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J.T.F. Joint Task Force

Score: 70%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sierra
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

Joint Task Force is brought to us by newcomer Most Wanted Entertainment, and industry stalwart Vivendi Games/Sierra. This RTS title is along the lines of Sudden Strike, in that you start with most, if not all your resources, but it is set in the 21st century with real-life weapons and material. It also adds an interesting feature combing both public support and the media, but more on that in a bit…

Graphically, these visuals hold up well, even against the recently critically acclaimed Company of Heroes. In style actually, they remind me a lot of a supped up Command and Conquer: Generals with larger textures and sharp angles, especially on the larger vehicles. The jaw-dropping particle effects and physics are pretty awesome to say the least, utilizing fully destructible environments, where you can raze whole buildings, bunkers, trees and so on. Little visual touches like tank treads churning up snow, bowling over chain-link fences, and the dust trails, add a lot to the visual splendor. The day and night cycles, along with the real-time weather patterns, also add to the solid elements of realism and beauty. The units animate well enough too, although the infantry units seem to be a little clunky at times, whether moving around obstacles, or running for cover.

On the sound side, JTF does an all right job here, but suffers in the voice department. The acting just sounds a bit off, and doesn’t flow well, either a combination of poor writing or delivery. On the other hand, the sound effects are pretty wicked with a robust assortment of weapon fire, explosions and all that lovely “ear-candy” (umm, did I just invent that?). Also worthy of note is the soundtrack, which keeps the game running along to a steady, driving beat.


JTF is composed of a multi-national force intent on bringing about order in the world's various hot spots, set in the year 2008. Most of these actions involve tackling terrorists and rogue elements of conventional military forces. You will be sent to places like Bosnia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Columbia, and Iraq to wage your own style of law and order on the international level.

At the start of each mission, you are allotted a certain amount of units, one of those being a hero unit. These latter types are able to call in back up, jump in a myriad of vehicles (just like your other common soldiers) and also bring upgrades to the battle. One of the coolest things about this game is that you have real-world weapon systems to utilize, like the M1A2 Abrams Tank, the AH-64D Apache helicopter, A-10 Thunderbolt II and more. Thankfully, you don’t have to put up with the annoying unrealism of infantry small arms damaging mighty battle tanks. Instead, you have to be aware of other hostile threats such as anti-tank guns, other tanks, missile platforms and so forth - everything else you can basically ignore or shoot at your discretion. As the missions rage on (all 20 of them), units will gain experience and a myriad of upgrades, just make sure to hold onto that all important officer unit, or the whole thing is a goner. Combat itself is rather fun, thanks to the realistic units and locales, but nothing really jumps out at you. I think the RTS market for the PC is over saturated, and unless you are a Company of Heroes caliber title, you are just going to get lost in the sea of mediocrity.

Another interesting wrinkle to JTF is the inclusion of a public support mode, monitored by the embedded media riding along for the show. You have to keep collateral damage to a minimum or else your critical funding may be cut. The stronger the public agrees with your actions, the more resources you will be able to bring to bear. If you specifically want to earn some humanitarian points, you can take some escort missions to help U.N. supplies reach people in need, another neat twist on RTS gameplay. This is a pretty interesting dynamic, that in some ways models the complexities of a real-world conflict, such as the accidental bombing of a mosque may anger the Muslim population against you and hinder more support to pass bills allowing for more and more money. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but it’s a fresh approach to say the least.

The A.I. for both your troops and the enemy leave something to be desired. Often, your infantry units will scramble for cover, but will have some pathfinding issues to said cover, and get ripped apart. Same goes for tanks and other vehicles, they often will seem confused on the best route to take. Luckily, the flight craft were able to circumvent much of these pathing issues, well, because they can fly over just about anything.

If single player doesn’t strike you as that engrossing, you can go online in a fully fleshed out multiplayer component, for up to 7 other players. You can play in Deathmatch, Battle Royale, Cooperative and Domination. Players can further choose from 3 sides, Terrorist, JTF and Dictator. Hopefully you can find more folks than I did online. I was able to test out a few features, such as the cool Sudden Death mode (lowers health a bunch on everything), but it was an unsettling experience in low player counts. I’m not sure why exactly, as the interface wasn’t that confusing and the game is reasonably successful so far.


Veterans of RTS games should pick up the basics of JTF quickly, but have to remember the crucial element of public support, so Rambo-types may have some issues in the beginning. This brings up the other element of difficulty, the fact that you really can’t just plow ahead in most missions. You have to constantly repair, re-arm and then once you are all ready, head out. So instead of a series of smooth pushes, the actual gameplay wears down into a grinding series of short sprints, followed by a stagnant patch of getting ready for it again. Did I also mention your armor across the board -from body to vehicle - is dangerously realistic? Meaning, if a huge explosion smacks you, chances are you are a goner. This brutal damage value can hurt you quite often, so it pays to be slow and cautious. Overall though, as long as you have patience to micro-manage and not get too aggressive, you should be all right.

Game Mechanics:

The camera system is like most RTS games out there, allowing for full zoom, rotations and the like. It never really got in the way or became confusing to manage like some titles. The controls were equally solid with a lot of hot key usage, point clicking and groupings. Nothing really stood out as being particularly innovative, but there weren’t any major headaches, aside from the usual micro-management of units.

Joint Task Force is a respectable entry into the clogged world of military RTS games and it does offer some great visuals, 21st Century real-world units, and a fresh approach to funding, via public support from media coverage. It’s definitely worth a look for you diehard strategy war gamers out there.

-Tybo, GameVortex Communications
AKA Tyler Whitney

Minimum System Requirements:

2 GHz AMD Athlon XP 2000+ or equivalent, RAM: 512 MB, Video Memory: 64 MB, Hard Drive Space: 2500 MB, Other: DirectX compatible sound card

Test System:

Windows XP, Intel P4 3.2 Ghz, 1GB of RAM, ATI Radeon, X800 XL 256MB

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