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The Alamo

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy


PC Review - 'The Alamo'

by Justin on June 4, 2004 @ 12:57 a.m. PDT

Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Activision Value
Developer: Zono
Release Date: April 13, 2004

In memory of great battles fought between the Texans and Mexicans in the mid 1830’s, the History Channel has taken it upon themselves to go in search of a real-time-strategy game to go alongside their successful television documentary based upon the event. Zono answered the call, and having some RTS games under their belt, delivered a game that accurately duplicates the experience of fighting these battles. The question is this: Is this Alamo worth remembering?

The game starts off by giving you a small number of units whose main goal is to guard a cannon until reinforcements arrive three days later. Nevermind the cannons already mounted on the fortress wall – this cannon, apparently, is far more important. In any case, you are given a number of soldiers, a hero-type unit, and an engineer, as well as a barracks, some nearby trading posts, and so forth. Make sure you send your engineer off to the closest trading post immediately, as it acts a resource station, granting you money for more units. I didn’t realize at first that engineers are the only ones allowed in trading posts; I was well into a mission once when my only engineer was murdered and I found myself flat broke and about to be massacred.

One nice feature that this game sports is the way in which you can set up your units. Most games will allow you to select as many units as you want, and when you tell them where to go they’ll lazily stand around in the general area you pointed them to – assuming they don’t get stuck on any corners on the way. I never had any problems with units running into corners in The Alamo, and even better, I could actually align my units whatever way I wanted. It’s easy and actually really cool; all you have to do is select your units with the left mouse button, glide on over to their target destination, hold the right mouse button and fiddle around until you find a formation you like. Depending on the number of units you have selected, and how clear the area you’re moving to is, you can set them up in a straight line, two or three lines, a semi-circle, rather random placement, and so on. It’s quite easy and intuitive.

Unfortunately, aside from this nifty innovation, the rest of The Alamo is rather ho-hum. The game plays basically like every other RTS on the market, with offensive and defensive missions that ask you to defend items, attack the enemy’s headquarters, or simply survive until the designated time limit is reached. The majority of units are basic soldiers with slight variations, and there’s not a whole lot as far as building construction goes. The enemy AI is neither genius nor unintelligent, but adequate and puts up a challenge most of the time. Positioning your units so that you have the best strategic locations is actually an important part of the game, so the fact that it is fun does make the game that much more enjoyable.

It controls fairly well, too. You can position the camera in just about any viewpoint you desire, and you’re able to zoom into a surprisingly close level of detail. The interface is solid, but not perfect. The on-screen menus are collapsable, allowing for a more comfortable view of the action. The only problem are are a few buttons in the corner of the screen when the menus are collapsed; clicking them snaps back to key locations on the map, but when you hover over them the cursor is so close to the corner of the screen that the screen quickly scrolls away. Not a huge problem, but a slightly annoying one. A far more annoying problem lies in the fact that you can’t save at all during a mission. If you make a mistake, you’re basically screwed

The graphics are not amazing, but they get the job done. You’ll be seeing a lot of desert, which does get fairly drab, but at least archetectural designs are pretty good and help give the game some personality. Most of the models look just fine from a distance, and you can zoom in close enough to see that they are detailed fairly well. If a game actually focused on these exact models, it would look like it belonged in about 1996, but since there’s no real need to ever zoom in that close they don’t present any problem. Texturing is decent and holds up okay, and animation is smooth enough so that it never gets on your nerves.

Sound is about average. Like just about every RTS, you’ve got a number of cliché grunts and boasts when you select units, and that’s about it for the voice-work. The background music is less than exciting, and you’re probably just as well off listening to music in the background, but it portrays some music that fits the time period of the game, with a sort of southern or wild-west-esque feel. Sound effects are actually pretty good. There’s no shortage of gunfire or cannon shots, and it all sounds fine. All in all, you aren’t going to need to plug your ears, but you may not be particularly compelled to turn up your volume, either.

The Alamo is a pretty average game, as far as real-time-strategy goes. There are no major flaws, and it manages to portray the feeling of the battles of the Alamo with some success. On the other hand, though, it doesn’t offer much beyond the scope of the average strategy game, and doesn’t seem like the developers tried very hard to push the envelope. The game controls well, and there’s a solid assortment of missions. Graphics and sound are decent, but there’s no real shining innovation. Although I wouldn’t recommend you rush out to buy your copy, as a budget title, The Alamo might be a good “boredom-killing” purchase, or a nice gift for the history buff in your family.

Score : 6.0/10

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