Genre: First-Person Shooter
Publisher: City Interactive
Developer: City Interactive
Release Date: October 16, 2008
SAS: Secure Tomorrow is the latest in a long line of budget first-person shooter titles to come from developer City Interactive. In this latest adventure, the player is a member of the storied SAS, part of the UK's special forces, as they try to head off an international incident involving escaped terrorists and nuclear weapons — all without the help of Sean Connery.
A long cinematic explains the background, which is also printed in the one-sheet "manual" that comes with the game, fleshing out the tumultuous history between the organization and two of its enemies in the kind of encapsulated detail normally reserved for a single episode of "24." Kiryl Zaryan, a former Warsaw Pact spy, is being sprung from prison by his partner in crime, Chevall. Chevall, a millionaire who turned to gunrunning for kicks and unreported profits, and Zaryan both want revenge against Her Majesty's government and will stop at nothing to get it. As Sergeant Sean "Mint" McCoy, it's up to you and your fellow SAS operatives to put an end to their plans.
SAS: Secure Tomorrow takes the player from the prison where Zaryan is being freed by Chevall's men to the financial heart of London and ultimately to Greenland, where you need to infiltrate a former Cold War base in order to end the threat. Using the same engine that had filled the abandoned offices and urban tunnels in F.E.A.R. with wet gore and flickering shadows, SAS manages to build serviceable, if not heavily linear, levels around its simple FPS formula. Some of the levels have a variety of rooms and supply closets that lend some functional realism to each area, but there's no real need to poke around for extras because most of the necessities will be dropped or left behind by the poor sods who are silly enough to shoot at you. There's some physics at work to push bodies over railings and an endless number of barrels across the ground, but the graphics and the effects are here to give players something to work through, not to be something to gape at.
With its utilitarian sets and adrenaline-saturated soundtrack, the game feels as if it were a budget episode of a much more elaborate series, or the kind of carnival ride that comes with the local fair once a year. Some other parts of the game fare better, though. The voice acting is not too bad, although it seems as if the actors were asked to sound as macho as possible, and they are trying their best to make it work. What the soundtrack lacks in quality, the weapons make up with some decent effects that go over well with the occasional splattered mess left all over the walls.
Several real-world weapons are modeled in SAS, and the player is able to pick up and use four of these at any one time, whether it's the FN FAL rifle, G36 assault rifle or the M4 Carbine. The bad guys will always leave toys behind wherever they fall, giving the player plenty to work with in a pinch. Frag grenades round out the goodies in your arsenal, vaporizing whoever they hit, although it's a good thing that you and your fellow SAS operatives are made of sterner stuff. Ammunition crates are also located everywhere to keep your ammo belt stocked.
In Code of Honor 2, City Interactive introduced an interesting mechanic with the FAMAS assault rifle by allowing players to modify it into a sniper's best friend. That continues in SAS with the M4 Carbine. Hitting the "M" key attaches a suppressor and swaps out the default scope with one that is much more accustomed to long-distance kills. It's the only weapon in the game that can be modified like this on the fly, but it doesn't matter as much when most every weapon in your arsenal has incredible accuracy from any distance with iron sights. They vary in power significantly enough for a player to keep certain weapons in his arsenal more so than others.
Thanks to the standardization of the FPS genre in terms of controls, SAS follows the same basic principles that most every other shooter follows, making it easy to get into. The keyboard is set up with the same WASD configuration made famous across countless other FPSes so that players to easily follow the objective arrows through each level. There's also no need to run around in a desperate effort to find first aid kits because a regenerating system will keep the player alive as long as he can make it to cover. Being able to crouch into vents and jump over toppled tables and crates will also allow players to get the drop on bad guys or find ways around fiery gas spurts from punctured pipes.
Your fellow SAS soldiers backing you up in the game will sometimes drop into a script and flank a doorway right before they throw a flashbang grenade into the room to stun whoever is there. The action then slows down into bullet time for you to take care of business, which is a nice effect, but their decision to "stack up" is so completely random that it doesn't make much sense. More often than not, you'll rush into hallways and rooms to clean out who's inside without taking as much precaution.
SAS is probably one of the shortest FPS titles that you might ever play. Clocking in at about four or five hours on the default difficulty level, genre veterans will blow through this mighty quickly. Some of the blame can be placed on the two AI buddies that the player is paired with. Indestructible to a fault, the only thing missing from your wingmen are glowing red eyes and a penchant for finding someone named John Connor. The game can almost be placed on autopilot thanks to these two, as they turn out to be somewhat useful in firefights, which is more than I can say for some of the AI backup that I've gotten from other FPSes. Sometimes they'll get in the way by running into your line of fire or blocking you from behind when you want to back away from an ambush.
The good news is that the AI buddies won't steal all of the thunder from the player. There are still plenty of opportunities to mix it up with the bad guys, who turn out to be incredibly outmatched and dumb as doorknobs. Sniping enemies from a distance can often leave the partner standing around and completely ignoring the sick "thud" of his buddy hitting the ground. There is a somewhat satisfying feeling in pretending to be a part of the SAS because of this, and enemies don't resort to pouring themselves out from clown cars or spawn points, but it doesn't give the player much of a challenge.
Adding a few more hours of fun to SAS is its multiplayer, which offers up the basic deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag game types. Stages drawn from the main campaign make up the killing grounds, and players use the Esc menu to pick the weapon they want to use in the game. Bringing up the menu to select your weapons isn't all that obvious if you just happen to join a game in progress for the first time, which can leave you with only your fists. Performance was smooth, but there weren't that many local servers to pick from. The most populated servers were located in Europe, where there were one or two packed servers, but a majority of them were password-protected, leaving few that were actually available. In North America during the evening hours, there are substantially fewer games to choose from, leaving the SAS proving grounds empty and bare.
SAS: Secure Tomorrow is definitely aimed at the casual gamer or for newcomers who have never played an FPS, though it now has to compete with top-notch FPS titles from a few years ago that have been marked down to the budget price range. It would be easy to pick on SAS as a poor game in comparison to its competition, but City Interactive has made it obvious that this isn't something that was aimed to dethrone Crysis or Half-Life. Taken as it was meant to be, a budget game delivering the most basic of FPS experiences, SAS: Secure Tomorrow isn't as bad as its price may indicate, but even when compared to some of the older titles that stand alongside it on the retail shelf, signing up for a tour of duty on the side of the SAS may be better served with another, more seasoned, outfit.
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