Inside Pulse 12

Review: World in Conflict: Soviet Assault (PC)

World in Conflict: Soviet Assault
Genre: Real Time Strategy
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Publisher: Ubisoft
Release Date:3/10/2009


Note: The following screenshots are taken at a custom graphical setting which is somewhere between “Medium” and “High” default settings.

When the original World in Conflict was released in late 2007, it was a revelation in RTS design. Gone were the concepts of base building and resource gathering. Instead, we were left with a strategy game that emphasized swift blitzkrieg combat. The game sold relatively well and fans were eagerly anticipating the Soviet themed expansion pack (which would be bundled with the original game for a console release as well). However, the game’s publisher, Sierra Entertainment, closed down and Massive was put up for sale. It took a few months until Ubisoft came to the rescue and bought the struggling developer. Soviet Assault was then set for a Q1 2009 release, but only for the PC. So was the chance to claim victory for the Motherland against the capitalist war machine worth the wait?

1. Story/Modes

For those that missed the original World in Conflict, it takes place in a realistic version of our own 1989. The USSR, crippled by years of the cold war, asks NATO for economic aid and is turned down. In our world, the USSR collapses at this point. However, in WiC the Soviet Politburo decides the only way to avert the disintegration of the Soviet Union is to trigger WWIII and force NATO to accept its demands.

The story isn’t as grand as you expect it, but it is told through the perspectives of several people such as soldiers, civilians, and politicians, which adds a real human element to this massive war.

In this expansion pack, you are Soviet Lieutenant Romanov, who is serving alongside Captain Maleshenko. Both of you are under Colonel Orlovsky and rounding off your crew is KGB Major Lebjedev to provide intelligence support (and keep an eye on the proceedings for the higher ups).

I have yet to meet a character in World in Conflict that I didn’t like and these new characters don’t disappoint. From the diehard communist Captain Maleshenko to the cool and experienced Colonel Orlovsky, all the characters have a depth to them that you don’t see in many games these days, let alone an RTS!

There is a downside to revealing these new characters in an expansion pack though, as they don’t have sufficient screen time. You have such little time to truly get to know these characters and their personalities like we did in the original WiC . This is a damn shame because I actually like these characters more than their American and NATO counterparts!

Since the expansion pack’s story is intertwined with the original, I thought that maybe there would be some cool missions I could see from “the other side,” so to speak. Unfortunately the main protagonists always seem to be conveniently out of each other’s way during critical missions, which is a shame. I know one side has to “win” a battle, so it’s difficult to have them both fight each other and not alter the storyline, but a little more references to each other’s campaign would be nice.

Finally, in both World in Conflict and Soviet Assault, you have textbook examples on how to end a story and still keep it open for a sequel. Bungie, are you taking notes?

Story/Modes Rating: Incredible

2.Graphics

Powered by the Massive Entertainment’s “Masstech” engine, World in Conflict manages to nail the look of a living breathing battlefield right on your monitor. The unit models are very detailed and are animate nicely with the physics system. Ambient effects like lingering smoke and light distortion (seen most prominently when using a HEAT round from a heavy tank) enhance the believability of the war you are fighting.

Explosions are also beautiful to look at, especially ones that you don’t see often in games. Fuel Air Bombs are impressive and look almost as devastating as they would in real life!

A downside however is that the game doesn’t look as good as its main rival, Company of Heroes which has unit models that are more detailed than WiC’s. It’s true that the maps are much larger in WiC, but most of that is just empty space and you don’t have many more units under your in this game than you do in Company of Heroes.

One thing that WiC has going for it is that it has the best nuclear explosions this side of Call of Duty 4.

The cut scenes are also very well done – both the ones that use the in-game engine and the hand drawn scenes that appear before a mission has finished loading.

Graphics Rating: Incredible

3. Sound

The original World in Conflict had excellent voice acting to go along with its story and Soviet Assault does not disappoint. In fact, I’d even say that the voice acting in this game is better than the original (though I’m somewhat biased towards the Russian characters in the game). The game’s narrator is much more convincing than Alec Baldwin. One minor complaint is that the VA for Major Lebjedv sometimes slips from his Russian accent and speaks in an American accent. Thankfully it isn’t noticeable enough to ruin whatever scene he is in.

There isn’t a lot of music in the game for the simple reason that your speakers are going to be full of radio chatter, explosions, and people barking orders at you. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Just like the graphics make the game seem like a living breathing battlefield, the sound effects enhance things all the more. You can hear units giving you status reports on how successful their airstrike was (I.E., “Delivered payload on target Kommendeer, enemy casualties reported.”), the distant rumble of a carpet bombing strike on the other side of the map, or the swoosh of a jet engine that just wizzed by your camera.

The sound department matches the quality the graphics have set.

Sound Rating: Incredible

4. Control/Gameplay

The gameplay in World in Conflict was a far cry from other RTS games. You have a number of “reinforcement points” that you can spend to buy different types of units. Once you’ve placed your order, you hit “send” and a cargo plane will come in and drop your units in your personal drop zone. As you lose units, their points will slowly trickle back into your pool to be spent on more units. With no buildings or bases of any kind, you must be wondering what exactly you have to do. Sprinkled around the map are “control points” that work similar to the gameplay in Battlefield 2. Your team must have your units on the control points to swing a “domination” bar to your side. The team with the most points in the end will win, though single player missions have different scenario objectives. With no base building or resource gathering, the strategy layer is removed and the game becomes a Real Time Tactics (RTT) game(as the developers themselves state). It’s truly like no other game out there (except maybe its spiritual predecessor, Ground Control).

The new Soviet single player missions are well designed and are nicely varied, so you won’t be getting any sense of repetitiveness. The missions are also well designed from a storyline point of view, so there will be certain moments when you truly feel that you have a lot on line if you lose. The tension will cause you to sit up straight and fight properly for the motherland!

The downside is that the expansion pack has only six missions! Count ’em! Six! This is just an absurd amount of content for 20$. It’s just like eating Chinese food; you’re never truly feel full at the end.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Very Good

5. Replayability

The game is only six missions long. At most you might get three or four hours out of them before you’re done. The only reason to go back and do the missions again is to get the medals you receive from completing optional objectives. The story is strong enough that it gives you a reason to go through it one more time to see it again. Other than that there is no reason to ever break out the single player again.

Multiplayer is a lot of fun but it’s exactly the same multiplayer as the original with absolutely nothing you haven’t already experienced.

Replayability Rating: Very Bad

6. Balance

There are three sides to choose from in the game (USA, USSR, NATO). Even though they all have unique looking units (Which are real licensed machines that were available in 1989.), all the units have exactly the same stats and special abilities with slight variations in some units(the Soviet heavy artillery is different) and tactical aids (airstrikes..ect.). Every single unit in the game is weak against something else or is useful in different situations, so overall the game is balanced (if a little unappealingly so).

Balance Rating: Very Good

7. Orginality

Even though this expansion adds very little to the overall game, World in Conflict is still quite unique amongst nearly every other RTS game on the market. Ever since the Berlin Wall collapsed, it seems WWIII has been out of fashion. Now all war stories have something to do with Desert Storm or some other generic Middle Eastern location, so I’m glad when something shows up where I don’t have to kill Arabs (for obvious reasons).

Also, everyone knows that playing as the Soviet Union is cooler than playing as the USA.

However, Soviet Assault provides nearly no innovation to its parent game whatsoever, hurting the overall product.

Originality Rating: Decent

8. Addictiveness

The storyline in Soviet Assault is so well told that it will hold your attention to the very end. It will genuinely make you want to stay in your seat and see how the following battles unfold and what happens to your favorite characters. Alas, the two or three hours this story is not enough of a high to be truly addicting.

Addictiveness Rating: Pretty Poor

9. Appeal Factor

For what is essentially only a couple hours of playtime, you’re being charged 20$. Does this appeal to you? I don’t think so. Although the original World in Conflict sold reasonably well and both it and its expansion pack are highly polished products (and they got Alec Baldwin to voice the orginal), it is by no means a mainstream title.

Does the mainstream still care about the Soviet Union anymore? Or even remember the Cold War?

Appeal Factor Rating: Bad

10. Miscellaneous

I’ve already mentioned how there are only six single player missions in the game and only two new multiplayer maps as well as the 20$ price tag, but it gets worse than that.

Four of the six multiplayer missions are actually free multiplayer maps for the original game and they were re-used to cut development costs.

As for the two multiplayer maps? If you own the original World in Conflict, you can download them for free off Massive Entertainment’s official website.

So this entire game is basically Ubisoft shoving out a half completed one-time canceled console port of the original game and jacking up the price to make up the difference for only releasing it on a single platform far past the original release date.

Miscellaneous Rating: Worthless

The Scores

Modes: Incredible
Graphics: Incredible
Sound: Incredible
Control/Gameplay: Very Good
Replayability: Very Bad
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Pretty Poor
Appeal Factor: Bad
Miscellaneous: Worthless

FINAL SCORE: Above Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

If you’ve never played World in Conflict before, then pick up World in Conflict: Complete Edition. At 50$, you can get the original game and its expansion pack for a great price and enjoy one of the best RTS (or RTT) games I’ve ever played. However, if you already own World in Conflict, then paying 20$ for the expansion pack is unacceptable when it has such a little amount of content in it. Considering Rockstar are charging 20$ for Lost and the Damned, which is almost a completely new game, really contrasts with the limp effort Massive have thrown at us.