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Act of War: Direct Action

Score: 90%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Eugen Systems
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Strategy/ Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If this is true, the developers at Eugen must really like the Command & Conquer franchise, because Act of War: Direct Action looks and sounds just like Command & Conquer: Generals. The same style of borderline tacky FMV cut-scenes are used here, complete with no-named thespians that develop into recognizable characters over the course of the game. The in-game graphics are also very similar to those found in Generals. Finely detailed 3D buildings and vehicles populate the battlefield, and they donít just look good from a distance. The special effects, which are nothing short of extreme, are both a blessing and a curse. The explosions are so extravagant that they tend to obscure the targets around them, disallowing the player to quickly select new targets next to exploding vehicles and buildings.

The collection of dialogue, music, and effects also emulate the C&C games in almost every aspect. Units replying to your selecting them pipe up with unique and amusing responses. The music has the same hard, military air about it, and the effects are crisp and clear. All in all, not only are the bells and whistles great, but they bring with them a kind of nostalgia for those who were big fans of Command & Conquer.


Gameplay:

Act of War: Direct Action pulls its story from the book of the same name by author Dale Brown. Of course, terrorist attacks are at an all-time high, domestic defense is being beefed up in America and the U.K., and not surprisingly, an outbreak of violence in the very heart of one of these nations spurs the American military and its special forces divisions into action.

There are three different sides in Act of War: the American Army, the Consortium (terrorists), and Task Force Talon (hi-tech special forces). The American Army and the Talon Force are more or less on the same side, but the storyline is a bit twisty and explaining it all would take too long and reveal too much. Suffice it to say that all three sides, despite what they represent, are all very much equal in terms of gameplay.

The Campaign starts you out as the American Army, with the first few missions leaving you in control of only infantry to get you used to the interface. Eventually, as the plot thickens, you get control of Task Force Talon, all the while battling the Consortium as they wage war on American and foreign soil alike.

Though it isnít what most RTS freaks start drooling over, the Campaign is nicely laid out. Itís long enough to present a wide variety of missions, it is interspersed with many a cut-scene, most of which are rather entertaining to watch (a lot of cut-scenes merge seamlessly into each mission), and it gets you used to the tech trees and capabilities of the units. What all hard core RTS fans know, however, is that the real essence of the game is to be felt in the multiplayer modes.


Difficulty:

Act of War: Direct Action isnít the deepest RTS out there, but its depth is good enough to entertain veterans of the genre while allowing newcomers to easily learn the intricacies of strategy games. Overall the game is pretty well balanced. Each side is unique, but they donít diverge from one another like the sides in Generals. They are kind of like the Romance languages; once you learn one, the rest arenít too difficult to master. Itís not a hard game to learn how to play, but there is definitely a learning curve that must be surmounted in order to get the most out of it all.

Game Mechanics:

Act of War: Direct Action took what worked in the past and stuck to those rules like glue. While this means that there is little in the way of innovation, it at least gives the game a solid base to build upon. The interface is run of the mill, but it still displays essential information easily and accurately; unit health, icons, and group numbers are all boldly displayed in the bar. There is also a good assortment of hotkeys for those in a rush.

Each side has three tiers of technology they can build from. Certain buildings must be in place in order to upgrade to the next tier. As much as it is fun to upgrade all the way and try to nuke the hell out of your enemy, multiplayer games wonít be going too far past the first tier before the victor is decided. Larger games will see the later technology emerge on the field, but these, alas, are few and far between on the internet.

Very few problems arise from the control scheme in Act of War: Direct Action, but the negative issues are worth a look at. Vehicles rarely get bogged down when traveling in great numbers through close quarters, but occasionally, rarely even, one of them will get stuck around an obstacle or another group of units. Also, airborne units like to run straight into the fray after you tell them to run away from the enemy anti-air units. This only means that you have to send them farther out, but it is still a hassle nonetheless. The last annoyance of importance is attempting to place buildings down in some locations. The currency in the game is handled through oil derricks and banks. Sending troops into the banks gives you a steady flow of cash, but you have to build derricks on oil deposits. Finding the ďcorrectĒ way to place it is a task in itself, and it tends to eat up precious time when youíre trying to fiddle around with placing a building.

Act of War is definitely a safe bet for RTS fans, as well as those not accustomed to the genre. Itís got an engaging single player campaign, great style, good control, and enough balance to enjoy it online until the first patch comes out. If youíve ever wanted to try out an RTS and arenít sure which one to start with, Act of War: Direct Action will certainly be worth the purchase.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:



1.5 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB Video Ram, 6 GB Hard Disk Space, 2X CD-ROM
 

Test System:



Windows ME, AMD Athlon 1.4 GHz Processor, 256 MB RAM, 128 MB GeForce FX 5200 Video Card, 40 GB Hard Drive, Creative Labs Sound Card, Cable Modem Internet Connetion

Windows Movie Edit Pro 10 Microsoft Xbox Mega Man: Anniversary Collection

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated