It's a fairly safe assumption that most people reading this review have seen WarGames the movie - it's been shown umpteen times on TV (usually around Christmas). But in the unlikely event that you haven't seen it (perhaps your TV has blown up or something), here's a brief synopsis: inquisitive boy plays with computers. Same boy stumbles across access code to American government computers. One particular government computer in particular, actually, called Joshua. Joshua simulates military warfare and presents the government with hypothetical scenarios which they analyse in order to better their understanding of real warfare. Joshua challenges inquisitive boy to a game', and the boy obliges. The government mistake events in the game for real-life events and decide the Russians are launching a nuclear attack, so they prepare their military arsenal to respond accordingly.
Everything goes predictably pear-shaped from here on in, and the boy finds himself caught in the middle of a highly amusing misunderstanding between the computer and the American government. WarGames is a reasonably good film, and a reasonably good backdrop for a virtual reality videogame, we're sure you'll agree.
Shall We Play A Game?
WarGames the computer game is set 20 years after the movie. You play the role of a computer nerd (sorry, expert) who buys an action-strategy game called WarGames which has the ability to play real opponents in real scenarios. You find a fault in the game which connects you to a government simulator, with the result that all the events in the game are echoed in the real world (sound familiar?).
So it is, then, that you, and only you, and absolutely no one else in the whole wide world, can defeat the WOPR forces (War Operation Programmed Response, for trivia fans) and save the world. Sounds fair enough in an CI've saved the world about 20,000 times before in a million games like this but it was quite fun so I'll do it again' sort of way. And, indeed, when the game loads up, everything looks comfortingly familiar. Little people with big guns stand alongside big tanks and make their way towards the enemy to give them what for. With one slight exception: WarGames is one of many new C&C clones which are making the brave transition from established 2D environments to all-new Creal' 3D landscapes. Hold down the right mouse button, move the mouse around, and the landscape Cmoves' to reflect the part of the environment currently under inspection.
The 3D camera offers you several viewpoints of the action so you can see through trees and around buildings. It pans, swoops, zooms in and out and performs all sort of amazing 3D feats to impress casual onlookers. It's also handy for scouting the terrain for possible vantage points. Unfortunately, all this comes at a price. The developers of WarGames have had to sacrifice visual detail on the units and buildings in the game to accommodate the 3D terrain. As a result, WarGames looks decidedly dull alongside its visually stunning 2D counterparts like Total Annihilation and Starcraft. Nil pwah for presentation then. Perhaps the Al will fare better.
Men At Work
No one was expecting WarGames to have perfect Al. Most gamers have almost come to expect real-time strategy games to feature soldiers with the kind of intelligence that wouldn't get them a part-time job in McDonalds. However, nothing can prepare you for this. Check this out, funk soul brother: there's a mission in the game which gives you objectives that send you miles from your home base. No problem, I thought, I'll leave a big pack of bazooka-toting soldiers behind to protect home sweet home. Imagine my amazement, then, upon popping back to check out my base, only to find an enemy walker blowing it to bits. Where the f** are my soldiers? I moved slightly across the screen. Twelve bazooka men stood two yards from this free firework display, busily inspecting the sky in case they'd missed anything of interest up there in the last few minutes.
It gets worse. Units get stuck behind trees. Grouped units split up when they're all told to go to the same place. Put simply, the Al routines in WarGames are among the worst I've ever seen in any real-time strategy. However...
Reasons To Be Cheerful
For some reason that I can't quite put my finger on, I know I'll still be playing WarGames after I've finished the review. Maybe it's the neat little touches like the hackers who upgrade your weapons and armour while at the same time downgrading enemy firepower. Maybe it's the ability to steal enemy technology; or the OTT explosions; or the emphasis on stealth over action for many of the missions, which forces you to think strategically rather than adopting the gung-ho approach of most C&C games. The missions are quite varied too, although they can take an age to complete. Whatever the reason, one thing for sure is that WarGames is definitely an acquired taste (opinions on the game differ wildly around the Zone office). For that reason, I can't give it a Recommended Award. If you like the look of it, make sure you check out a demo first.
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP