War World: Tactical Combat
War World: Tactical Combat (henceforth War World) is a mech based first person shooter with the onus on multiplayer battles like the Unreal Tournament series. Contrary to what the title indicates there is no war and no tactics, so this one could be called 'Mech Shoot' instead.
The graphics and presentation are excellent for an indie game. Mechs will swerve and rotate parts of the body to aim correctly. The collision detection in the levels works well (there is nothing worse than getting stuck in this sort of game). Relative to full blown commercial titles the game is still outdated graphically by a few years though. There are no shadows or rag-doll effects and the backgrounds can't be interacted with for example, but those things don't detract from the game and generally everything you see looks great.
The levels are well designed and lit. They look nice and play well with good use of overhead walkways and high platforms. The view is techinically third person (like Tomb Raider) but the game remains fast paced and plays like a first person game. This is an impressive feat because many games with this perspective fail to capture the 'first person' feel. The menu system is easy to use and beautiful to see, with its glowing blue lettering and the animated characters in the background. The sound effects and music are excellent, and the overall sound design throughout the game is first class. There are some good in-game vocals that work well.
One serious omission is a manual, or indeed ANY instructions. No tutorial here, not even a simple Readme to explain what all of the myriad of pickups are, or what the many control keys do. This is inexcusable. It took me several sessions (and well beyond the completion of the exceedingly short demo) before I even discovered that mechs has more weapon slots than both arms. Sometimes the jump key worked, sometimes not, and I still don't know if it's a bug or feature.
The expected options are there including graphics modes, sound levels and every configuration option you could want including several difficulty levels. Game modes include a hefty single player ascent through 100 levels, a custom deathmatch, and an online deathmatch although I found no active games online. There are no other game types, so no capture the flag which is a shame.
Weapons, and a choice of mech, are picked at the start of each round so players can choose their favourites, but it rather kills the fun of grabbing weapons from the map as in most games. There is very little innovation in the weapons, and even stalwarts like some form of scatter gun are not there but you do get miniguns and lasers, which fire forwards in straight lines, rockets, mines and mortars which fire ballistically, and upgrades like shields.
At any one time you can mount, miniguns/lasers (one control), missiles (another), mines/mortars (three), shields (four) and jump jets (five) so that's five different fire buttons, not including the jump key. That's far too many for an action based F.P.S. game although you can assign several weapons to the same control. When you do that the game gets much better, more like a conventional shooter because despite the title, and the number of controls and upgrades, this game is not tactical in any way; it's a fast paced arcade blaster.
With a minigun on each arm and a mortar that fires with the same control, it's pretty easy to kill anything in a second or two. I found that the awful lasers can be ignored, and the shield and jump jets can too. The lightest mech can fit any weapon, so the slow heavy mechs which cost more credits, are harder to play anyway so they can be ignored too. All weapons have ammo, and the balancing is not very good here. I often died only because I spent really long periods doing nothing but running for ammo. There are few visual clues to the presence of ammo so finding the little boxes on those dark levels is harder than it should be. A game like this should never ever be about ammo hunting.
With ammo however I found myself nearly invincible, and without it I died quickly while hunting for that elusive box. Deaths are usually down to lack of ammo or being overwhelmed by numbers and the fun factor suffers for that reason. Dead foes drop health which usually restores you to full strength so there is no attrition factor, no slow gain or loss of health throughout a long level, and this brutally kills any tension in the gameplay.
For an indie game, War World is instantly extremely impressive but perhaps the choice of genre puts the game in a Catch 22 situation. People will not compare this with the next Zuma clone or Hamsterball, but with games like UT2004; better games that can be picked up in shops at lower prices. To compete on the hallowed ground of an AAA F.P.S., an indie game would need a magic feature that the big games don't have and War World doesn't. It's an excellent game by indie standards, with only a few niggling gameplay issues, but with no moddability or capture the flag it has to come second to similar retail titles with whom it competes.
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