Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Most Wanted Entertainment
Release Date: September 2006
You may be able to overcome countless terrorists, foreign insurgents, and enemy armies, all before breakfast, but in Joint Task Force, your greatest enemy might be CNN.
JTF is a story-driven, tactical RTS from Most Wanted Entertainment. You play the part of a fictional, multinational peace enforcement unit, with missions set in such recent real-world hotspots as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, Iraq, and Somalia. Your unit may not be real (Most Wanted's aiming for gameplay over realism here; to quote them, "Real is not fun"), but many of the situations and details they encounter are.
Each member of your team is a unique character, which can be leveled up and modded with special secondary weapons, such as anti-tank equipment, gas masks, grenades, or C4. None of them are expendable, and if they reach level four, they can be promoted to "hero" status.
This won't exactly help if you're not careful, though. The only resource in JTF is funding from your organization's backers at the UN. If you accomplish your missions with a minimum of fuss, as well as reaching all of your secondary objectives, including the odd bit of humanitarian aid, your unit's reputation will improve, and that'll lead to an increased amount of funding. If you're prone to inflicting a lot of collateral damage, or you take out a few noncombatant targets, your antics will be picked up by CNN or the BBC. Once they report that you're doing such things, your backers will hang you out to dry.
Fortunately, you have a lot of options. JTF works according to what's called the Dynamic Mission System. You'll start in a small part of the map and gradually explore it as you accomplish your primary and secondary objectives.
The game offers many of the standard tricks you can find in a modern RTS, such as the ability to capture buildings, use literally any object in the environment for cover, or to take over landing strips so you can call in aerial reinforcements. You'll also have to keep one eye on the weather, which changes according to the script; a sandstorm, for example, can blow in at a moment's notice, disabling air support and communications.
JTF's single-player mode contains 30 to 35 missions, an average one of which reportedly lasts about two hours; some missions, according to Most Wanted, are practically small campaigns.
When you've exhausted the potential of that, JTF offers a robust multiplayer mode. First, there's the option to play cooperatively throughout the entire single-player campaign, which is a feature you just don't see often enough.
Second, JTF does away with fixed game types in favor of a more fluid system. By configuring the rules of engagement, you can change the conditions for victory or rules of any given match, thus creating a large number of custom game types of your own. A few rule sets will be available right out of the box, but Most Wanted is leaving the fine details up to you.
Between the lengthy single-player campaign and the customizable online play, JTF seems like it could be a solid game for PC wargamers towards the end of this year. A word of caution, though: JTF also offers Ageia hardware support, which'll enhance the in-game physics, allowing more realistic and impressive explosions. If this sounds like your kind of game, you may wish to budget for an upgrade.
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