Act of War: Direct Action Review


More often than not, the purpose of the single player campaign in strategy games is to serve as a trainer for multiplayer play. When there is a story it is usually an afterthought, an excuse to somehow tie the disparate campaign missions together. This is not the case with Act of War, however. The game turns the typical RTS model upside down as the story is the star in the game. After all, you donít hire bestselling author Dale Brown to pen a few lines of dialog to help the game segue from one base-building mission to the next. No, sir or madam, you sure donít. Act of War features an extensive storyline that uses long, live action cutscenes to weave its tale of a global conspiracy that has artificially inflated oil prices to the point where people are taking to the streets in protest and the US government fears severe economic repercussions. This conspiracy protects its interests through the use of a terrorist army and you can bet that itís in their interest to keep oil prices as high as they can be. Your job is to lead an elite force of troops known as Task Force Talon, as well as elements of the US Army, in a global effort to break the conspiracy and eliminate its terrorist troops.

Screenshots
Street fighting takes place often in Act of War.

Youíll know right from the beginning that when it comes to telling its story Act of War is very video happy. During the installation the story is set-up by a Crossfire like news discussion show where oil executives argue the reasons behind the oil crisis that has pushed gasoline prices to over $7.00 a gallon. Once the game begins the heavy use of video continues and early on in the game youíll spend more time watching cutscenes than you will actually playing the game. As can be expected from a game, the acting quality varies from decent to poor and everyone hams it up, but overall itís watchable. What is impressive about the video is that a lot more work went into it than in your typical computer game. There are actually outdoor settings and scenes that involve numerous extras, which are both things you donít normally see in game cutscenes shot on video.

Unlike just about every other game out there, you do not need to play your way through the game to see all of these videos. The game opens up the entire single player campaign from the beginning, allowing you to watch any video (and play the corresponding level) at any time. Conceivably you could just sit back and work your way through the video without ever playing the levels, but Iíd be surprised if anyone would want to do this as this would essentially turn the game into a $50 DVD movie. The real reason this was done was probably to let you continue with the game if you got stuck on a particular level, but most gamers wonít have much trouble cruising through the game at the default difficulty level.

With all of this emphasis on the storyline and the video used to convey it, it can be easy to forget that there is indeed a game here. Act of War plays pretty true to the genre, with its primary departure from the mainstream taking the form of a simplified resource system. Act of War dispenses with the need for gatherers to mine resource sites, instead opting for a financially-based resource system that runs on dollars. Dollars are gained through success in battle, and you can increase your revenue stream by capturing key sites such as banks and oil wells. You can also generate income by capturing enemy troops, which is an interesting play mechanic in the game.

When a unit takes fire its health will decrease. No surprises there. However, once the health drops below a certain point the unit will become incapacitated and vulnerable. If the enemy can get a medical unit to the injured unit, he can patch him back up to fighting strength. If you get there first, though, youíll have the option of capturing the unit and sending it back to your base. Once you have the enemy unit safely secured it will begin generating income for your side. This opens up an interesting dynamic to the game in which your own troops can hurt you by generating wealth for the enemy, but in practice itís not fully exploited and is not a major focus of play. Capturing enemy troops is more of a bonus method of getting a little extra income rather than a viable strategy for victory.