Soviet Assault doesn’t do anything to change 2007’s excellent Cold-War-gone-hot RTS. Instead, it weaves six new multi-part missions directly into the original campaign, so you play as both the invading Soviets and the defending US and NATO. It feels as if I’m playing World in Conflict: Director’s Cut, featuring scenes from the Russian perspective that ended up on the cutting room floor.
Much as I enjoyed the Russian missions and the excellent accompanying story cutscenes, as a fan of the original release I don’t particularly like the approach. Not because the new missions weren’t up to the same high standards, but because it forced me to replay the entire original campaign in order to see the new stuff. After kicking off the war by invading western Germany in 1989 as the Soviets, you replay a few American missions from the original release, then back to the Soviets, etc. Considering that the Soviet missions barely overlap with the American storyline at all (you’re never fighting against ‘yourself’) I would have preferred to play the new missions as a self-contained campaign.
Massive’s action-oriented approach to RTS, abandoning base building in favor of purchasing air drops of units from a rejuvenating pool of resource points, and capturing strategic locations rather than destroying enemy structures, is as fast-paced as ever. Everything still looks spectacular, especially now that hardware has caught up a little more with the demanding engine.
However, the AI hasn’t improved; the mission scripts still just throw massive numbers of enemy tanks and troops at you that roll right up to and sometimes right on past your forces with no regard for tactics. It’s still tough at times to deal with their endless numbers, but it’s annoying that they don’t behave the way armor should.
Writing to his wife while seated atop a tractor on a conquered American farm, the conflicted Russian Colonel leading the Red Army remarks, “These Americans are not so different from us.” I agree – if not for the accents of the unit voices, I’d have frequently forgotten which side I was fighting for. From the zoom level you typically play at, the identifying characteristics of American and Soviet tanks and soldiers are difficult to make out, and unit capabilities are nearly identical. Even the airstrike and artillery abilities (which are as awesome as ever) are identical. This makes playing as the Soviets less of a fresh experience than it could have been, although the missions are as challenging and well-made as the previous batch.
Multiplayer is where SA could and should have distinguished itself, considering WiC still has a loyal following online. Instead it offers only eight new official multiplayer maps, while a lack of new factions, units, abilities, or game modes makes its value to veteran players questionable, given the availability of community-made maps.
SA doesn’t offer enough of an incentive to dust off your copy of WiC for another go, but if you were otherwise occupied when it first came out, consider this the perfect opportunity to try it with a more expansive campaign.
Mar 17, 2009
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