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Sonic booms break the stillness, followed by the screeching sound of fighter jet engines. A closer boom rattles the shelves and a descending high-pitched tone indicates an incoming missile. Wondering what’s going on, you stumble outside before gasping in shock. Parachutes fill the air and in the distance, Russian tanks rumble over countryside. An explosion hits a nearby house - one thing’s for sure - the Cold War hasn’t ended; it’s only just begun.
That’s the setting for World in Conflict and it’s a huge departure from Massive’s normal sphere of story-telling, namely sci-fi and its world of intergalactic plotting and alien races intent on human destruction.
Russia, on the brink of economic ruin, has decided to go all-out and invade Western Europe before turning their attention to America. But, as Massive’s president Martin Walfisz is keen to point out, they’re not just cobbling together any load of old crap to explain why the Cold War has gone so differently this time round.
No, to aid in the creation of a believable back-story, they’ve employed the skills of Larry Bond, who, alongside Tom Clancy, penned Red Storm Rising, a massively successful book on the subject of a hypothetical conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Bond’s skills are being used to flesh out the scene and explain just why Russia’s decided to attack and exactly where the frontlines will lie.
Walfisz also stresses that they want to keep the single-player campaign “accessible and emotional,” adding that the real stars of the show are the characters. Massive is keen to put an emphasis on you feeling part of a bigger team - so after the Soviets have attacked Seattle, you take control of a guy called Parker, who’ll be taking commands from a gruff Colonel Sawyer.
Reeling from the sheer boldness of the attacks, and surely with a nod or two to Pearl Harbor, in-game cut-scenes show the characters arguing over plans, while cracks soon start to show in their relationships - adding a definite personal dimension to an otherwise detached RTS conflict.
After a swift demonstration, we’re led to a bank of computers where we get our hands on “The Battle of Pine Valley,” the third level in the game. The second the loading bar disappears, the view provided by the Masstech engine is incredible. Unusually for a game of this genre, the camera allows for a view of the horizon and the effect is breathtaking. Positioned at one end of the sleepy town, the engine allows for a clear view over the detailed buildings, into the hazy sea lapping at the sandy shores beyond. Donut shops nestle next to diners, giving an all-American feel to the little town.