Set in an alternate reality, where the paranoia of the Cold War spilled over into full scale Russian aggression, we’ll set our stall out right away and state quite clearly that World in Conflict is something truly special.
With the Russians attacking Western Europe in 1989, the US springs to our defence once again and helps us out in the conflict. But those sneaky Ruskies, under cover, spring a surprise attack on the US mainland, immediately making inroads through Seattle. With the US forces halfway around the world, there’s not much to stop the Russians from establishing themselves in the heartlands of America.
Against what usually constitutes a huge scale real time strategy title, here you don’t play some kind of powerful overlord overseeing the entire conflict, and directing troops wherever you wish to achieve the ultimate goal of total annihilation of your enemies.
As a recent graduate of West Point – something which you’re frequently reminded about during the lengthy tutorial – you’re merely a small cog on the battlefield, acting out the orders your superiors have seen fit to hand out.
You constantly receive fresh orders, and numerous objectives to achieve during each mission. Some are absolutely essential, and require completion before the mission itself can be finished. Others, the secondary objectives, act as mere plus points in order to heighten your power in future missions.
This change in perspective takes away a large portion of what was expect to come into contact with during at RTS. There’s no resource management to contend with – no ore to mine. There’s no need to worry about initially building a base like the Command & Conquer titles either.
Instead, you’re given a certain amount of reinforcements you can call upon whenever you see fit. If you happen to lose a unit out on the battlefield, their cost is slowly reintroduced back into your reinforcement total, meaning you constantly have a stream of troops joining you in battle. Calling upon these reinforcements, and deciding in fact which brand of units to choose is as simple as a free mouse clicks, meaning that even during the most hectic moments of battle, you’ll never find yourself too overrun.
What makes this system particularly invigorating is it leaves you less reluctant to simply churn out the most powerful units, and have yourself a better spread of a group. Plumping for all tanks leaves your forces highly vulnerable to helicopter attack, whereas going for pure numbers of the lowliest of troops will only see you cut to shreds within seconds by your powerful enemies.
Despite all these changes, RTS fans will be pleased to know that World in Conflict plays in much the same manner as we always expect. Mouse clicks initiate all kinds of actions, from simple troop movement, to deploying reinforcements, and even call in all kinds of powerful air strikes.
World in Conflict also goes along with the recent graphical splendour that the genre has been drowned in. Hectic fire fights look gorgeous on their own, but when a tactical strike is called, the sheer beauty of the explosions and smoke clouds make for constant cravings to unleash some mega destruction.
With the obvious changes the single player game negating the need to build bases, and claim early resource points, the multiplayer game is massively improved thanks to these too. It’s easy to jump straight into battle, and be kicking bottom within a few seconds of logging in. Plus, tournaments aplenty are constantly starting, some officially regulated, meaning that you’ll never lack a real challenge online.
World in Conflict is something quite special. The few technical faults aside – a few ATI cards simply don’t perform too spectacularly – this is easily one of the very best PC games released in the last year.
Stunning multiplayer action, is only helped by a stunning single player campaign that packs an exciting story, and tonnes of thrills by the second.
An essential PC purchase for all but the most staunch RTS critics.