by Aaron "Spectre" Watson
Article Type: Review
Article Date: November 07, 2001
Product Name: Real War
Category: Real-Time Strategy
Developer: Rival Interactive
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: September 2001
Rec'd. Spec: Pentium II 450, 32MB RAM, 3D video acceleration
Files and Links: Click Here
As I write this, two weeks to the day after the horrific events unfolded in New York, D.C., and western Pennsylvania, a real time strategy simulation of US Forces battling organized world terrorism has hit the stands. If you had asked me when I did the demo or beta preview if this setting was a bit far-fetched, I would have probably said yes. Things have a way of changing quickly these days. And things have changed for the better in the release version of Real War. The folks at Rival Interactive are really standing behind an already very good simulation by releasing a patch to address gameplay issues discussed on their forums, just 1 week after release. If you read those forums you'll get the sense the Rival has pride in this title, and from what I've seen, they have a right to be.
InstallationThe title installs smoothly via autostart or conventional setup. Upon starting you get the standard animated logos of the publisher, producer and artists, then the fun begins. One of the best full-motion, fully-rendered videos I've seen gives the player the background story for the simulation. It's so well done it looks to be stock footage from CNN or some other mega network. Take a look at a couple of grabs and see what I mean.
|Tomahawk Inbound |
Instant ActionI decided to look around in a skirmish game or two to familiarize myself with the units and their potential. The really brilliant thing about this game is that it's really all there. In starting off from a headquarters you can start with the command centers for air, land or sea forces. Of course there are a few requisite items, like the supply depots and generators to keep it all powered. There is no resource gathering, you just have to keep your supply lines open, much like you would have to do in a real war. When you decide to utilize ground forces you create a land command, barracks, a vehicle yard, engineers and special forces.
|US Army area |
The air side has its command, airfield and a stunning array of aircraft for air-to-air, close air support, bombers, a carpet bomber and even stealth aircraft.
|US Airfield |
The sea operations have the command docks, and an impressive selection of naval warfare units such as destroyers, cruisers, aircraft carriers and even submarines. The navy also has the ability to launch cruise missiles from different platforms. The only radar-jamming jet available is carrier based, but can be stationed on land with the move base option.
|US Naval Station |
All in all, there is an extensive array of current military hardware with which to neutralize the terrorist threats. The ILA opponents have a similar, though decidedly Russian, assortment of hardware (but I don't foresee myself utilizing any of it for personal reasons, thank you very much).
After firing up a few skirmish games, I leafed through the well organized manual and helpful foldout keycard. The handy card provides most of the important key combinations, shows the basic build tree, and has some gameplay hints and tips. Alrighty then, I am ready to fire up the campaign.
CampaignThe 1st mission has the US forces on a much needed shore leave in a tropical area. Suddenly the ILA appears and takes down the three ships in the bay and attacks all the onshore forces too. Not a major challenge, just a tantalizing precursor of things to come.
The next mission finds the US forces supporting civilians in a wintry area. There's a school you must defend as it is where the humanitarian aid is centered. The ILA tries to take over the small supply depots in the complex, though the briefing doesn't tell you this. The forces arrayed against yours are fairly relentless, and the school itself will detonate if any units are destroyed near it. At some point, the ILA quits pumping out units and the clearing of their base will win the scenario.
The third mission in the campaign gives a naval only build list and a limited time in which to destroy a chemical weapons factory. When done by the suggested cruise missile assault, or carrier based strike aircraft, the stage will have been set. When your missiles hit the target, the whole area around the factory detonates and the SCUD missile launcher out front goes up with it. Unfortunately, the SCUD is nuclear tipped, and an international incident ensues. The storyline unfolds whereby there is a galvanization of support for the ILA by the world community who sees the ILA as the victim in all this. Funds flow to them and they are gaining momentum.
The fourth mission the US Forces attempt to remove a uranium mine (from which the nuke was derived) from the ILA's possession. After building the required depots and generators, land forces are dispatched for security purposes. Then, the ILA hordes approach. I actually lived through the first wave, but the second was triple the size and defeat followed quickly. Upon checking the debrief, it seemed that the enemy was pumping out units at the incredible rate of 10 to 1. Major uphill battle to say the least. I went and checked the forum at the official Real War website and noticed similar cries of foul. But wait, the patch is supposed to address that. From the read-me on the patch page...
|The initial patch that is currently available addresses these issues: 1. Game Loop AI Timer Fix. -- This fix will help with such missions as USA 4 on high-speed computers that were heretofore nearly impossible to beat…|
Great, I thought, now I can get past this and move on in this pass/fail campaign. No such luck. Different tactics did not assist, and the same ratios seemed to be enveloping my forces. There are, supposedly, ways around this and ways to beat the level and move on. But I hear that levels 6 & 8 are the same type of tank rushing frustration. If the game used the same AI in campaign as in skirmishes, there would be little problem. Here is a debrief screen of one skirmish, there is a big difference in the outcomes.
|Huge kill ratio |
I also noticed strange graphics anomalies, but further investigation in the boards showed that checking the 3D Acceleration option caused it. Sure enough, removing the tick did not slow the game down, and the graphics glitches were gone. I could even ALT Tab back to my screen shots program without losing the video on the game. With or without acceleration the system bogs down pretty badly when there are a lot of things going on. There are also times that system doesn't pick up polling of the keyboard when trying to pull that formation out of harm's way.
Needs a Few More TweaksSo, to tie it all up, I really wanted this to be a great RTS, and with continued support, it still may be. It has super potential, but there are some pretty hairy bugs with the campaign scripting, the 3D acceleration, the AI, and some other usability features. The game was definitely not rushed out the door to capitalize on current events. It was actually held back a couple of times, presumably for some real show stopper type problems.
I would like to revisit this title in the future, as I believe that the developers are looking into getting it right. They did, after all, release the first patch in record time. They have also stated a desire to put out new skirmish maps. The ones included are very nice and well crafted for chokepoints and playability. It's just a shame that it was not held just a little longer to catch these last niggling problems, but that is not unheard of these days.
Real War Resources
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