World in Conflict - updated hands-on

Some months back, we ran a preview of World in Conflict, noting that it looked like an interesting take on the real time strategy genre. Having gotten our hands on it last week, albeit somewhat briefly, we can say that our initial impressions were indeed correct: it's interesting.

Actually, the one thing about WiC that really made an impression can be summed up in one word - "nukular." Just to fill you in, multiplayer WiC is played much like an RTS version of Counter-Strike, in that players split up into two teams (Soviet and U.S.), and each member of each team then chooses a specialty from Air, Infantry, Armor and Artillery (support). Each player begins the game with a set number of deployment points that can immediately be spent on units, and although any specialty can in theory call up any type of unit, obviously the Air specialist gets choppers very cheaply, while a tank costs him or her a lot.

From a hands-on point of view, there aren't too many RTS games out there that are played as a team, and the "lose a unit/get a deployment point back" ebb and flow lends a different sort of rhythm to the game than the more usual, resource-based RTS. Instead of hanging back waiting for resources to pile up and creating massive or powerful forces, everyone tends to jump in right away, hope for the best and adjust strategy on the fly. Gameplay is fairly quick and fluid, units respond well on the field and, provided you're sitting near enough to your teammates to co-ordinate operations, things move along at a surprisingly brisk pace. So far, so good.

Right up until the moment somebody starts losing badly - or, more likely, just gets ticked off at someone else. Then the nukes start coming out like clockwork, and everything just goes down the tubes.

Now it's true enough that, within the game, it's perfectly possible to recover from a nuclear strike. Plus, nukes require so many deployment points that any jackhole that uses them will take so long to get the points back, they're practically out of the game. And, let's admit it, even when you're on the receiving end, there's a moment where you can't help but grin through the frustrated teeth-grinding, watching the mushroom clouds bloom like... um... mushrooms.