World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Or you can spend them all on tactical aid. These special attacks cost way more than buying regular units, but the benefits are obvious. Some of our favourites are carpet bombing (a rush of planes surge in and smother the map in bombs), heavy artillery (huge cannons unload a volley of gunfire on an area of your choice) and the napalm strike, which is as destructive as it sounds. But the daddy of them all is the tactical nuke. It costs shitloads of tactical points, but wipes out absolutely everything in the area - even your own troops. If your defences are being overwhelmed with Russians and it looks like it’s over, nuke ‘em. The ensuing mushroom cloud is absolutely beautiful, and scatters debris and bits of building everywhere.

Oh, that’s another thing; the environments are totally destructible. Totally. After each battle the map is reduced to a smoking ruin, especially if you’ve been nuking the place silly. Cities can be leveled, bridges blown up, trees and foliage decimated. But this is more than purely visual; it also affects your tactics. At any time you can send infantry into buildings or forests for cover, which lets you get the jump on enemy units and protect them from tanks. But if the trees and buildings have all been scorched they’ll be left wide open. Yet another layer to World in Conflict’s dense tactical, er, onion.

Now, as we said before, World in Conflict isn’t a new game. It came out last year on PC to rave reviews. But Swedish developer Massive Entertainment wanted to make sure the console version wasn’t just a straight port, so as well as streamlined, simplified controls to suit the game pad, they’ve also included an entirely new campaign. A campaign that, brilliantly, lets you play as the Russians. There’s a set of new missions (approximately half the size of the main NATO/US campaign) with new cutscenes, new voice acting, new units and new environments, including the icy coast of Norway. It gives you a chance to be the invader rather than the defender which, let’s be honest, is a lot more fun.

We also get the addition of voice control. If you have a headset you can call in tactical aid by holding down the left trigger and calling out the attack you want. Barking ‘tactical nuke’ down the mouthpiece and seeing one falling onto the battlefield makes you feel like some kind of insane dictator. It’s brilliantly empowering.

World in Conflict feels like it was always destined for consoles. The accessible gameplay, dazzling hi-def visuals and explosive-laced action feel right at home on your TV. But it’s also deeply tactical for those who want to get really into it. It also has the potential to be one of the consoles’ best online games - imagine large-scale battles, with nukes and carpet bombing and destructible environments, but with six other players, each in charge of their own deployment of troops. It was a massive hit on PC, with thousands of clans forming, and we don’t see why it can’t be a similar success on console. Finally, a strategy game with balls.

May 12, 2008