There's a general rule of game development: don't fight the established games on their own ground. You'll almost certainly lose and sell jack, because they've got momentum and you're nobody. But it's a rule that Eugen are shunning. They've seen Command and Conquer: General's crown and think they can wrest it from its bleeding fingers.
And they might just have what it takes. Act of War plays like C and C from an alternate dimension, where the old RTS warhorse kept on pushing into new territory, instead of entrenching in familiar ground. Nowhere is this dynamic intent clearer than the single-player game, which has a more powerful narrative thrust than any recent RTS. Its techno-thriller plot penned by fifteen times NY Times bestselling author Dale Brown is only the start of it. This is a game which feels genuinely modern, its presentation half-way between CNN and an episode of 24.
The graphics engine lies at the heart of it, presenting intense urban environments previously unseen in the genre. Play a mission set in a London riot and the streets between the towering skyscrapers are packed with placard-waving protesters. An inset screen-within-a-screen pops up in the corner to show you more details, TV-style. Then there are the in-game cut-scenes, out-of-game cut-scenes, the return of real-life-acted video footage... it's a barrage of information which exemplifies the information age which inspires this game.
The explosions are some of the most livid we've seen, to the extent that you can even use them as cover to perform devastating strikes before anyone realises. Weapon modelling is impressively vicious: committing the wrong troops in the wrong place leads to almost instant death. It's a hard-nosed, day-after-tomorrow RTS, spectacularly beautiful and packed full of ideas. Is that enough to dethrone C and C? Only its spring offensive will tell.
Act of War will be causing carnage on your PC from March