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World in Conflict
Platform: PC DVD-ROM
Sometimes greatness isn't about radical new ideas or genuine innovation, but about making more interesting choices about where exactly you steal your concepts from. Most genre games are content to borrow from the same fairly shallow gene pool, which is why you get a lot of FPS games that play a bit like Call of Duty 2 meets Halo meets Half-Life 2 meets Doom, and why you get a lot of RTS games that still play like Command and Conquer or Total Annihilation. World in Conflict, however, is smarter than your average RTS. Everyone talks about its theme and setting - an alternative 1989 in which the Russians go to war with NATO in Europe before launching a ‘Red Dawn' attack on America itself - but arguably it's the gaming influences that prove more exciting. Yes, you can still see strains of C&C, Company of Heroes and developer Massive's own previous effort, Ground Control, spiralling around inside its DNA. However, look closely and you'll also see elements of a lot of military shooters, from Call of Duty 2 to Battlefield 2 and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter.
The result is still an RTS, but probably the most action-oriented RTS we've seen - with the possible exception of the back-to-basics Command and Conquer 3. This isn't a game of resource gathering and long-term fortification, but a game of control points, reinforcements and working with what you're given. You don't need to worry about facilities, tech-trees and harvesting, but you do need to worry about getting troops quickly from one place to another and using them as efficiently as possible. Most importantly, this is a game about following orders and winning objectives. You don't care about wiping out the enemy base or maintaining tactical dominance of the wider map. You have jobs to do, and you'd damn well better do them.
In effect, it plays a bit like a military FPS - and not just because you're reliant on the W, A, S and D keys to move around the map. You arrive on the scene with the battle already raging and no particular idea of what you'll be asked to do, and you're given orders by your CO that play a crucial part in his wider aims. You may have to take an enemy position, hold a friendly position against hostile forces or target a specific enemy threat, but the one thing you can guarantee is that your objectives will change radically as the mission progresses. You're not being asked to deal with the wider strategy - instead, you're being asked to adapt quickly to new circumstances as they might crop up. Other allied commanders are out there doing their own jobs, and while you might be asked on occasion to support them, you're not expected to take over. In fact, the game doesn't give you any time to do more than focus on your own limited role.