Act of War: Direct Action Review

We're ready for action and go directly to war!

Review by Rob Edmondson
Published 31st May 2005

Act of War: Direct Action

  • Developer:
  • Publisher:
  • Release Date: 1st January 1970

People say there are too many strategy games nowadays. It’s hardly possible to think of any past historical conflict, major or minor, not covered by at least one title and more often than not, numerous games tell different tales through the episode. That’s what makes it so surprising that no modern day war (at least to my knowledge) has ever been churned through a computer to be replayed countless times in the form of a strategy game. The only answer I can conceive is that it’s a sign of a war gaining glory as the years pass with the death and pain fading away making it easier for people to relive these moments, a sign of respect if you like. Also there’s a strong political aspect with recent wars such as Iraq receiving such strong opposition. Therefore Atari have taken a major gamble in alienating many gamers by releasing a game, while not directly based on Iraq, containing a strong influence of a Middle Eastern oil war and terrorism in a fictitious near future plot, which could so easily grace the Daily Mail.

Moving on to the game then, and a lot has been made of the large quantity of video clips contained in Act of War. While I can safely say that there is an above average amount, it isn’t as big as some of the figures I’ve heard quoted (30-40%) and it does all largely weave together to from a continuous game playing experience to the extent where you often fail to realise that you have moved onto the next mission. There are also times when you may see a clip mid mission of an action your men are performing. While this does add a professional feel to the game it also asks questions about the linearity of the experience – a major gripe I have which I will come to later. On another point while I have seen many comments about the acting in Act of War being poor I myself thought it was very good, but that may be because I don’t go out to the cinema enough.

You take control of Task Force Talon, an elite American branch specially trained for dealing with intense hostile activities and if you’ve ever played any of the C&C; games then you will no doubt feel right at home with Act of War. The whole build of the game screams old school at you and most of the structures and units are almost ripped right out of the legendary franchise. With the lack of a tutorial the developers gently lower you in to begin with, new buildings and units becoming available as you progress through the game. The control interface is also very intuitive. Most commands are basic and easy to carry out yet often producing more complex and interesting results on the battlefield. A nice feature included is the ability to capture enemies on the battlefield. This is done mainly for financial benefits but prisoners can also be traded back in exchange for map information.

Your squad’s AI is impressive in parts with snipers taking the back line while your regular troops crawl in. However you never feel quite at ease leaving your men alone as if an enemy encounters them who has a longer range they will often blissfully ignore him while half the party or a structure is being attacked. A nicer feature is, like your enemy, your men occasionally suffer injuries rather than death meaning they can be recovered by your medical helicopter if available. If they are left alone for too long though they will eventually die.

Like real life money is the main resource here, usually generated from specific buildings or prisoners of war. This works very well and mostly takes care of itself with your men often capturing POW’s automatically, saving you the trouble.

Most of the action takes place in urban settings with your soldiers able to hold out in buildings or set ambushes. Atari claim that all the environments, including maps in Russia, London and America are accurately modelled from aerial photographs and while I haven’t had an OS map out they certainly look very impressive. Before you start thinking that you might see your house in the game though it should be noted that only very small sections of each city are modelled and unless you happen to belong to the Royal family you’re likely to be disappointed.

Graphics are a strong point of Act of War with most of the maps and units beautifully modelled in full 3D. With an excellent camera the action can be rotated and zoomed in on with no loss of detail. Little animations when soldiers meet their untimely ends are also a nice touch; soldiers often fall back ridiculous distances with their weapons flying from their hands. It would have been nice if you could have captured enemy technology this way but maybe another time eh?

Right, now I’ve covered all the good points I’ll get right down to the messy bits, or bit maybe. Basically the game’s just far to linear. Often you’re forced to carry out tasks in a particular order with the game kicking up a fuss if you traverse from the true path. True, a linear game leaves the developers more scope for creating dramatic and spectacular events but far to little is left to the imagination and very regularly you find yourself just going through the motions, creating a fuzzy line between playing the game and watching one of its many videos. If an easy and smooth game is what you’re after then this does the job nicely but if you’re after a game that offers you a bit of diversity you should leave this one carefully alone.

So what we have here is the new, linear version of C&C; if you like. It’s simple, it’s quick and it can be a lot of fun but at the end of the day you feel more like you’ve watched a film than played a game. Quite brutally it’s old school that just doesn’t meet the modern grade.

Review Score: 6.8/10

Please note, this review was scored using our old system. For more information please see our review policy.

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