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World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Sierra Entertainment
Developer: Massive Entertainment / Swordfish Studios


PC Review - 'World in Conflict: Soviet Assault'

by Jesse Littlefield on May 23, 2009 @ 10:51 a.m. PDT

World in Conflict is an RTS that delivers action and coordinated team play amidst a showdown between the Soviet Union and the US, with destructible 3D battlefields, team-based multiplayer and a focus on fast, hard-hitting battles.

Genre: Real-Time Strategy
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Release Date: March 17, 2009

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault is a little difficult to score because there are two different versions of the game that cater to two very different crowds. On one hand, you have the $20 expansion pack, which adds six campaign missions and two multiplayer maps. The other version costs $30 and includes the original World in Conflict. There are clearly two audiences being targeted here, and the more loyal one seems to be getting the raw end of the deal. The six new missions are not worth $20, and aside from the six additional missions, Soviet Assault changes nothing else in the World in Conflict formula. If you've never played the game before, the "complete edition" for $30 is a fantastic deal that I can't recommend enough.

World in Conflict toys with an interesting concept. What if the Soviet Union hadn't collapsed? What if in the waning days of the Soviet Union, they had decided to turn themselves into a war machine? The title tosses real history out the door and tells the "what if?" story of the Soviet Union starting World War III in 1989. While the original WiC started with the Soviet invasion of the U.S. mainland several months into the war, the Soviet Assault expansion begins with the shots that started the war, putting you in command of the Russians (you didn't get to do this in the original title) as you destroy the Berlin Wall and storm into West Berlin to kick off World War III. It's a spectacular opening, and it expands on the story line.

Something that WiC did incredibly well was tell a story. Most war games are quick to fall back on a lack of story and have lots of people yelling incoherently that "It's them or us" as a reason to wage war. The title puts you in the shoes of Captain Parker, and for the Soviet Assault portion of the campaign, you control Lieutenant Romanov. The story plays out from their perspectives, and while all of the characters fall into stereotypes, they are so expertly used that you actually care about them and what they do over the course of the game. If you can make the player care about the fate of the soldiers in a war title, you've done a spectacular job.

The original WiC lacked perspective; the entire game was played out from the American side, and you never had an idea of what was going on for the Soviets. Soviet Assault fixes this by adding the previously mentioned six new missions. All of these play out from the Soviet perspective, and in a risky move by the developers, these missions are actually integrated into the main campaign. While this really helps the narrative by showing what both sides were doing at various points in the war and how each side dealt with each other's actions, it's a bit of a slap in the face for players who have already played WiC. To experience the new missions, one must play through the entire lengthy campaign again because there's no way to just play through the Soviet missions.

That's really all you get with Soviet Assault. You get a new repackaged, more complete form of the campaign for $20. While there are two new multiplayer maps included, they've also been released as free downloads for everyone to play. In the end, the campaign length is increased by about 30 percent, and you get more of the excellent WiC story. This doesn't feel like an expansion pack as much as it should have been a downloadable add-on like we've seen with games like Fallout 3. While one could argue that new and exciting things are surely included by playing as the Soviet side, there is no difference whatsoever between the American forces and the Russian ones. Unit names are all the same, and they play virtually identically.

However, if you've never played WiC before, you're in for a treat. What you have here is a real-time strategy game that gets rid of the tedium of building up a base and all the associated defenses for getting the player into the action. The title is all about the destruction of war, and it does a spectacular job. Battles feel like they're on a massive scale even if you're only controlling 20 units. It's fast-paced, fun and tactical, and absolutely stunning to look at.

WiC may be the best-looking real-time strategy game I've ever played. Everything manages to look detailed both close up and far away, environmental destruction is so well done that I've found myself stopping to admire the chaos of the remains of a battlefield during the aftermath instead of pushing my surviving units ahead. While my PC handled the game quite nicely on DirectX9, if I were running Windows Vista, it would have looked even better because the visuals have been optimized for DirectX10.

The game doesn't slack in the audio department, either; while the music may be entirely forgettable, the rest of it is stunning. The explosions sound incredible on any sound system that has a subwoofer, and the rest of it does a great job of adding to the intensity of the battles. While I've always felt that military games are easier to do voice acting for, it doesn't change the fact that the voice acting here is pretty good. The only exception lies in one of the secondary characters in the Soviet missions, but thankfully he plays a background role and doesn't show up very often.

Battles revolve around controlling key points on the map. Scattered about the map are control points that represent important locations on the battlefield. Placing units within these control points allows you to take control of them, and the game will automatically start building fortifications around the point to help in its defense. Don't expect to see any majestic military installation appear out of the ground, though. Your units build things in three levels: a machine gun nest to deal with infantry units, an artillery cannon to deal with tanks, and finally an anti-air gun to handle helicopters that may try to take you out. Most control points consist of two or three zones, and you have at least one unit in each to take control of the point. Once you've built some fortifications in each zone, the control point is yours, and it significantly changes the flow of the battle.

With no real base-building to generate units, you have to buy them from a set pool of resources. Buying the units is quite simple, and you simply have to indicate the spot on the map where you want them to be dropped. Control points give you control of that air space and some of the surrounding area for dropping in reinforcements. If you can take control of a point and need to quickly reinforce the area, you can drop units directly into the base instead of training them elsewhere and hoping that they make it to the front lines in time.

If your units don't look like they'll be able to handle the battle, you also have access to aerial support. As you fight, the game will reward you with points to use on air support. This can be something as simple as an artillery barrage on a specific location or something as incredibly destructive as a tactical nuke. Each item has its own use, and these can really help change the tide of battle. As an example, napalm strikes destroy the forest. Enemy infantry can hide in the forest and will be invisible until you also have infantry in there. For a player with tanks, a napalm strike can be really dangerous because it destroys the forest and most of the units hiding in it. A good player will be constantly using his air support to thin enemy numbers or protect his own units from possible bad situations.

Once you're done with the lengthy campaign, you can head online with the fantastic multiplayer element that revolves around several commanders working together to win the day. The main difference here is that in the single-player campaign, you could call in any unit whenever you wanted, but in the multiplayer portion, you have to select a class although you can change that class anytime. While you're playing the "armor" class, you can only call in tanks, and while you're playing as the "aerial" class, helicopters are your only option. Setting up an effective team to win in the multiplayer is an absolute blast. The lobby system allows you to hop right in the action, so you don't have to find a match in the lobby; you're more than welcome to leap into a game in progress and start helping out whoever is already playing.

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault is a bit of a tough game to review. On one hand, the Soviet Assault expansion adds nothing to the game except six new missions that are integrated into the game. For $20, this is not a good deal because it only adds four to five hours to the game, and the integration of it with the main campaign forces returning players to play through the campaign again just to see the new content. On the other hand, for new recruits to World in Conflict the "complete edition" is an absolute steal for the content and quality that you get. For new players, this game is easily a 9.0. However, for returning players, the poor value of the expansion makes it a less-than-impressive 6.5. If you haven't played World in Conflict before, go get this game now. If you've already played it, Soviet Assault isn't enough of a reason to come back.

Score: 7.8/10

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