Genre: Turn-based Strategy
Developer: Zed Two
Release Date: May 4, 2004
None of the videogame consoles are exactly brimming with strategy games. The Playstation 2’s got Disgaea, the Game Boy Advance has Advance Wars and Final Fantasy Tactics – and, well, the Gamecube and Xbox just haven’t been lucky at all. Is it to good to be true that a new console offering called Future Tactics is here, and attemps to mix turn-based strategy with real-time action elements? And that it’s available at a budget price?
Unfortunately, it seems so. While Future Tactics isn’t a terrible game, and it’s innovative premise is commendable, the execution of the game doesn’t quite hold up to one’s expectations. The whole game feels a bit sloppy, from the clunky controls to the less-than-pleasing graphics.
Still, what’s here may offer those new to the strategy genre a good primer, and is even fun until the repetition begins to burn in. Essentially, you have a small team of men that can move, attack, and so forth, and when you use up your turn, the enemy will take his. The enemy AI isn’t very smart at all, but as their numbers increase and their health bars grow larger, the game becomes much more difficult.
Whenever you choose to move a character, an array of dots circle around your man, and he can move anywhere within that circle. Anything that happens to be inside the circle, from rocks to overturned mine carts to a building roof can be jumped upon and perhaps used as an advantage. One nice thing about the game is that the environments are destructable; so, despite playing against the AI being much like a game of hide and seek, that big rock you’re hiding behind won’t necessarily save you from a dynamite-weilding baddie running straight at you. Granted, the destructable bits don’t look particularly impressive, as large rocks fly through the air defying gravity, with very little in the way of dirt or small bits of rock thrown up. Nevertheless, it does keep the game somewhat entertaining, and forces you to not just hide, but make sure the enemies don’t know where you are.
Your attack capabilities come in two basic forms: projectile and bomb-drop attacks. The former will cause the selected character to go into a first-person mode, where you can aim an extremely wobbly sniper-rifle-esque reticule at your foes. This part of aiming is ridiculously, ludicrously wobby, as your vision flies across your target with the slightest touch. Thankfully, once you hit the ‘A’ button once, the scope pauses and two lasers pan across the X and Y axis of your vision, and the point at which these two meet will be where your bullet ends up. It’s a little silly, but it works, for better or worse. It is, in fact, extremely easy to get 90%+ accuracy most of the time, but since many of the enemies in the game require multiple shots, it rather balances out. The second type of attack, the missile drop, brings up a sort-of radar screen where you tap once when the pulse flows out to where your target is, and a second time when the rotating hand rests where you need it to. The result is a big ol’ explosion, and you don’t have to be anywhere near your enemy to do it. Of course, this sort of attack can’t be used nearly as much as your regular guns, although it is worth noting that you can upgrade your abilities to be able to fire twice in one move, and so forth.
Whenever you move and fire to your content with all of your available characters, you have the option of resting, shielding, or healing. Shielding and healing can only be used once before you can only rest, but they are quite useful when used.
Everything functions, and the game as a whole is fairly solid. The problem is that nothing ever really changes throughout the course of the game, and it just goes on, becoming more repetitive. Your missions never really stray from the standard “Kill everyone”, “Escort Character A”, or “Get to the Exit” objectives, which is disappointing. What also doesn’t help are a number of aspects that do drag the experience down.
The controls that Future Tactics sports could be better. Walking around feels a little funky, in that when dealing with craters and so forth, trying to walk up a certain slope proves to be near impossible, but moving slightly to the side might allow you to walk up as if it were almost a flat surface. Jumping is really just used for reaching higher spots, not for jumping over pits or anything – which is perhaps a good thing, but a boring thing, too. You don’t have much freedom aside from this.
One very annoying aspect, however, is the game’s camera. It doesn’t smoothly go from character to character when selecting them, and often completely changes direction from the way it last was, leading to some unfortunate cases of “Hey! I’m almost there! Wait a second… I was here a minute ago.” The camera is bad even when not considering that foliage does not offer the kind courtesy of going transparent, and that when moving your character you often are stuck in claustrophobic, annoying situations. At any time you can go into a “Free Look” mode, which is quite useful – but why wasn’t this simply designated for the ‘C’ thumbstick for use at all times? It’s very annoying to constantly switch between the different viewpoints just to be able to see what’s going on.
The graphics in the game are not really detailed, or even nearly great, but thanks to an extensive color palette, the game doesn’t look that bad. As I mentioned earlier, the level destruction looks quite poor, though, and textures are pretty bland and blurry; character models aren’t very intricate, either. But the graphics never bugged me that much, considering. They are adequate. The framerate is smooth, at a rock-solid 60 FPS, which is nice.
The sound in the game is actually decent, which is surprising considering the game’s $20 price tag. There are only a few music tracks in the game – less than a dozen, according to the music test in the options menu – but most of the tracks are actually fun to listen to, with some good guitar and drumming. Most of the time, you’ll be listening to one track while you take your turn, and then a different track when your enemy takes his turn. It’s a rather abrupt change, and startling at first, but at least the upbeat nature of the tunes will keep you interested. Voice acting isn’t bad either. Perhaps the British accent that isn’t so prominent in most American games covers it up if it actually is bad, but the voices seemed to portray a range of emotions convincingly – even if the dialogue wasn’t terribly good to begin with.
Overall, Future Tactics fits the mold of your standard budget title – it’s a solid game, but has a number of problems that, along with low production values for the most part – keep it from achieving greatness. It’s actually not a bad introduction to strategy games, and it may keep those starving for some tactics busy for a few hours. But the enemy AI, clunky controls and camera, and lack of real variety in the game make it worth not one penny more than the price tag. It’s probably best as a rental on a lazy, bored afternoon.
Score : 6.0/10