Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Act of War: Direct Action Review

Just finished the single player campaign of Act of War: Direct Action. The game is clearly based around a similar concept as Command and Conquer: Generals released several years previously and I think they've tried to go with a more realistic approach than Command and Conquer: Generals.

Here's a quick summary of my thoughts on Act of War: Direct Action

What I liked about it
Ragdoll physics
High level of detail
Realistic looking
Fairly interesting single-player campaign - There are lots of mission plot twists that make sense in the context of the war.

What I didn't like about it
Units are too small - In an effort to be a bit more realistic, all the units are a closer to real life proportions and wear similar camouflage clothes to what they would in real life. Large environments make it hard to locate soldiers and tanks amidst the urban concrete and desert locations. I think the game should have used a squad system for soldiers in this case to make them easier to locate.

Units look all the same - Again, in an effort to be more realistic, all units look very similar and its hard to tell at a glance which soldiers are which unless you zoom in a bit more.
Buildings blend into the environment - Again, the buildings are a bit too realistic and have camouflage. Unfortunately this makes looking for the US barracks a real pain amidst the other similarly shaped buildings like the sandbag shelter.

When I was playing C & C Generals I didn't like the toy-like vehicles and tanks. But in hindsight, it's clear that the reason why Westwood made the tanks much smaller and troops much larger was to ensure that the vehicles didn't eclipse the soldiers and it would be possible to see at a glance what the troop and vehicle composition of a group is.

Garrisoning - This makes the game is somewhat frustrating experience at times as you have to order your troops to exit buildings and move to the next one. If you're trying to clear out a city, this can really slow down progress as troops that enter the building become a separate selection group. Any units outside get deselected so if you want to move on ahead to clear another building you have to have your troops exit the building, then reselect everybody again, reorganise the formation so your troops are protected and then move along.

Having played both C & C: Generals and Act of War I find that garrisoning often turns the tide of battle around quite easily. My gut feel of garrisoning is that it should be limited to one or two buildings so as to make the buildings focal points of combat as opposed to allowing every single building to be garrisoned making it a game of whoever can click faster to slip more troops into buildings.

Clunky healing interface - Super Weapons and Airstrikes are located on the task bar so it's easy to call in airstrikes. But repairing and healing troops is a real pain. For example, to heal Task force talon troops, you have to locate your Nanowave healing centre and then relocate to find your troops and then heal them. Why not place nanowave healing on the interface bar like airstrikes and superweapons? That would have made it way easier. Its a bit easier for the US army. You can call in the helicopter to medivac your badly injured troops with red health. What I don't understand is why you can't call the helicopter in for troops which aren't totally injured. It makes no sense. Vehicles on the other hand, can call in repair trucks or repair helicopters anytime. Weird.

One gripe I have with gameplay is why doesn't Taskforce Talon get some sort of healing unit near the beginning or at least some way of healing wounded troops? I remember in C & C Generals you could at least send your troops back into the barracks to get fully healed. Why didn't they implement something like that? This is especially heart wrenching when troops become critically wounded can't actually move and then subsequently bleed to death. Unless you've leveled up to get a nanowave healing centre, which is quite high up on the technology tree, your Taskforce soldiers have to be left to die. I mean, there they are wounded in combat, you've cleared the area of enemies and even though you're suppose to be a hightech fighting force you can't even send an ambulance to rescue them. It's even funnier because you can actually get a vehicle repair unit before getting getting a nanowave healing centre. Is this how a hightech fighting force is suppose to do things? They value equipment over their soldiers?

Resource collecting - Oil derricks are usually isolated and relatively far apartment so you have to build a refinery right next to them anyway. This means more micromanagement. The makers should have just collapsed the refinery and oil derrick into one building.

There is also the ability to take prisoners of war and hold them hostage for money. Often the ground will be littered with troops afterwards and I have to order my troops around to go around collecting them. Whenever they capture one soldier, they will also try and capture other nearby troops as well. I found however that the radius for this capture zone was really small so I had to continually tell my troops to capture troops just outside of their capture zone. Each POW gives you $500 so its definitely worth capturing but having to continually babysit my troops while capturing is annoying.

Overall, I found the game very high in micromanagement and I think it makes the game more aggravating at times than necessary. You might note that nearly all of my criticism is centred around interface rather than gameplay as I haven't really had a chance to play multiplayer so I can't comment on gameplay balancing. It's a decent competent RTS with good graphics and animations but I don't think it's quite polished enough to reach classic status. I don't believe it will be viewed favourable over time particularly since C & C Generals was there first. At the time it got around 70-80% but by today's standards although the graphics hold up quite well I would probably give it a 5 or 6 because the interface and gameplay isn't quite up to scratch.

No comments:

Post a Comment