As with all good war-games, you have the choice of a peace-loving force, fighting for freedom, and a slightly more malevolent one. The "International Corps for Peace" (ICP) are as good as it gets - a body formed by the peace-loving nations of the world to try and preserve the status quo. In strict contrast, ICP's shadow organisation, GHOST, have risen from the insatiable thirst for wealth of a malicious minority. Economic interests drive GHOST, who want to disrupt world peace and plunge us all into a third world war, the primary beneficiary of which would be them. As the ICP, you have to pursue military and political goals. And as with most modern conflicts, your image with the media is more important than anything. There are no resources to be harvested in the traditional sense in Conflict Zone. Your funding comes directly from the pockets of the general public, and as such your war chest increases depending on your level of popularity. This creates an interesting paradox; the ICP does have weaponry capable of flattening GHOST, but using it might incense the media, which is of paramount importance. Your funding is directly proportional to your popularity rating, so good deeds like airlifting casualties to facilities outside the conflict are rewarded. Treatment of civilians is also a factor in your popularity. GHOST could very well have captured and brainwashed a whole village of pitchfork-wielders to do their bidding, but if you chuck in a few mortars and count the teeth, you will have taken the initiative and killed hundreds of innocents in the eyes of Joe Public. You have to wait for the civilians to make the first move and treat them accordingly!
GHOST, being a sneaky, underhanded organisation hell-bent on usurping world peace, has very little in the way of capital to back their exploits, and as a result hasn't much in the way of weaponry to derail ICP, but that said, they don't give two hoots about their image, so anything goes! The stronger GHOST's offensive though, the more interested the media gets in seeing them vanquished. As a GHOST player, you have to be aware that the ICP could very well deploy nukes on the battlefield if their popularity rating is high enough! Actually playing the game should be quite an interesting affair. It completely dispenses with the Fog of War, on the basis that in modern warfare, avoiding detection is nigh on impossible. There are multiple viewpoints, from a traditional top-down view right down to a third person over-the-shoulder of a soldier type. The system reflects modern battlefield intelligence technology, where zooming in on even the smallest of units and tracking their actions is possible.
Another resource you can marshal is your command staff. During the course of the game you can accept up to four commanders on your staff, each of which has a specialist field. You can assign your funds to each as you deem appropriate, and thanks to DirectAI, they can operate independently without your intervention, and effectively defend, construct and infiltrate where needed. That said, you have operational command of the whole operation though, so you can override their input when needed and take control. They also stop working if your funding dries up. The general AI of your armies is set to be pretty impressive also. Units will respond naturally to threats in their line of sight, retreating if in immediate danger or advancing where possible. You can even set the rules of engagement, to strict, cautious or aggressive, but remember at all times, the media is watching! The graphics as you can see in the small collection of screenshots on these pages are very detailed. The game is set to be released on PC, Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, and each boasts incredible levels of detail, with animation extending right down to the smallest unit. Machineguns will swivel on their turrets, soldiers scratch their heads as they stand around and more. The game will sport several different environments (Asian, Desert, Snow and Continental) and an impressive climate changing routine that will vary the conditions depending on the time of day and such.
The full release will feature two campaigns, each made up of 17 missions of varying importance and difficulty. You'll get to try your hand at all sorts of things, and there is even a secret mission for each side if you can uncover it. Multiplayer modes are included as well, with support for up to 8 players. The game will also be bundled with a Map Editor so that the online community can continue to make use of it. Due out in April on PC, then in May and June on Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 respectively, and we're incredibly eager to get our hands on a working version to see how the intuitive ideas that MASA are putting to work pan out. Things like the popularity rating should create a unique atmosphere for an RTS, and give even Red Alert 2 and its ilk a run for their money. With any luck, we'll be able to bring you a review of the PC version within the next month or so, and the European-based software company MASA are sure to release a demo in the mean time. UK Release Dates -