“World in Conflict” strips the frustration out of the traditional strategy genre, leaving just the thrill of head-to-head conflict in a game built around an alternative 1980s that saw the Cold War erupt into a global conflict. With its unique approach to the genre, Sierra’s new game may just bypass the fall’s higher-profile releases and find fans among strategy gamers grown tired of the increasing length of matches, as well as converts among those who never had the time or inclination to give the genre a chance.
Co-written by author and military expert Larry Bond, the story is reminiscent of ’80s classic “Red Dawn.” “World in Conflict” opens with a Soviet Union on the brink of collapse, which attacks Western Europe. To forestall involvement by America, the Soviets invade the U.S. by slipping an assault force into Seattle inside freighters. The deep and robust single-player campaign opens with gamers taking on the role of Lt. Parker as he works slow the Russian advance and eventually recapture the Northwest.
Bond’s deep understanding of the period and his past work with Tom Clancy make the overall storyline believable, though the story’s details and character aren’t well developed enough to truly sing. Fortunately, however, the gameplay carries the day, particularly in online multiplayer matches.
Traditional real-time strategy games can be intimidating to newcomers without endless amounts of time, as they involve massive amounts of resource management and city planning before combat even begins. It often isn’t long before a core group of players in a online multiplayer game have mastered the early stages, allowing them to churn out an advanced military force and wipe the map clean before most fresh-faced competitors can even get started.
“World in Conflict” gets rid of that problem by eliminating the need for resource management and city building. An even point system ensures that one player can never have an overwhelming force. Instead, players have to rely on tactics and teamwork to win online matches.
While the game features both a single-player campaign and the four multiplayer modes, they’re all built around the need to capture set command points on a map. Keep units in these long enough, and a player captures the command point. Stay in there longer, and fortifications are automatically built around the command point to help a gamer hold the area without needing to leave valuable units to protect it.
The game plays from a slanted top down perspective, allowing gamers to hover over the war looking down at an angle on the battlefield and zoom in or out to either catch the intensity of a firefight up close or back away to get a glimpse of the bigger picture.
The graphics, especially when used to show off damage attacks, are impressive. Dropping a nuke on the map, for instance, causes a momentarily blinding flash and an impressively detailed mushroom cloud.
The first couple of “World in Conflict” matches can be disorienting to long-time strategy gamers, but once they adjust to the lack of resource management and need to research technology, they will adjust to a purely tactical game that delivers the fun of intense strategy in short, manageable bursts, rather than protracted games that can last days.