Monday, August 08, 2005

War World Review

War World PC, developed and published by Third Wave Games.
The Good: Variety of weapons with custom loadouts leads to many different strategies, good AI, good graphics
The Not So Good: Only deathmatch, multiplayer browser isn’t the best, only a few small maps
What say you? A good mech shooter that is a couple of additional features from being great: 6/8

There is a slightly significant section of the population that desires to live in the future. This can be seen by the wealth of entertainment (TV, movies, computer games) that takes place in the future, with advanced technologies and sexy story lines (like the awkward tension between Spock and Bones…you know what I’m talking about). One area that has gotten fair coverage is battle mechs. There are several series of games, such as MechCommander, MechWarrior, and the whole BattleTech deal, that tells the tales of huge, bulky contraptions that do battle in far away locations. War World is another entrant into the mech universe. How will it fare?

The graphics in War World are pretty good; I would say they are between Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 (more comparisons between War World and UT will crop up later, and that’s a good thing) in terms of quality. There aren’t any nice shiny surface for light to reflect off, but the mechs and environments are detailed, along with some spectacular effects for the more powerful weapons. The maps in War World don’t try to stray from the closed arena feel, so they are not going to real-life accuracy like Battlefield 2, but the included features do their job in relaying a convincing set of environments. The sound is nothing too impressive, just the clunking of robot feet and sounds of guns being fired. I did not notice any background sounds, but the music fits the theme of the game well.

There are three game modes in War World. First, there is a single player campaign with over 100 missions, although these are just linked custom games with AI opponents. No story lines here, but you do get prize money for winning a round, so you can spend it on upgrades later. Custom games against the AI can be customized fully. You can choose the enemy body type and loadout, such as infantry, sniper, and gunner. The enemy IQ can also be changed, and matches can take place over seven maps. Since you can customize the level of the AI and there are no imposed restrictions on your loadout, you can pit a top of the line mech against ten low quality mechs and duke it out. Sometimes, remembering what level the enemy will be at is difficult, so you may have matches that are too easy or too hard. There is also multiplayer play over the Internet. There is an in-game browser, but sometimes it is difficult to find a game that will work. I’m guessing that pings are too high, but the game doesn’t really give any indication of what the problem is other than a general “connection isn’t possible” warning. Multiplayer games take place on the same seven maps as the custom games, and can support up to eight players. You can select the round to end at a certain amount of frags or after a certain time, and also restrict the amount of credits available to pimp your ride. Sadly, there is only deathmatch available in War World. I really would have liked to have seen some Battlefield 2 or Unreal Tournament-style games here, such as Capture the Flag, Bombing Run, Onslaught/Conquest, Domination, Assault, or even Team Deathmatch.

One of the hallmarks of mech games is the ability to customize your mech, and War World is no different. First, you can select from three types of armor: light, medium, and heavy. Picking larger mechs results in having more armor and ammunition, but less jump height and lower running speed. For each hand, you have a selection of nine miniguns and nine lasers, each with increasing prices and firing ability. In something I am impressed in, you can strap thrusters onto your mech, which can cause you to jump, sprint, or strafe higher/faster. Since you can only pick one of these choices, different players will decide depending on their specific play style. You can also mount missile launchers, mortars (my favorite), or mine launchers on your mech. Having a restriction in funds leads to some interesting decisions on what to pick and what not. Your success is therefore not just dependent on your trigger finger, but also on how well you match up against your opponents and if you can exploit their weaknesses.

War World takes a very tactical approach to first person shooting. Because ammo does not regenerate and ammo is eaten very quickly, you must be accurate with shots. Commonly in Unreal Tournament, the game turns into a hail of bullets where people hold down the trigger, because ammunition is readily available. In War World, once it’s picked up, it’s gone forever until the round finishes. This eliminates the advantage spammers have that constantly shoot with no respect for tactics. Also, you can only get health from defeating mechs, so engaging in combat is the only way you can reheal yourself. Of course, anyone can pick up the health from a fallen foe, so you could swoop down and heal before the rightful owner can arrive, really pissing some people off. The variety of weapons gives many different strategies, and supports play by all kinds of players: snipers have their lasers, long-range support have their mortars, and so forth. You can pick the setup that’s right for you, but unlike some other games, you can mix the best attributes, not just be restricted to arbitrary classes. I like to think of War World as a more tactical version of Unreal Tournament, where careful planning and careful aiming take precedence over reaction time and twitchy gameplay.

War World is a tactical shooter with mechs. The amount of customization is a definite draw, along with the overall style of gameplay. Thinkers are rewarded here, rather than 12 year olds with good reflexes. The only thing missing from War World is the addition of more gameplay modes, like those found in Unreal Tournament. That would flesh out the game even more and add some bonus content and replay value. If you like your mechs with a side of strategy, you might want to check out War World.