Kuma\War takes a different approach to action gaming than other shooters. Rather than replay 60 year old or fictional battles, Kuma\War provides missions based on current real-world battles. It accomplishes this by using a subscription-based model where players pay a monthly fee for the right to download and play missions based on battles that took place a mere month or two ago. In the event that you don’t pay close attention to the news, the game provides a wealth of background information on the battle. The depth of information is akin to the historical battle information wargamers used to scour the backs of their encyclopedic game manuals for. You short attention span types won’t have to go through all of the background information to get some info on the missions; they all include a faux newscast that wraps the background into the nice type of package we’re used to seeing in this day and age.
|Fighting in the streets of Iraq's cities.|
The game definitely has a curiosity factor to it, although I wonder what will happen to the game if peace breaks out. It can also be unsettling to play the game in light of the very real casualties that occurred in the battles that the missions are based on. Watching an insurgent kill one of your American squadmates hits a little too close to home to warrant calling the game entertainment, so you’ll have to chalk this one up as an exercise in appreciation for what the troops are going through in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, for all the novelty of the game’s subscription model, the timeliness of its missions, and its thought-provoking nature, once you actually start playing the game it turns out to be a thoroughly mediocre shooter.
You have a squad of four soldiers and can control any of them at the press of a button. You can also issue basic orders to the remaining three such as follow and hold commands. However, you’ll quickly learn that if you’re to have any hope of completing the missions you’ll need to Rambo it by taking control of one soldier while ordering the other three to hold their position somewhere out of harm’s way. The first problem is that they can’t seem to hit anything. If you’re used to military squad-based shooters then you’re probably used to your team providing covering fire and registering their fair share of kills. In Kuma\War it is more of an issue of “if you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself”. If you let your squad tag along, all they will accomplish is to burn through their ammunition. Even if they could hit an elephant at one meter you still would be better off leaving them behind as they are saddled with some of the worst pathfinding AI you’ll find in a shooter.
Your squad will get constantly spread out all over the place if you try to move anywhere using the follow command. They’ll get stuck behind walls, stuck behind trees, stuck getting around corners, … you’ll spend an inordinate amount of time switching between your men just to get them to where they are supposed to be going. And that’s assuming they can stay alive long enough for you to take control of them because they refuse to drop to the ground or get behind cover when they start taking fire. Collecting wandering squadmates is not even the most frustrating aspect of the pathfinding issues – that award is reserved for trying to reverse direction in a hallway or getting out of a dead-end with your squad in tow. When you need to turn around and your squad is in follow mode you’re in for some real trouble as your fellow soldiers will not budge to let you pass. A follow order apparently means to surround and stick to the leader at all times. Making matters worse is the fact that they may as well be stone walls for all the hope you have of pushing them back or brushing past them. Your only option is to switch to the soldier in the back of the line and hope that they can all follow you back out. This won’t always be possible and you’ll be stuck switching soldiers, issuing a hold order, moving the soldier slightly, switching back, trying to squeeze through the gap you just opened, etc., etc. Just pray you’re not being shot at while doing your Three Stooges routine.