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Review by: Jonathan Houghton
Published: February 3, 2001
Throughout the history of PC games, there have been two primary types of advancements that take place within a genre or series of titles. The first is best described as evolution, where one system is completely scrapped to make way for another. Usually, the only thing that remains constant is the basic concept, with graphics, interface and other elements undergoing dramatic improvement. The other advancement comes in the form of expansions, where, for the most part, the visual and audio technologies remain the same, but the gameplay is expanded with a new storyline, more characters and other minor updates. Sirtech, a long-time developer of entertainment products for the PC, has just released the latest addition to its Jagged Alliance series of turn-based strategy titles. Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business falls somewhere in the area of expansions where content is concerned.
While it shows many of the traditional signs of being an add on, Unfinished Business is being sold as something between a stand-alone product and an expansion. The engine remains almost identical, with only some mild streamlining in terms of the gameplay. One area where Unfinished Business shows itself to be more than a mere expansion is in the number of total play hours. Most official expansions only amount to a fraction of the original in terms of longevity. Unfinished Business easily contains over 25 hours of action. Perhaps the most glaring evidence of Unfinished Business‘ true nature, however, is its storyline.
Unfinished Business takes you back to the tiny, fictitious nation of Arulco, which you invaded in the original Jagged Alliance 2 to remove a tyrannical dictator. The soil you reclaimed, however, is once again in danger, as some of the shadowy businessmen behind the powers you deposed have come back, looking to exploit Arulco’s mines and other natural resources. Being the typical greedy megacorp types, they have decided that a large-scale land invasion is a waste of time and manpower. To this end, they have set up a series of long-range missile launchers in the neighboring country of Tracona. From this isolated land, the ruthless businessmen and their army of mercenaries continuously rain explosives down on Arulco’s peaceful inhabitants. Unable to officially deal with this threat, the president of Arulco has asked for the aid of the mercenary team that helped oust the evil dictator. You will assume the identity of the squad leader and guide a rugged band of soldiers-for-hire deep into the heart of Tracona to destroy the missile system and end this new threat. To stand any chance of succeeding, you will need to recruit some of the toughest grunts around.
Creating your mercenary team in Unfinished Business can be a daunting task. You begin the game with a limited amount of cash from which to hire a team of at least six mercenaries. Just as on a real battlefield, you will need to choose different soldiers suited to various tasks in order to create a balanced and effective team. There are three recruiting agencies from which to choose, including one that is designed to give you a custom character with which to identify. The first and most familiar agency is A.I.M. Within their ranks, you will find many familiar names from the other Jagged Alliance titles. For more budget conscious commanders, M.E.R.C may be the way to go, though you should keep in mind that you will normally get exactly what you pay for. The last way to recruit mercs is through a service called International Mercenary Profiling, or IMP. Using this system allows you to create a customized mercenary based on a short personality quiz. You will be allowed to select a mug shot that best suits your fancy (there are eight from which to choose per gender) and a customized voice set.
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