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Porting the real-time strategy genre to consoles has always produced mixed results. Even the latest controllers, with their ample number of buttons, can't fully mimic the speed and simplicity of a mouse and keyboard. Even HDTVs, with their ultra sharp pictures, can't fully distinguish tiny units unless the gamer is leaning forward and squinting painfully.
Yet developers, especially during this generation, keep trying. World in Conflict is the latest RTS to attempt the unsteady jump from PC to 360. From what we've seen, however, it may also be one of the special few to stick the landing. Here are five reasons we're optimistic.
1) World in Conflict: Soviet Assault looks different
Too often, playing an RTS feels just like playing a board game. Sure, stuff moves around, but you're still staring straight down at a mostly flat surface and shuffling your pieces around. World in Conflict breaks free from that two-dimensional prison, enabling the player to view its world from an endless number of angles. Zooming in and out aren't your only options; you can also look up, down or straight across the horizon.
2) World in Conflict: Soviet Assault plays different
The visual freedom described above makes the game's combat seem much more immersive. Explosions, smoke signals and falling parachutes are more than stock effects - they appear as tangible objects with real volume and space. You can circle them or move the camera through them. Planes fly over and under you, depending upon your zoom. Debris can fly straight past the screen.
3) World in Conflict: Soviet Assault's controls are different
If you're patient and determined enough, mastering an RTS on a console is not impossible. All you have to do is memorize a sometimes unintuitive (and always complicated) series of button commands. The developers of World in Conflict hope to demolish that learning curve through an ambitious and rather risky new method - voice commands. Speak the right words into a microphone (such as the one attached to the Xbox Live headset) and the onscreen troops will respond. We haven't tested this system, so we have no idea how well it will work, but the very possibility is exciting.
4) World in Conflict: Soviet Assault's multiplayer is different
Bad news: the multiplayer in the console version has been reduced from 8 vs. 8 to 5 vs. 5. Good news: the unique style of team-based competition should remain intact. What's so special? The PC version of World in Conflict tasked players with specific, specialized roles that complemented but did not repeat what their teammates were responsible for during the battle. Moreover, tools for requesting support or tagging trouble areas made communicating and coordinating as a group easy. The outcome of this approach is 16 (now 10) players, all of whom feel like powerful and irreplaceable pieces of their army's success.
5) World in Conflict: Soviet Assault actually is different
Most RTS ports worry only about changing the controls. The developers of World in Conflict are taking the process an extra step and actually changing the content of the game itself. Soviet Assault is more than just reheated leftovers - the campaign includes a sizable chunk of entirely new missions, played from the opposite side of the war. You'll still fight to defeat an alternate history version of the Russians in 1989 (in this timeline, they've invaded the US and the rest of Europe), but now, you'll also get to see some of that fight from their point of view.
World in Conflict: Soviet Assault is set for release on 360 and PS3 this Fall (check out brand-new footage of the game here). The new missions will also be available as an expansion pack to PC gamers.
Apr 14, 2008