Shadow Company: Left For Dead
|a game by||Sinister|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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So far the introduction of 3D technology has done little to enhance the realtime strategy genre. Both Myth: The Fallen Lords and, more recently, WarGames failed to deliver the goods, largely because the 3D terrain and camera seemed to hinder rather than help you. With this in mind it's interesting to note that RTS old boys Westwood have decided to continue down the traditional route and develop their forthcoming C&C: Tiberian Sun as a 2D game. And that fellow developers Cavedog (they of Total Annihilation fame) and Ensemble (Age Of Empires) have decided to follow suit.
But that's not to say we can't expect a flood of 3D RTS games over the next few months. Pandemic's forthcoming Dark Reign II takes full advantage of 3D technology to plant you firmly within a true 3D environment, as does Creative Assembly's lush-looking Shogun (previously known as Taislio), the 'all-new' and hopefully improved Army Men 3D, the futuristic War Zone 2140, the yet-to-be-confirmed 3D and Myth II to name but a few. But is it wise to assume that 2D is dead and 3D is the way ahead?
3d Or Not 3d?
That is the question. But maybe there's room for both. It appears that some games are best presented in 2D, but in many ways 3D opens up what you can do with the real-time strategy genre. Until the release of Bullfrog's Populous III there were real doubts as to whether it could work. Sinister Games' Paul Meegan is confident that they're going down the right path, however. "We decided from the very beginning that the camera must never get in the way and must always be there to serve the player and not hinder how you play. At the end of the day. there's just so much more you can do when you're working in 3D."
For the moment, at least, you still play a major role in moving the camera in Shadow Company, and things can get a little complicated as you struggle to prioritise whether you should move your units or the camera first, but this is something the developers are working hard on. An 'intelligent' camera that follows the action is already being implemented. You also have the facility to click on the face of one of your units on the interface screen and instantly find yourself at the hot spot rather than hastily scroll your way over an undulating 3D landscape.
It's no accident that Shadow Co isn't an RTS game in the mould of C&C, where you have control of loads of different units. In many ways, like Commandos it's more unit-focused, which means you're not forced to zip around the landscape to babysit your squad while struggling to frame the action simultaneously. In order to keep it simple, the number of units you deploy for a mission is usually in single figures. And although you can split them up into different parties, the AI means they're intelligent enough to look after themselves if you leave them unattended. In many ways, this type of RTS game is more suited to a 3D engine, and it has enabled the developers to really go to town with the environment.
Just Like Being There
When you consider how many polygons are flying about the screen, it's not surprising that Sinister Games are predicting the minimum spec for Shadow Co will probably be a P166 with a 3D card and 32Mb of RAM.
The 3D engine they've developed is one of the best we've witnessed, and although the characters look a little spoddy the overall attention to detail is superb. Real-time lighting and shadows that get longer and shorter depending on the rime of day, a completely dynamic environment that uses real-time physics, and true line of sight make for a very immersive battlefield. You can instruct your units to blow up vehicles and buildings, climb towers, and hide in the undergrowth to avoid detection. You can also commandeer numerous vehicles, including tanks, jeeps, APCs and even helicopters, which you control using the cursor keys. In practice, it's all a bit of a hoot just running around shooting people, stealing vehicles and blowing things up. But the developers are keen to point out that you require careful planning to successfully complete all eight campaigns and effectively win the game by defeating the dastardly Granite Corporation.
From what we've seen so far, Shadow Co represents a refreshing new take on what for many has become a very tired genre. Far from being just another C&C clone, it could well be the RTS game that convinces the doubters that 3D is most definitely the way ahead.
Omigod! They Killed Lenny
Just like in real life, there's no coming back from the dead
You get just 18 mercenaries when you start to play Shadow Company, each with their own particular skill sets, personality traits and histories. As they get more experience their stats and skills improve, though if you lose a man (or woman) on a mission they're gone forever and you won't get any new recruits, raw or otherwise With this in mind, If one of your team is injured In action you may find it's worth aborting the mission and getting them back to the medi-centre to patch them up. If it's too late, then grab their gear and leg it to safety. It's what they would have wanted, after all.