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Soldiers of Anarchy Review
publisher: Simon & Schuster Interactive
developer: Silver Style Entertainment
Pentium III 600MHz, 128MB RAM, 16MB Video card
|ESRB rating: T
release date: Nov 03, 02 (released)
|» All About Soldiers of Anarchy on ActionTrip|
Zvezdan "GTS" Obradovic
Everybody knows that scientists around the globe keep experimenting with various biological weaponry for years now, and this is bound to result in viruses getting out of control and causing utter mayhem. This is what happens in 2004 - a deadly virus almost exterminated the human race. It started in Tokyo, and then started spreading, and the authorities fought the disease the best they could... they even nuked Paris!
No, I'm just kidding.
This is fortunately only the background plot for Soldiers of Anarchy, a new 3D RTS, which deals with the post-apocalyptic period some ten years after the virus first struck. Our heroes survived due to the fact that they lived in a bunker for ten years, and when they got fed up with it, they went back to the surface to face the cruel reality (obviously not to smell some fresh air - Ed).
Many things remained unchanged in the outside world; bands of terrorists and criminals molest the surviving population, and there's little hope for the human race. But before you set off on your quest to make things right again, it would be a good idea to go through the tutorial which will give you an idea about gameplay specifics. You will start the campaign with only a couple of men, but your team will increase in time, as many people want to wreak their revenge on the terrorist gangs that took their loved ones into slavery. The missions will vary from destroying an enemy base to rescuing hostages, but most of the scenarios can be completed by simply eliminating the opposing forces. The story develops through the dialogues between your team members and characters that decide to join you.
The maps in the game are huge, and walking around them would be futile; this is why you have to use various crafts and vehicles to move your soldiers about. Still, you will first have to get them. How, you may ask. Well, simply attack some bandits and requisition their vehicle. The same method is used for acquiring weapons and equipment; still, bear in mind that you cannot carry everything you find. There are a lot of various weapons from pistols, Uzis and shotguns to heavy machineguns, M60s, AK-74s, bombs and Molotov cocktails. Apart from this the game also features a large number of different vehicles from jeeps and armored transporters to tanks and choppers. To make a tank shoot, you have to man it with at least two soldiers.
Once you end the mission the game won't simply take you back to the base to regroup. It will let you go through the rest of the map you didn't get the chance to explore. Your HQ is where you prepare for the next mission, gather info, issue equipment and arms, heal, mend vehicles and drink coffee. Each soldier has different predispositions that make him better at a particular task than any other; for instance, the engineer will be the only one who can place or dismantle explosive devices, and an athlete will be more prone to get athlete's foot, and more resilient.
The interface is legible and practical and the context menus (right mouse button) make finding your way around it way easier. Units can swap weapons on field which is done by dragging and dropping weapons. This is sometime crucial for winning the mission. The game is not strictly linear as the plot development sometimes depends on your actions.
The enemy AI is pretty good; the enemy will try to alert its friends of your presence, run for reinforcements if it's weaker and use all vehicles and weapons perfectly. Each enemy has a red triangle above him if he sees you or an orange triangle if he doesn't. Your soldiers will respond too slowly and it will sometimes take them a lot of time to help their comrades or start shooting back at an enemy that stands right in front of them...
This is one of the rare 3D RTS games with very good graphics. The 3D engine will both let you zoom in and out completely and rotate your camera whatever way you want. All soldiers and vehicles are extremely detailed, and you will only begin to spot some flaws at extreme zoom levels, which are useless for gameplay anyway. The terrain looks great and its configuration will influence your choice of tactics, and the grim surroundings will at times even influence your general mood. The developers also introduced creeps and critters in the game. In addition, the engine will let you destroy practically anything and everything on the map, which makes the game highly realistic... for instance, you can hide behind some ruins, and at the next moment a tank fires a grenade at the ruins covering you in rubble. Each explosion looks unique, but all of them look great. Weather effects look pretty good too, and they also influence gameplay. I especially liked the way the soldiers enter vehicles and shut the door behind them. One thing that drove me mad however, was the camera. The free mode lets you control the camera yourself, and the follow mode will let you rotate the camera whilst focusing on the action. Both of these solutions work poorly in practice and severely hinder playability. Whenever you select a unit that is off screen the camera focuses on it and you lose the sight of the action you had been following. Not to speak of skirmishes in which in stead of regrouping your soldiers in a flick of a wrist, you first have to rotate the camera around the scene to see who's still alive.
Oh, and while we're on the subject of downsides, there's the path-finding too... it is basically doing what it was supposed to in terms of handling shorter distances. But vehicles will sometimes tend to pick very stupid routes to where you sent them, especially if you ordered them to cross a longer distance. Issuing commands also works a bit funny. The vehicles receive commands a couple of seconds after you issue them, which is generally OK, but it looks completely idiotic while you are trying to order them to retreat before a host of raging enemies.
Both sound effects and music are very good, and only further improve the generally good atmosphere of the game. The game ships with a scenario editor, which will lets you design maps to suit your own taste. Once you get bored with playing the game against the computer, you can battle it out on LAN or Internet against up to seven other players.
Soldiers of Anarchy is an interesting 3D RTS, and its numerous options, as well as weapons and vehicles will get you going at times. However this comes at a price. The game's hardware requirements are very steep (GeForce Ti 44000 and AMD XP 2000 + can't handle this game on high-detail - we're talking 15 FPS here), and as I said the camera is simply killing the playability. Some other minor drawbacks may further hinder the gameplay, but the game's interesting story, voice acting and nice visuals may keep the more tenacious 3D RTS fans hooked for a while.
Graphics, a few missions are non-linear. Lots of vehicles and weapons. It will make you think hard at times;
Godawful camera... path-finding (occasionally). Too difficult at times. Steep hardware requirements (poorly optimized 3D code).
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