten Conflict on ActionTrip|
This game should've stayed forgotten...
Tiptoe your way to victory.
Don't get any ideas birdie!
Computer games these days don't show too much creative imagination for setting, too often they are being set in World War II. (Ed. - Amen, well spoken Bruce.) Czech development studio Plastic Reality saw a golden opportunity. Picking out a new and interesting setting, Plastic Reality established their latest real-time strategy during the height of the Korean War. For those of you that are unaware the Korean War was a turbulent period of history. The war itself, which lasted from 1950 to 1953, was one of the bloodiest wars in American or Asian history. (Ed. - Despite nasty rumors that no one ever died, I blame M.A.S.H.) Despite that it has somehow failed to capture the attention of contemporary game designers. At first glance, Korea: Forgotten Conflict seems like a downright Commandos rip off. As you progress however, you'll quickly grasp the key distinction. All environments, objects, and models, were fully rendered, which means players have more freedom and maneuverability during the missions.
The Korean War rages. Overwhelmed by superior communist forces from the North, South Korea was left defending only a few crucial US-controlled strategic points. The purpose of your visit to Korea is to defend these points at all costs and free the country from tyranny and oppression. (It doesn't get easier than that - 2Lions) As part of an elite strike team, consisting of several highly trained combatants, you are sent straight into enemy territory to perform a variety of missions, a great number of which may change the course of the war. There are miscellaneous assignments that need to be carried out throughout the campaign, ranging from sabotage and rescue missions, to capturing and securing vital enemy installations. You'll be heading out into combat with five playable characters: Nighthawk (Sniper), Sarah Parker (Medic), Benjamin Jacob Goodlover (Ranger), Connor McGregor (Military engineer), Kim Yoon-Soo (Korean specialist). Sadly, you are allowed to use only a few characters per mission, so you'll be required to keep a close eye on each soldier on the field.
In terms of gameplay, Korea: Forgotten Conflict can be described as a Commandos and UFO: Aftermath crossover. In order to advance across hostile territory undetected, players are frequently obliged to use a stealth approach and carefully planned out combat tactics. This won't be easy in most cases, since sentries are posted around every corner, cautiously monitoring the nearby area for any suspicious activity. Certain combat maneuvers can be a little easier to carry out if one resorts to using the optional pause button, which provides you with an opportunity to distribute orders through a turn-based command system. The instant you pause the game, a new interface will pop up and you'll be able to form an assault plan in a way that faintly resembles what we've seen in turn-based strategies like UFO: Aftermath. Although this particular system works quite well, you'll be able to manage battles just as well in real-time. So, generally, it may seem a tad redundant.
The basic interface is fairly easy to master. As you can see on the screens, the lower part of the screen displays health and the general status of your squad members. There are also many helpful additions, such as the 'eye' icon, which accurately shows where a selected Korean soldier is currently looking at. Overall, the UI is adequate and seems to provide access to just about anything the player requires throughout the missions. In practice though, it does exhibit certain disadvantages. While your team is on the job, doing their best to fulfill their objectives, switching weapons and items will understandably be an important part of gameplay. Controlling soldiers and managing items wasn't presented in a well-balanced and intuitive manner. Issues like gun swapping, reloading, picking up items, and so on, takes too long to execute on the field. Such issues could've easily been resolved with simple short-cut keys or additional instantly accessible icons on the main screen that could've helped you employ the weapon or item of your choice as quickly as possible.
Okay, who's gonna be first?
Ah, it's just a little drizzle.
A majority of you may find the missions a bit dull and unrewarding. Completing objectives can be a tricky business now and then, but usually the game does not place any exceptionally interesting endeavors for your squad to complete. Frankly, the whole experience lacks depth. For the most part, it's all pretty much the stuff we are used to seeing in contemporary RTS's: capturing enemy buildings, sabotaging vehicles, infiltrating various military installations, snatching significant enemy officials, defusing explosives, and so on. On the plus side though, each mission is plausibly lengthy and can occupy players for several hours.
The lengthiness, on the other hand, doesn't account for the technical issues present throughout a good portion of the game. The very first mission you get to play is crammed with bugs. For instance, there was a particular segment when I tried to organize an ambush. My characters were standing in a doorway, hidden from a bunch of Korean soldiers that were patrolling the area outside. As soon as the first shot was fired, enemy sentinels came rushing in to investigate the area. The problem is that along the way quite a lot of them got jammed under a huge pine tree, which left them completely defenseless. Likewise, your own units will get stuck if they pass underneath the same bloody tree. As far as we could tell, such issues can be attributed to cock ups in game's engine as well as the unoptimized AI code. As far as the overall performance of the AI goes, it would be unfair to disregard some of its qualities. In most cases, enemy troops are alert and rarely miss an opportunity to sniff you out. Gunfire, running, and other noisy activities will surely alert nearby guards. Of course, if enemies see the bodies of their fallen comrades, the alertness of all guards becomes sharpened and you'll find it more difficult to avoid their line of eye-sight. Unfortunately, I must say that it didn't take me too long to master a very simple routine, thanks to which it was possible to defeat almost every opponent in practically the same way. For example, you choose an ideal ambush spot, draw some attention with gunfire, and just witness the guards rushing mindlessly into an obvious trap. In addition to that, I wasn't too keen on the friendly AI either. If a single unit is left to fight on its own, it will most likely be shot in a matter of minutes without showing any resistance whatsoever. Another weak point is the small diversity of enemy units. My knowledge of Korean history doesn't exceed what I've recently discovered in Empires: Dawn of the Modern World, therefore I cannot form an adequately accurate opinion on this matter. Whatever the case was in actuality, the fact remains that the developers were for some reason hesitant to bring in a wider variety of opponents into the game. All you'll see is two or three different types of units, like grunts, officers, and so on.
Korea: Forgotten Conflict offers a pleasing variety of weapons throughout each mission. At the beginning of each assignment your characters usually carry basic equipment such as knives, handguns, first aid kits, and so on. So, the challenge is to take out soldiers as best you can and search their bodies for any useful weapons or items. As soon as I went through a solid portion of the game, I noticed that the weapons are slightly unbalanced. If you arm yourself with a machine gun or standard issue rifle, things like knives and handguns will soon become useless.
Certain players might be interested to know that the developers also added in a range of vehicles to help you get quicker around certain areas. Such a feature deserves praise no doubt. Though sometimes, the vehicles appear as a nice variation from going on foot, I have to say that most of my driving experiences were not very gratifying. To begin with, the controls are a bit messed up and practically each way you turn an invisible border line will stop you from roaming around the countryside freely. Next to that, none of them were tweaked enough to convey a sense of genuine vehicle physics. So, even when you encounter vehicles like tanks, jeeps, and trucks, chances are you won't find them an amusing addition to the gameplay.
Thanks to the game's excellent 3D graphics, realistically animated character models, and highly detailed sceneries, I endured through the aforementioned gameplay drawbacks. The maps are considerably large and each object was rendered with enough textures and details to make it look convincing on screen. Extra effort has been spent into carefully rendering and animating stuff like trees, bushes, grass, rocks, and so on. Even with all these details, the game works surprisingly smooth - that is, unless you've beefed up the resolution all the way to 1280*1240 or 1600*1200. Once again, however, we have encountered a number of visual bugs that could perhaps be related to ATi's latest Catalyst drivers. The game crashed several times and occasionally exhibited weird problems - like when a character enters a truck or tank, you can see his/her head popping out through the hull of the vehicle...
The game's audio, unfortunately, wasn't designed well enough to accompany the game's delightful visuals. Music themes are recurring and often dull, while character voicing seems a bit amateurish. Gunfire and explosions sound satisfying, but they still don't do much to perk up the ambiance.
No matter where you turn, the gameplay in Korea: Forgotten Conflict fails to achieve agreeable height. This is a shame really, because the game has some potential. If you are willing to go around the many gamepleay weaknesses, however, and after several patches, you just might have a passable RTS experience on your hands. But chances are most of you won't tolerate the frequent technical issues, AI glitches, etc. Even though the game uses a unique setting, its lack of originality and gameplay depth might easily dissuade many gamers from playing.
AI intermittently shows signs of promise, excellent visuals, more freedom in terms of movement;
Mediocre sounds, gameplay is hindered by bugs and technical problems, no multiplayer, interface and AI issues, gets boring after a while.
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