Developer: Burut Creative Team
Release Date: April 2006
"The pious pretense that evil does not exist only makes it vague, enormous and menacing." -Aleister Crowley
I have chosen a Crowley quote to launch this preview because as a person, he encapsulated much of what the Nazi Reich embodied – pageantry, intimidation, and above all else, smoke-and-mirrors mysticism. This passage in particular pertains to Hitler's governmental abomination. After all, most of the true atrocities enacted by the Nationalsozialismus were well hidden until after the Allies liberated Europe and overlooked by the masses during that phase of history. That there were even more outrageous evils perpetrated than history has recorded is more or less certain. What does all this have to do with a game in development? Everything, if the game in question centers on a German Army officer in 1944 who dies in an ambush and is resurrected by his superiors as part of an experiment to create an un-living/un-dead super warrior. This is the basic premise of Ubersolider, an FPS being crafted by the Burut Creative Team in Russia.
The idea behind coming back to life lies with the SS traveling to Tibet and purloining the mystic secrets of creation. Taken back to the labs of the Wehrmacht, the goal is to create men who cannot die. This is, of course, more easily said than done, especially when it comes to light that the "Nazombies" lose all capacity to follow orders. Sprinkling vinegar into this little paper cut is the hidden bonus that the resurrected aren't just re-animated; they bring back some otherworldly powers as well. Oh cruel fate; why dost thou mock the noble efforts of the insane SS to dominate the world through malicious subversion? Silly Nazis, will you ever learn? While attempting to discover the right chemical stew to re-activate a willingness to follow instructions, karma lashes back at the nefarious fascist surgeons. Your avatar is broken free of the labs and joins up with a resistance movement determined to uncover what these projects mean for the war overall. Certainly this is bad news for the occult Doktors, but with some skill on your behalf, this is good news for the freedom fighters.
Ubersoldier has many bells and whistles that define it, some interesting stuff indeed. Let's start with the graphics; they're an excellent case study in texture detail. Much like People Can Fly (the team who designed Painkiller), Burut have realized that low polygons don't mean all that much when your texture work is just short of photo-realistic. Ubersoldier has an exceptionally gritty look to it that's sure to please fans of the genre. From an artistic perspective, there is a unified cohesion that is far more important than most people generally think about. From the moment I first sank into World of Warcraft, this point has been increasingly prominent in my mind. Burut have their act together, and it shows in the overall visual effect and smooth framerates this game offers.
If you'll recall, about 235 words prior to this I mentioned, "otherworldly powers." The first of these is a force field. Those Tibetans don't mess around when it comes to making zombies; no shuffling monstrosities here, this is the big leagues! For the sake of logical flow, I have chosen to visualize this as a psionic manifestation, a mental determination to not be struck by high-velocity rounds that is so powerful it actually coalesces into a tangible protective bubble. You have a "power gauge" that increases as you accumulate kills, and the higher this bar, the longer your glassy blue force shield will last. This barrier blocks bullets (both ways, you can't fire outwards while it's up either), and one cannot help but think of The Matrix when you drop the shield and all the accumulated rounds fired at you fall to the ground in an amusing display of impotent effort. This wall doesn't stop people though, so a clever soldier can still run up and knife you.
Next, we have a feature that isn't necessarily connected to the supernatural, but it's still an interesting idea anyways. The mechanic is referred to as "emotion," and the idea is that different kill styles trigger different emotional reactions. There appear to be only two for the moment, but I'm not sure if more are to be added in the final build of Ubersoldier. The first comes from headshots: get three cranial kills in rapid succession, and you get a temporary increase in the length of time your force shield will stay up. The second comes from bladed trickery; three knife-kills in rapid succession result in an increase to your overall heatlh level. These are slick little bonuses, but I didn't find them kicking in as often as I'd like.
That you can pick off enemies with one-shot, one-kill style accuracy at all is a sweet addition; Ubersoldier does indeed have a well-defined hit-location system that rewards precision. To quote FPS Doug of Pure Pwnage fame, "BOOM Headshot!!!" It also sports some impressive AI scripting; the NPCs trying to take me down showed a fair amount of tactical avoidance. Curiously, the AI seems to be almost pre-cognizant as well; they always know who you are, where you are, and exactly where to fire to hit you. Why this is the case when their behavior is sharp enough to not need such tricks is beyond me, but it's also possible these tendencies will be shaped to a more realistic level between now and the final retail release.
Although it smacks of pre-judgment, there is one aspect of Ubersoldier that I most fervently hope changes before this game goes live. To sum it up, you are playing a German soldier of the German army involved in a plot by a German resistance group to fight back against the German SS in Germany – yet there isn't a single word spoken in the native language of the land. There aren't even any German accents to be heard; in fact, most of the raw conscripts firing at you do so with a southern US drawl that is so jarringly out of place that it borders on the comical. If ever there were an FPS that called for an all-German script with English subtitles, it's this one. My fingers shall remain crossed that this one oversight finds a correction before it's too late.
The first thought one might have is that this game sounds eerily similar to 2002's Return To Castle Wolfenstein, and that impression is quite correct. Ubersoldier is very similar, with less of a focus on the supernatural and with no "Proud to be an American!" overtones splattered all over everything. All apologies to you fine people of the USA; I know you're (justifiably) proud of your achievements in World War II. However, there were other stories to be told in this period of history, and I'm glad that Ubersoldier is telling one of them, even if it is a fictional account. I am also quite happy that this title in its own way illustrates some of the differences between the German army and the Nazi SS. While not wanting to dive into political rhetoric, I think it's an important distinction that is long overdue in FPS games set in this era. As a debut title from a relative unknown, Ubersoldier has an excess of innovative ideas that set it apart from its contemporaries. Everyone get ready for another stroll down one of history's richest chapters; this is a title to look out for.
More articles about Ubersoldier