World in Conflict – As Seen by Trolleydude

May 25, 2008 § Leave a comment

Okay, so with Team Fortress disappearing over the horizon in a puff of all-medic teams and cheating bastards, I have had some time on my hands lately. As per usual, instead of doing something productive, I dug out my untouched copy of World in Conflict and sat down
to try and remember why I never bothered to get past the tutorial.

The answer- that was around the time that my aging graphics card mysteriously decided to take up a career as a professional paperweight. I make no bones about it. This game will absolutely maul your computer if you aren’t properly equipped with a fire extinguisher and liquid nitrogen cooling systems. Every gunfight goes off in a flurry of volumetric smoke, lighting and gloriously hectic building physics. This game is an absolute joy to watch on the higher settings, but steer clear if you’re still having trouble running half-life 2 on medium.

Unlike most games that herald a new leap in technology (see Crysis, Cell Factor and Doom 3), World in Conflict doesn’t use it as a main selling point. In fact, I was unaware of its existence before it turned up on my doorstep drunk, naked and crying out for attention. It seems that the rise of console ports and completely pointless movie-to-game conversions has worked to dumb-down the general populace to the point that they don’t even appreciate a good strategy game anymore.

However, if there’s one company who I trust to revive this tired genre, it’s Massive Entertainment. The creators of Ground Control (which was fucking brilliant) and the first company to create an RTS in a 3d engine, Massive used to be the last word when it came to intelligent games. They were just starting to edge out Whoeverthefuckmadecommandandconquer Entertainment when they vanished off the face of the earth with Ground Control 2, leaving us lost and confused. In the resulting power vacuum, Whoeverthefuckmadecommandandconquer Entertainment decided to pump out rehash after rehash of the same old formula until the franchise consisted of nothing else.

Anyway, now that I’ve managed to rant for two straight paragraphs without making a single valid point, I should probably start talking about the game. Just like Ground Control, World in Conflict takes all the base-building and resource gathering of similar games and throws it in the bin, then buries the bin under two tonnes of innovative game design and slick controls. You’re thrown into battle with a limited number of units (tanks, helicopters and the like) and left to your own devices. Here’s where the game throws in its first little trick – all your units can die, and you’re still in the fight. There’s no special “kill me to win the game” unit this time around. You simply fly in more reinforcements and get back to laying waste to the surroundings. Obviously it’s more deep than that, or you’d be an unstoppable reinforcement machine. Unfortunately I’ve spent too much time complaining about Command and Conquer, so I’ve got to move on.

The simple Rock-Paper-Scissors formula of most strategy games isn’t apparent here. Mostly you aren’t just throwing colour-coded meat into the grinder, you’re trying to outmaneuver the cunning AI. The lack of a base to defend means that you can move your forces wherever you want, and, as a result, the enemy seems a lot more flexible and intimidating. When you are required to defend a position, the computer is ruthless and uninhibited. The undiluted satisfaction of fighting off the entire Soviet Army to be left with a few crippled, flaming tanks and a lonely helicopter cannot be met by many games of any genre. Even failure can be gloriously satisfying. When you’re forced to call down a tactical nuclear strike on your own men to stop a huge wave of tanks, and are given thirty seconds to flee, only to see your half-hour’s meticulous planning go up in smoke when they circle around to cut off your escape; well, let’s just say I’m finding it difficult to convey the heartbreak.

I’m running out of time, so let me say this: The single player is exceptional, the multiplayer is deep in ways I haven’t mentioned here, and all in all this is one of the most complete games I have ever come across. Buy it if you’re looking for a thoughtful challenge. Otherwise, buy it.

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