The 80's wasn't just about bad music, audacious hair and awesome action movies, the 80's also summed
up a time in the world of uncertainty and turmoil between two major powers in Russia and the USA. Thankfully
for us in the real world, this "Cold War" was put aside and World War III was put on hold, but what if
this didn't happen? What if Russia and the USA went into full scale war? Sierra Entertainment's and Massive
Entertainment's World in Conflict approaches this once all too
real possibility in an RTS form, and the genre has rarely seen so much action.
As with any decent RTS game, World in Conflict focuses around three major modes of play if you don't
count the tutorial. You have the single player campaign, singleplayer skirmish, and a multiplayer mode.
However, it is with the actual execution of these modes where this game starts to shape its unconventional and
untraditional approach to the RTS genre. This comes in the form of being very minimalist regarding
micro-management - while there are 'control points' on the map you can control,
there are no bases and buildings to construct, no technology trees, no units upgrades, and basically very
little else to do other than command units in battle. This is an RTS which focuses almost exclusively on the
It sounds like a risky approach to take, but this concept is not exactly brand new to the RTS genre. In
many ways, World in Conflict is like a modernized version of Theatre of War which, if you don't
already know, is a WWII RTS that allows you to select your units before the battle, place them on the battlefield,
and then proceed in real time action without nagging management issues slowing you down. WIC takes a very similar
approach to this but does bring some degree of unit management
into the real time medium, which comes in the form of aerial drops. To start most battles you are required to spent
unit points on a limited selection of units, but you can also order more during battles should any of your original
units perish. The end result is an almost perfect balance between enough unitmanagement to give the game depth
when it comes to ordering the right units to win a battle, but not enough to distract you from the action for
significant amounts of time.
This simplified setup to the gameplay really works well for World in Conflict, but at the same time
the game still features plenty of proven RTS gameplay mechanics. While the game does incorporate a somewhat unique
'WASD' camera control system combined with mouse look similar to what you might expect in a online FPS's spectator
mode, everything else when it comes to unit selection and issuing orders basically follows RTS standards to a tee -
that is, drag selection, right click commands etc. In
a way, you can kind of see how WIC may have been designed with its future Xbox 360 release in mind as it has
got to be, fundamentally speaking, one of the most basic RTS games ever made, but there are some more advanced
features available such as waypoints and formations (well, 'line' and 'box' anyway), and in all honestly even
though in all likelihood the game probably wasn't designed strictly with the PC in mind, Massive Entertainment
disguised it very well as you'd never catch on if
you weren't aware a 360 version was initially planned with the PC release - the only impression you get from the
game itself is this minimalist single dimensional RTS gameplay was solely intended for maximum
action and fun, and nothing else.
And this is really the crux of the gameplay in World in Conflict. Even if you're the smallest fan of
the RTS genre there are few reasons not to like this game as it is just sodamn fun and addictive. The time
that wasn't directed at making complex technology trees and unique gameplay mechanics was definitely directed at
making this game so great to play. Everything from the AI to the spectacular graphics even when zoomed close into
the action expels quality and polish, not to mention the very
authentic atmosphere and war time feel this game creates thanks to some ultra impressive fully destructive
environments, turning peaceful urban American and rural European scenery into simmering crater filled war
zones. While the game's offline modes on easy settings won't likely give you much trouble dominating maps, the
difficulty can scale up well into the realms of requiring real time strategy mastery, so don't be fooled,
while World in Conflict is probably one of the most accessible and
mainstream appealing RTS's gameplay wise for a long time, it still has plenty to offer the RTS enthusiasts out
While this great gameplay extends across the entire range of modes, it is probably the multiplayer modes
(whether online against humans or offline against bots, i.e. the game's "skirmish" mode) that will offer
the most enjoyment for most gamers as the game's first and possibly only significant disappointment can be found in
the somewhat rushed singleplayer campaign mode. As already detailed, this game is about a semi-fictional conflict
between the USA and the
campaign mode where you will be able to experience this scenario in a story based system, from the events in Europe
to the surprise invasion of the USA by Russian forces.
Unfortunately the main problem you're going to find with this mode is it is extremely linear and really nothing
more than a series of maps with cut scenes in between. Once again, as with C&C 3, I can't help but feel
excellent RTS gameplay is severely let down by an inadequate singleplayer campaign mode that doesn't even try to
push the boundaries, not even a little. My personal desire here is to see a mode where human controlled armies
can take on enemy CPU armies in a Risk style setup,
where territory can be lost and gained and where supplies and units can be directed all over the global battlefield
at will, also similar to that seen in the fantastic Total War series. This way losing a battle doesn't halt
the storyline, but rather it dynamically changes the storyline. This to me would be the ultimate game mode for an
RTS like World in Conflict and it's just such a shame to see what basically is a 'bare minimal' approach
instead. This is one area where the game's basic and simplistic
style doesn't pay off.
That's not to say the single player campaign mode is bad though - it's still plenty of fun - but Massive
Entertainment left a lot of potential on the drawing board by not at least trying something unique and detailed,
which does seem to put a fair amount of pressure on the game's multiplayer and skirmish modes. It's not that gamers
won't play and probably finish the campaign mode, it's just that once you've done it, there is little point in
doing it again since it will be more or less the exact same experience
the second time around. It is lucky then that the multiplayer mode in this game is indeed up
for the challenge, because while the campaign mode shows no sign of imagination in how it is delivered
whatsoever, the multiplayer mode couldn't be more different.
The best way to describe the online and LAN human or offline CPU bot based multiplayer in this game is as an
online first person shooter delivered in an RTS package. You have a map, two teams, and a hefty limit of up to 16
players. Now, RTS games have had team based MP in the past, but World in Conflict differs in that thanks to
its pick-up and play style gameplay, you feel like you're just playing any other team deathmatch shooter, only with
killer strategy replacing killer aiming. This is the type
of game that will have ISP's worldwide setting up dedicated servers so gamers that can just come in, play for
as long as they wish, and drop out seamlessly without disturbing the balance of the game anymore than any other
online game regardless of genre.
This is all thanks to the absence of any significant micro-management, which
has typically held back other RTS's from mainstream online gaming popularity since establishing and
maintaining bases is usually a central theme to the gameplay which
generally doesn't lend itself well to quick-to-get-into 'no strings attached' multiplayer gaming. However, while
World in Conflict's style does lend itself well to multiplayer, there is one mechanism in place for
multiplayer to regulate the impact any one player can have and that's the requirement to select from one of
four groups when joining a game - infantry, support, armor and air. The one you select will dictate the
type of units you can deploy to the battlefield which, while restricting your capabilities compared to the
mode, adds a whole new layer of strategy to the game only seen in the multiplayer mode as either side can only
really be as good as its weakest link, which creates some very intense and interesting battles against real human
There is really very little reason why any PC gamer shouldn't give World in Conflict a go because it is
just so accessible and appealing. You don't have to be an RTS nut to enjoy this game, but on the other hand you
don't not have to be one either. The single player campaign mode is a little bit of a disappointment and probably
won't offer much more than a 'once and done' experience, but thankfully the game's awesome multiplayer, which has
got to be the most well balanced and enjoyable multiplayer I've
experienced in an RTS for a long time, comes to the rescue and really sets this game apart. This is a must have
title for PC fans who want plenty of action and minimal fuss, and the likelihood many game design decisions
were shaped by the fact a 360 release is also pending doesn't detract from the appeal at all. Titles like
World in Conflict are really making PC gaming look great right now.
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