Ever wonder why there haven't been many real-time strategy games on the GBC? Force 21 provides the answer. Here is a genre that works best on PC's, where a keyboard/mouse combo allows for a maximum level of control. It's tough enough to get a handle on a game like Command and Conquer with a Playstation pad--imagine trying to play it on the four-button Game Boy. Of course, Force 21 is not as deep or demanding as that Westwood game, but therein lies another problem: how many RTS fans will want to play a watered down interpretation of their favorite genre in the first place? This is a cart without a clear audience--it's too simple for military strategy pros, yet too complicated for casual players. A clumsy interface is the nail in the coffin: as you set your soldiers up for battle, enemies will annihilate your off-screen battalions. These troops can only be monitored by a full-screen map that's a pain to toggle on and off. In the end, this is a noble effort that doesn't add up to much. For GBC strategy gaming that's fun to play, pick up Cannon Fodder.
Download Force 21
All hail Red Storm! All hail Red Storm! Finally someone has come out with a real 3D war game that makes you sweat bullets and get that 1000-yard stare after a butt-kicking game session. Force 21 is Red Storm's newest beast which makes all other war games look like little children. Set in the year 2015, Force 21 lets players see and actually work through the challenges of small-unit combat as it might happen in the near future. What makes this stand above the other war games out there is the awesome 3D environment in which you get to play. Instead of relying on a hex map on which you think there is a hill, in Force 21 you see the hill and can use it to your advantage. There is no more of the wondering if what is on the map is real; you can go check it out for yourself and see if you actually want to position units at that spot. I'm getting a little ahead of myself, gentle reader, and should fill you in on the story line. In the year 2015 the Chinese want to take advantage of the weakening power structure in Kazakhstan and reclaim oil rights that they think are rightfully theirs. Well, that's where we come into the picture, my war-gaming friends. We rise up and say, "Oh hell no, not on our watch are you going to bully other countries around." We then unleash Force 21, a modern army with some aging circa-1990 units and weapons with a few bad-to-the-bone new techno units that kick butt and take names. Force 21 can be played as a single-person game starting with very small missions in the campaign and then working up to more complex and bigger missions, but the real kick in the pants is when you can hook up with four of your buddies and wage some serious 3D war. I'm not going to give too much away on the rest of the game because, just like Rainbow Six, this is a game that is fun to explore not knowing much except that it rocks!!!!! Oh, on a side note, Command and Conquer can pack up its weapons and go home now because there is a new sheriff in town.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Those of you who have played Rainbow Six will find the initial mission setup to be very similar, and do you know why that is? It's because that's the way real-life missions are planned. First, you get your "Intelligence" (who the bad guy is and where he is supposed to be); second, you get your "Unit Selection" (what units and commanders are best used for this mission); finally, you get a nice little satellite photo of the area of operations where you will be working. Once you have absorbed all that info you are placed with your units on the 3D battlefield, where it is now time to think on your feet and think fast. The bulk of the game is played on the 3D battlefield and that is what makes Force 21 so much fun to play. Why would you want to sit and watch a battle unfold over a flat map when you can be choking on dust and eating really bad MREs with your troops while getting your backside shot off at the same time? Red Storm has managed to create another game that lets you totally immerse yourself and ignore the wife when she yells at you to feed the "D@#!n dog."
I must be honest with my regular readers out there. I wet myself the first time I saw the graphics; honest, no kidding. Ever since I began to see what game designers could do with first- and third-person action games, my only wish was for a war game that would have a actual battlefield instead of a map -- well, I got my wish. I believe it is the second mission in the game where you get to experience small towns, crossing streams and some nice rolling hills, so early on you get to see some of the great things the graphics have to offer. There are a few minor problems with the graphics, but nothing that will make you want to stop playing; sometimes the towns look a little too "cardboard" for my liking, but I think I can easily live with that. All vehicle graphics are done really well, right down to the camouflage nets or concrete fortifications for the tanks. One thing that will rock your world is when you get to see your first air strike called in. Can you say "Schwiiiiiing"?
The audio comes across so subtly that you just sit there and go "yeaaahhh." All units confirm all orders, but with realistic voices and attitudes. When it comes to the vehicles, the audio goes up or down depending on whether the vehicle is speeding up or down. You hear and feel the "whoosh" of rockets from the helicopters, and the tanks and artillery are felt in the pit of your stomach with their deep booms. Okay, enough said; the audio works and works very well.
Pentium 200 MHz (233 MMX recommended), 32 MB RAM, Win 95/98, 4X CD-ROM drive, DirectX compatible sound card, Direct 3D compatible video card. For a full list of supported video cards, visit Red Storm's website.
I have to give a big thank you out there to S Fishman, who helped me test out the multiplayer section of Force 21. For many missions he handed my teeth to me on a platter and left me begging to play again. I really hope that Force 21 becomes as popular as the other games on the MSN Gaming Zone, because it has a lot to offer. One thing Red Storm needs to start working on right away is more maps for multiplayer; serious gamers will burn through those few maps in weeks. On that note come and hook up with me, "Double Tap1" and "S Fishman," and we'll make some serious war.
I think we all know what my bottom line is going to be on this game. Some will say I have kissed Red Storm's butt; others will say I was too dazzled to see any flaws. Oh well, I think this is what we were sorely missing in the multiplayer and single-player game world. There are a few flaws, but none that took away from having a total blast playingForce 21. On that note, gentle reader, I give the game a score of 92/100.