Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Rainbow Six: Vegas

The old Rainbow Six is dead, and it’s not coming back.

This is the new Rainbow Six and it’s all about room clearing. The bigger picture is cast aside in favour of a linear series of rooms and set pieces, and you aren’t going to be minus Ding Chavez because he took a chest-full of buckshot in the last mission. It’s still a tactical shooter, in the sense that you can hide behind cover and sometimes the rooms have more than one entrance, but there’s no more shouting go codes and simultaneous room breaches on opposite sides of the map.

Co-op is fucking awesome though.

In summary: this is not your granddad’s Rainbow Six.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Warhammer 40K: Squad Command. End Game.

Long before the end I’d moved over to using the d-pad and buttons over the stylus. The accidental firing and move orders are too much and the stylus had been left aside for everything other than the pre-mission setups. It’s easily worth the slower camera movement.

Burned through it in just a couple of days, but it’s not that it’s a horribly short game; I’ve been playing it for almost every waking hour. It’s a leaner, almost anorexic, X-Com/Chaos Gate, and it’s bloody good fun while it lasts. There’s multiplayer, with wi-fi, multi-card, and even download play, but it’s sorely missing some kind of single player skirmish mode. Other than that there isn’t much replay value beyond being able to replay missions with different equipment.

If you’re aroused by destructible terrain and the prospect of purging heretics for the Imperium, get involved.

It’s only a tenner at play.com right now too.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Warhammer 40K: Squad Command. Day Two.

Mission bloody ten and I finally notice you can switch between visible targets with the d-pad; what a muppet. Only once you are choosing to attack, though, which is probably why I missed it, I’ve usually decided on a target by that point.

Motherfucking Grey Knights!

Now, maybe it’s my inner masochist, but I absolutely love “hold the area” missions, and the ones in squad command are no exception. It’s all about repelling wave after wave of adversaries with a handful of troops in a desperate last stand and emerging victorious; about my dreadnought taking down half a dozen guys before three bloodletters bring him down, buying the last Grey Knight a turn or two until the rest of them swarm over the northern ruins; winning with one half dead marine as deamons swarm towards him and shouting "FUCK YOU, COMPUTER! I AM A HERO!".

I kept wondering why it starts you off in the centre of the map, instead of the fortified positions to the south east; it’s the cover. Destructible terrain makes holding an area indefinitely impossible. You have to make a fighting retreat, holding until the cover starts to disintegrate, or the enemy gets too close, then pulling back to the next bit of wall or burnt out wreckage. Destroyable terrain is also the saving grace of the stupid bloody bugs where it won’t let me move units through blatant gaps on some maps.

Ruins, the battlefields are always ruins. Sometimes, they are snowy ruins, or desert ruins, but they are always ruins. Now, obviously, this is the grim darkness of the far future, but would it hurt to have a jungle, or at least an area that doesn’t look like it’s been bombed before you got there?

Where in the hell is the turn counter!?

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Warhammer 40K: Squad Command. Day One:

Right, let’s kick this off with the glaring error; the camera does not move to focus on the visible enemy movements as they take their turn. You have to move the camera about manually, which is little consolation to not being directly shown what’s going on.

The tactical map, on the top screen, is used well for showing your firing arcs (but, sadly, those of the enemy) and unit positions. Each unit has a kind of radar that displays any enemy troops within their range, even those out of sight behind cover. Scouts get the longer range and are ideal for “spotting” enemies for the long range guns to give them a pounding. It does remove a lot of the danger from exploring that you get from in other games of the genre, though. During the enemies’ phase you can also “hear” unseen movements as they approach, which helps to make up for the lack of focusing camera.

Speaking of the camera, rotation would have been really nice, even with terrain transparency it’s sometimes awkward to pick a unit out with the stylus.

A good thing about being a stripped down Chaos gate: No grenades, and therefore, no frag spamming cultist bastards. They’ve removed and simplified some of the main conventions of the genre:

-No AP cost for turning, weapon switching, or stance changes. There is also no penalty for moving while crouching.

-Crouching doesn’t appear to increase accuracy. It’s specifically about taking advantage of low cover.

-No separate firing options for accurate shots, or burst fire. Just one attack option that allows you to add AP to the base cost for more accuracy.

-No unit progression from mission to mission, each one is an entirely separate engagement.

-Moving has no effect on accuracy, I think, and there’s no separate walking and running modes.

-No hit percentages, just a coloured line that goes from red to green to indicate accuracy, and black for a blocked line of sight. Simple, but annoyingly vague; I’m still not entirely sure about what does or doesn’t affect accuracy because of it, except distance.

Clearly they’ve tried to make changes to the basic “X-Com” model, rather than try to just crowbar it into the DS, which is a good thing.

The group moving option is nice, but almost useless; with just six units per mission I always found I needed to be moving them individually. The stylus controls take another black mark with this. Tapping on a unit portrait centres the camera on that unit, as you’d expect, but if you already had them selected it groups them with the nearest friendly unit as well. The only group moves I’ve done were all unintentional. Not cool.

My initial impressions of the secondary weapons were that they are overpowered and the AP cost for equipping them wasn’t harsh enough, this was wrong. The first few missions are relatively easy and the plasma guns and sniper rifles are just overkill. Then the game drops a dozen chaos marines with a predator tank on your face, and they have plasma guns too. Suddenly they become really fucking necessary.

Something odd: I can find the stats of the secondary weapons easily, but I’m pretty sure there are none for your basic weapons.

Secondary weapons are mainly of the explosive variety; add that to the destructible terrain and the game really begins to shine. The levels are fairly open, but being able to blow up at least 90% of everything on the map let’s you carve your own path through. Not enough space to drive your tank through? Break out the missile launchers.

This makes movement just as important as cover in this game. Cover is a fleeting comfort that can get shredded very quickly. You are forced to constantly move units from ruin to decaying tank husk as the battlefield evaporates under the hail of bullets and plasma, which keeps the action progressing around the level, as opposed to a drawn-out shooting gallery experience.

Fuck the Beyond Salvation mission. If the objective is “advance to a specific area” I should be able to reach that position without having to kill every other bastard on the map.

Using units to spot for snipers halfway across the map is awesome.

Scouts with a mix of missile launchers and sniper rifles are the shit. Kill the cover then start double tapping Chaos marines.

I’ve check the options menu three times now to check that I haven’t just missed the option to turn music on during missions, it just feels eerie sometimes.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Warhammer 40K: Squad Command. Initial impressions

One of the most uncomplicated squad based strategy games I’ve played in a while, automatic overwatch and no action point cost for changing stances. There are also no separate fire modes; you just pour as many action points as you have into increasing the accuracy of your basic attack.

This highlights the fiddly stylus controls, though; I keep firing when I just want to add more AP to the shot.

Although you don’t get to pick specific units for missions, you do get to choose their secondary weapons as they get unlocked during the campaign.

It’s not the prettiest 3D DS game, but that’s like saying it’s not the prettiest burn victim, and although the frame rate is a bit dodgy this is turn-based so who really cares.

Music during missions is notable by its absence; again, not a massive issue, but still.

It feels a lot like a stripped down Chaos Gate, Squad Command’s spiritual predecessor.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Supreme Commander.

because there's no time for love when you're sending hundreds of kill-bots to their doom.