Civil War: Secret Missions Review
I'm just enough of a history buff that a game with a title like The History Channel Presents: Civil War: Secret Missions gets me excited. Here's a game with the potential to bring to light some of the lesser known episodes of the War Between the States and The History Channel's support indicates both the potential to learn more about the Civil War and that special attention would be paid to historical accuracy. Was I ever disappointed to find that not only did none of these expectations prove to be warranted, but that the game itself isn't that good or fun to play.
The history portion of the game is limited to the mission introductions which give you a very brief overview of the historical context of the mission. Unless you're already very familiar with Civil War history, you'll have a hard time placing the battle into its historical place in the war and its affect on the eventual outcome. Making matters worse, there are no debriefings after the missions, so you're not given any idea as to how your actions impacted the battle or compared to the historical outcome. There's no connecting historical narrative between the missions either, leaving the missions as more of a disjoint collection of small scale shooting matches than an ongoing campaign in a great war. The History Channel has a lot of experience in producing detailed and fascinating historical documentaries, so there's no reason why the history in the game should be so light and so blandly presented.
The general lack of effort put into the game extends to the gameplay as well. First of all, for a History Channel production the game is packed with a surprising number of historical inaccuracies. The weapons are far too accurate and their range ridiculously long for Civil War era arms. Furthermore, the game inexplicably makes firing from the hip more accurate than aimed shots. When you hold a weapon at your hip you're given an aiming reticule that turns red when placed over an enemy, even when you can't even see the enemy soldier. When your reticule turns red, taking out the enemy is a simple matter of firing until you see the reticule turn white again. On the other hand, when you try and take an aimed shot, you lose your aiming reticule. Hitting an enemy with an aimed shot becomes further complicated by the fact that you need to be able to visually see your enemy and that it takes constant adjustment of your aim to stay on target. As you can probably guess, there's no reason to take aimed shots in the game. You instead simply need to sweep your weapon until the reticule turns red, fire a few shots until it turns white, and then sweep it around to find the next enemy.
And then there are the grenades. I don't remember ever reading anywhere that modern style hand grenades were available in the Civil War, but you begin each mission carrying ten of them. They work in exactly the same way as grenades do in any World War II or modern shooter – just toss one at the enemy and watch the explosion send them flying. Strangely enough, you seem to be the only on in the war with access to grenades. I don't remember ever seeing another soldier, friendly or enemy, use a grenade in the game.
The game also periodically gives you the opportunity to man a fixed weapon, but they're just plain ludicrous. Gatling guns never jam, overheat, or run out of ammunition, so you can just sit there with the trigger held down spraying everything with bullets until the game decides to stop spawning enemies. Even more ridiculous are the cannons, which in this game can be manned by a single gunner without the need to worry about such annoyances as loading the powder and cannon ball between each shot.