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Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Data Becker
Developer: Data Becker
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

America, unfortunately, does very little with what could have been a fantastically gorgeous setting. The world is represented in low-colour browns and greens, looking eternally dismal. It reminds me of the way the West looked in a lot of 'spaghetti Western' films, and although I suppose that's passable as a look, it's also damned uninspiring. One can only look at drab settings for so long before getting disgruntled in general.

The look of the units doesn't help any, either. Units of a given side are often tough to distinguish between each other, pixellated and drab as they are. It's generally pretty easy to tell the difference between the sides, but when you want to select a particular unit from a firefight and get them to go somewhere, it's often an exercise in clicking until you happen to get the one you want. Beauty is definitely not something that America possesses a lot of.

The sound in America is also decidedly sub-standard. The music is fine, but it just didn't feel right to me. It felt a little too modern for the setting. I could be completely wrong on that count, but I found myself being more disgruntled with the music as the game progressed. The sound effects are pretty bare-bones, with gunshots and arrow thwacks, plus a bevy of 'grunt-type' sounds for the various units. The voice-acting is passable, but it's also rather offensive at times. The Looney Tunes-style Mexican voiceovers were quite off-putting for me, especially for a game that seems to be striving for some degree of historical value.


Because if one thing is for sure, it's that America doesn't hold much value otherwise. A strictly standard real-time strategy game, the only thing that sets America off from the pack is its setting -- and, in the end, that doesn't do enough for the game to make it truly enjoyable.

In the single player campaigns, you take one of four sides. You start off with the Native Americans, then move to the Mexicans, Outlaws, and finally the Settlers. Each side has some differences, but they all use the same basic concept. The problems is that those basic concepts are completely derivative. Ever played a game where you had to grow food, chop down trees, and get gold from mines? Nah, didn't think so.

To the game's credit, there are some amusing factors in the game. For example, the Outlaws live on booze. And there are some pretty cool features. Riding horses is a neat thing, and it's always cool to see a bunch of bowyers or riflemen running around at top speed, harassing the enemy. But it's not enough to pull the game out of RTS hell.

First of all, prepare for an amazingly flaky control scheme. It may take one or two presses to select a group. And getting your units to attack enemy units instead of enemy buildings is amazingly difficult. This sort of micromanagement will drive you up the wall quickly, and it only gets worse as the game progresses. You have to constantly replant your fields, making for even more micromanagement.

Perhaps the most annoying thing about America, however, is the pathfinding algorithm -- or lack thereof, it seems at times. Watch your units take circuitous paths to locations that take them directly through enemy territory! See them die rapidly at the hands of your opponent in areas you never dreamed they'd wander off to! You'll find yourself moving your units in 'baby steps' just to keep them out of danger. It's irritating to say the least, and downright frustrating most of the time.

The game supports multiplayer, but it's only through straight TCP/IP, and it doesn't have any matching service support built-in to make sure you can play over the Internet. So chances are great you'll be playing this game solo.


Which is all the more frustrating, because the game seems to cheat you every step of the way. You'll feel special because you have spearmen -- only to discover that the enemy has watchtowers with what feels like semiautomatic weaponry. You'll watch your units get mowed down consistently, and that's not even on the hard difficulty levels. I like a challenge, mind you -- I just prefer my challenges to be a bit more sane. Prepare to save and reload frequently as you play America. The control issues just make the difficulty that much more annoying.

Game Mechanics:

The interface in America can be described as 'spotty'. Actually, one could get a lot more colourful, but that's good enough. Selecting units can be a crap-shoot when they're close to each other, and confirming movements and group selection seems to be near random. And your units would prefer to destroy nearby buildings than the enemies who systematically kill them. You'll find yourself micromanaging your squads way more than you should have to, which is downright annoying. For what it's worth, the menus are actually quite easy to navigate, and I like the way that the campaign selection is done, Starcraft knockoff though it may be.

America may have set out to do something different -- a real-time strategy game set in a time period previously untouched by the genre. Unfortunately, the derivative gameplay, weak graphics and poor implementation end up making America a should-miss instead of a must-get. You'll find another play-through of the classic RTSes more fulfilling than the experience of America, which is a shame. It's yet another example of a game where the potential has been overshadowed by flaws in the design.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P266 MMX, Win9x/2K, 64MB RAM, 350MB HD Space

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

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