World in Conflict is a pretty big game on the PC scene – which is what you’d expect from a company called Massive Entertainment. It’s been simultaneously lauded as the future of the RTS genre and the most gorgeous game to grace an LCD since Max Payne, grabbing DirectX 10 by the horns and taking it to a beautiful conclusion.
World in Conflict is also a big game for us at bit-tech and barely a day goes by that Tim doesn’t mention it. To put it bluntly, World in Conflict is for Tim what BioShock was for me – a game so hugely anticipated that it has taken on mythical proportions and a life of its own.
Hell, this introduction is even hyping up the game’s hype – if that isn’t impressive then I don’t know what is.
But is World in Conflict deserving of all that attention? Can it really be all that good, or is it the case that once you’ve dropped three nukes then you’ve seen everything the game has to offer?
Well, from what we’ve already seen of the game in the multiplayer beta we suspect not. Still, there’s only one way to be sure and that’s to get up close and personal with what may well be the new benchmark for all future RTS games. So, let’s get stuck in...
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In Soviet Russia, Game Plays You!
Okay, maybe I’m getting ahead of myself though and just because Tim and some all-too-general collection of gamers think that World in Conflict is the best thing since sliced bread doesn’t mean that you necessarily even know what it is. Okay, calm down and I’ll recap.
World in Conflict is an RTS (that’s real-time strategy, n00b) game which is set in an alternate history where the Cold War escalated into a full Russian invasion of the US. Instead of petering out slowly as it did in The Real World, World in Conflict is set in a world where the Russians launched a massive assault on Europe as a typically over elaborate distraction.
With NATO and the US stretched thin fighting off the forces of the Warsaw Pact in Europe, Russia then launched the real offensive on America, landing a huge fighting force in Seattle and quickly laying the city to waste. Driven to desperation by the economic problems thrown up by trying to stay ahead in the arms race, Russia uses its massive and well-motivated army to plough across America successfully.
Players jump in at the start of Russia’s invasion, taking the role of Seattle-based Lieutenant Parker as he/she (Parker’s face and gender are never seen) assumes command of a small force and works to evacuate the city. It doesn’t end there though and soon enough Parker has a growing arsenal at his command, including nuclear weapons and dozens of air attacks as he tries to strike back at the heart of the Soviet war machine.
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It’s a fairly gripping story then, worthy of a Tom Clancy novel or a low-budget clone at least. The best thing about the story though is that unlike so many other strategy games, World in Conflict puts some serious effort into actual narrative.
It isn’t a case of some limp, barely interesting NPCs just regurgitating dialogue either. Massive Entertainment has fused together a selection of cutscene styles to form a coherent and thrilling whole. As the levels load a brief exposition is given by a disembodied voice accompanied by some very pretty watercolour pictures, but these then transfer seamlessly into in-engine cutscenes which are filled with explosions, tanks and viscera.
It’s a rare and fantastic treat to see an RTS game tell a story so well, let alone to use such a varied palette and set of techniques. It’s also nice to see such a well acted cast too and, unlike some other games which leave players annoyed by NPCs who conform to the usual stereotypes, World in Conflict has a selection of believable characters at its disposal.
That said, although story is important it’s still only one part of a game and there are plenty of examples of games with excellent stories but no gameplay. Is World in Conflict one of those ill-fated titles, or can it back up its awesome plot delivery with some fun singleplayer gameplay too?