Act of War: Direct Action Review

Developer: Eugen Systems Publisher: Atari
Release Date: March 15, 2005 Also On: None

The real-time strategy genre has been one of the biggest genres for PC gamers since the classics like Warcraft were released. More recently, EA brought the Command and Conquer franchise to new heights with fully 3D environments and units. Other spinoffs and expansion packs followed, but Act of War comes to us years after C and C Generals was released. So the question is, is this game a late rip-off or an original RTS? The answer is neither.

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I am reviewing the DVD-ROM edition of this game. When I popped the disk in and started the install, a 10-minute cut-scene started. I soon found out that Act of War relies on live action video. That is, they hired actors and filmed the videos for the game. But generally speaking, computer generated cut-scenes have cut down on the use of live action video in games. All the videos aren’t live action though; it also incorporates pre-recorded CG videos. The only problem with that is the fact that in the CG cut-scenes, the 3D models used are the same models used in-game, which are understandably blocky in-game considering the fact that hundreds may be on-screen at once, but for cut-scenes, this is the first game I have seen in which they did not upgrade the models.

However, in-game graphics-wise, this is top-of-the-line. In no other RTS will you see this many characters on-screen at once, each with shadows and lighting. Plus you consider the fact that it has very lush full-3D environments in a variety of areas like urban areas with thousands of protestors to even the Buckingham Palace itself. Another cool aspect of the whole graphical experience is the fact that when you are playing and you enter an area and start blasting away at enemies, a video window will appear in the top-left showing alternate camera angles of the action, and in many cases, point out important plot points happening that you may have missed otherwise.

One thing that really blew me away was the speech in the game. In the cut-scenes, the volume is a little less loud than in-game (for the cinematic effect), but when they throw you into the game, the volume raises slightly and the commander will give you a quick rundown of your objective, and the quality is second to none; it sounds like you’re right there. However, while discussing transition between cut-scenes and playing, it seems somewhat disconnected. For instance, you’ll be watching some nice politicians discussing who to send in to blow up the evil oil hoarding terrorists and then boom you’re sitting on the street with a group of units. It would have been nice to see a video introducing the commander or a video of the units unloading from an APC or something.

You can expect a better-than-average story for a game that is based on a book, but what about music? Honestly, I thought it was great as well. Nothing too complicated or original, but it really fit the mood. You don’t always want a game to carry a theme throughout just to be consistent. This game really gives you the feeling that you are in the Marines hunting for terrorists.

Gameplay is pleasantly different from other RTS games, incorporating new features, or expanding on old features. For instance, in Command and Conquer and Age of Empires, you can order units to take cover in a building, and when enemies came near, the building could fire at them. That was cool, but Act of War takes it a step further. You can order snipers into a building and they will head for the roof or a window and are much less vulnerable to enemy fire, and the same can apply for rocket soldiers and others.

This game is not as much for the hardcore RTS players, its not as complicated or extremely difficult. Your resources are readily available via stationary buildings and unlike other RTS’, you don’t have to gather anything; it just kind of…appears. One fun (and original) way to gain money is by capturing and selling back prisoners of war. This game is full of things like that which really show that they really tried hard to come up with things to set Act of War apart.

One thing that is not new about Act of War is the multiplayer. You’ve got your Skirmish versus the computer, your LAN play, and your Internet play. But looking at it in a positive way, it’s got all of those unique gameplay elements for you to try out against another human.

In closing, Act of War is a very solid RTS with great difficulty scaling so you steadily get better and better without even really noticing it. Live action videos really get the emotion across that CG videos sometimes can’t. Although the multiplayer isn’t anything too original, the single-player campaign is interesting and really shows off the beautiful graphics engine. If you are a casual gamer, or you’ve had problems with RTS games like C and C or Warcraft, this game really starts off slow and helps you along the way with no complicated resource systems. Hardcore RTS players, this is a big step for future RTS’ and its definitely worth your money to try out Act of War’s great campaign and unique new gameplay elements.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 8
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8.5
Written by Dave Review Guide

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