Preview - Mugwum takes a hands-on look at a very promising RTS title from Ubi Soft
The ICP campaign sets you off in Ukraine, after a top-level CGI briefing by military advisors. The game on the whole is more tongue-in-cheek about itself than we would have initially suspected. For instance, during the ICP briefing, scenes in the next room range from a bizarre disco to a shark fin whooshing through a cow field and more. The Ghost campaign, which begins in the Sahara, depicts terrorists disguised as camels taking over an ICP base. The tutorial mission isn't quite finished, and tends to have you doing things whether you are ready or not, often instructing you to put together silos and the like when you're still wrestling with the build controls for your power station. The control system is a basic RTS method, with a click and drag interface, and the interface for controlling your commanders and units is discreet. Manipulating the camera can be a little trying at first, but you soon get the hang of it, roaming all over the map and zooming in so you can be right on a unit's shoulder. Although the missions aren't 100% yet, they all make sense so far, and the public funding system is as ingenious as we thought it would be. In one typical situation, I was under heavy attack from Ghost forces upon entering a town, and the civilians -Ghost sympathisers- started to attack my helicopter. I bombed the lot of them with my tank, and took out the rest of the civilians to save my chopper from biting the bullet. I had intended to occupy and rebuild the town with a barracks and such, but my public funding slipped right off the scale as soon as I started laying into the suspect civilians. In another mission though, I was supposed to take out a Ghost base, but I also rescued a number of civilians and ferried them off to a refugee camp, under extreme pressure from hostile forces. For this I was rewarded, enough to build some heavy machinery and take out my enemies in double-time. The political angle is very acute.
As Ghost soldiers too, winning isn't just about tank-rushing. ICP lose funding if they vanquish you with stupidly powerful nuclear weapons and the like, so the trick is to fool them into firing at civilians, and sending in lone troops to get rumbled over by tanks - anything to undermine their public funding and give you the upper hand. One of the most impressive things about Conflict Zone aside from its unique resource system is the bearing that height has on the outcome of a fight. Often, controlling the high ground is far more important than building the most units. If you can marshal your forces to control a choke point that leads to your elevated position, you can not only take out more units at a time thanks to splash damage, but you virtually neutralise their numerical advantage. Conflict Zone looks like it could prove to be quite an entertaining RTS. The unique resource system, which does away with "special areas", harvesting and other nonsensica is very promising, and the diversity of the two campaigns will improve the game's standing. We haven't even been able to try out multiplayer yet, but no doubt it will be equally cutthroat. Look forward to a review in the next month. UK Release Dates -
PC - May 2001
Dreamcast - May 2001
PlayStation 2 - June 2001