Overall Score 77%
Global Conflicts: Palestine
I hesitate to describe this weeks review offering as “edutainment” since I have premonitions of gamers clutching their heads and running off screaming, vowing never again to return to Bytten. In a broad sense, Global Conflicts: Palestine could be described as a point and click adventure game, although I found that whilst the title was a solid and interesting diversion for a few hours, it was not a great deal of fun. That is to say, that the subject matter of the title is one which encompasses a real and contemporary conflict in which the line between right and wrong is blurred, emotions run high on both sides, and the bloodshed is continuing even as this review is penned.
The game puts the player in the shoes of an American newspaper reporter sent to cover the events in Israel/Palestine. The two playable characters are Diwan Massoud; a US citizen of Palestinian descent, and Hannah Wiessman; a young Jewish American from New York. It’s not that important which one the player chooses; the story plays out the same way for each. In fact, the plot is very static and the player has no input into the way things pan out. Instead, the game focuses on how the player desires to interpret certain events, and how the newspaper story based on those interpretations is received by a specific readership. One of the most interesting facets of GC:P is that the player is free to choose to report for a Palestinian, Israeli or European newspaper. You can even cover various stories for different papers in the same game.
Reports are compiled mainly by recording quotes in a notebook whilst interviewing a multitude of characters in and around Jerusalem. The events that take place are fictitious, but generally quite typical of the current situation in the area. As you interview or otherwise chat with many characters, your responses chosen from a multiple selection will affect the way they respond to you. By selecting sympathetic responses to a Palestinian prisoner, for example, you may be able to gain some information from him for your story at the expense of ticking off his Israeli guards. Unfortunately your notebook will only hold up to 5 quotes at any one time, so it’s important to have at least one slot available before talking to anybody who you believe might have a juicy quote for you.
You can run errands (some quite trivial, others that seem more important) that will net you a positive boost in relations for one or the other sides, and you are free to travel around the map as you see fit. The game world incorporates an Israeli and a Palestinian cityscape of a few blocks each, divided by some road blocks and checkpoints, with a kind of no-man’s land in between. All contacts are clearly marked on the mini map, and it is always very clear which characters are available for comment and interview. Occasionally, there may be need to dig slightly for the killer quote that will make for a blockbuster story, but usually all the material the player needs is right there without any need to solve puzzles as in a typical adventure game.
Reports are lodged by using a payphone and picking a headline and photo (chosen by the player from a pre-determined selection) and adding 3 quotes from those that have been collected. There is no way to win or lose, and the value of the report seems to be arbitrarily assigned according to the pertinence of the quotes to the scenario objectives, as well as the palatability of them to the target readership. Sometimes I was frustrated that I had what I thought was a real scoop, only to be disappointed by the readers reaction (and I guess that this reflects the challenges most real world journalists face all the time, and was not a bad thing).
The entire game world is rendered in very pleasing 3-D, and is able to be zoomed and rotated as required. As the player character moves behind an obstacle, it will fade to allow easy navigation of the streets. Character models are impressive and animations are fairly well done. The graphics do a great job of conveying a Middle Eastern environment and really add to the immersion. I love that you can run out into a busy street and cars will slam on their brakes and blast their horns at you. The flavour elements like market stalls, vehicles, and passers-by are extremely well done. Some parts of the map are a little barren by comparison though, and it does feel like too much time is spent simply running from one objective to the next.
After a couple of play-throughs of the half dozen missions (reporting for different newspapers), there’s a bit of a struggle for any real replay value. I would estimate that I spent around 30 minutes on each mission, and so there are a couple of hours play in CG:P at least, but not many more after that. Because of the linear nature of the gameplay, it does tend to feel like interactive fiction a lot of the time.
Nevertheless, there’s a great deal of insight here into not only the facts that have brought about the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but also a very interesting portrayal of the human side of things, with strong (well written) characters that display subjective judgement and emotional responses. Although there is some depicted violence in the game, from what I have experienced, it is not explicit, and I would have no reservation in recommending GC:P as a great educational tool for suitably aged children. Not only for exploring the featured conflict per se, but more importantly the role and responsibilities of the press and the way they deal with and portray such events in practice.
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