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Graphics: The graphics are fantastically beautiful, reminding me of Rage’s Incoming. The smoke, sun glare, shadows, raindrops, fire, sand, and explosions are all magnificently done. A proprietary 3dream engine is used, and I am so impressed by it that I am really hoping DID chooses to use it in future games as well. I feel so much like I am actually involved in the armored combat that only the presence of gridlines to keep me from going outside the playing area remind me I am experiencing virtual reality. Oddly, there are no videos or cut-scenes anywhere in this game.
Interface: This game definitely has major control problems. There are 5 different methods of control using keyboard and joystick input (the mouse is not supported for gameplay), but all seem complex and awkward. For example, when driving a tank, I found all of the methods for raising and lowering the gun turret to be unwieldy during the heat of battle. You may not remap any of the keys or buttons in the game, although fortunately through my Microsoft Sidewinder Game Profiler I was able to override the default gamepad settings and get things the way I wanted them (I did find with this adjustment the gamepad to be a far superior input device to the keyboard). One installation bug in the game I discovered is that the setup would not work properly when I had my desktop in 32-bit mode; in that mode the configuration utility would not recognize my 3D Voodoo2 accelerator card properly (and then the game malfunctioned), but when I changed my desktop to 16-bit all worked fine.
Gameplay: What I like most about the gameplay is the authenticity of the battles. You can actually feel, see, and hear your vehicle shake when it is hit (the whole screen seems to vibrate from the shock), in part thanks to a quality implementation of force feedback support. The physics of movement and shooting are the best I have seen in any war game; just let your vehicle roam freely and watch how it reacts to changing terrain. You can destroy parts of your physical setting or use them as ground cover, so they do not serve merely as attractive window dressing. The diverse topography creates refreshing variation in the combat challenges. But while the gameplay is quite brisk, the loading time for each level seems inordinately slow even on a really fast machine. When playing using the 1st person viewpoint, it is sometimes unclear where to go next (I miss the clarity of Incoming‘s helpful arrow at the top of the screen). Generally, the symbols on the play screen are not as intuitive as they might be.
Sound FX: For once in an action game with gorgeous graphics, the sound effects are of the same quality. I have never heard more authentic replications of the rumble of tanks, the crackle of guns firing, the clank of projectiles hitting your vehicle, and the roar of a giant explosion when you destroy an opponent’s vehicle. Aureal 3D sound is fully supported, and this adds incomparably to the quality of the audio experience. If any game sounded like the background of real war footage, this one does.
Musical Score: The music is composed of the best set of classical scores I have heard in any game. I cannot tell you the shudders of awe that occurred to me when I first heard the great music, which is without doubt the best background score of any kind that I have listened to in at least a year. Another war game, Return Fire (and its sequel Return Fire 2), had previously held the crown for the best use of classical music in an action combat game, but now when I play these other games the music sounds like “chopsticks” compared to the sumptuous melodies of Wargasm. I would actually rush out and pay as much as the game costs to get an audio CD of the soundtrack.
Intelligence & Difficulty: The game is quite challenging and unfortunately has no difficulty settings. You must be incredibly focused on this game, with total concentration, no distractions, and a great deal of forbearance, to succeed in the missions. Those who simply possess arcade reflexes on the one hand, or great strategic minds on the other hand, will fail miserably. If one of the aims of Wargasm is to reach a broader audience, then surely it should offer more to those without nimble fingers or agile brains. The artificial intelligence of enemy units in the game is a whole lot better than that of allied units, whose behavior is often downright stupid.
Overall: As an arcade shooter, Wargasm is a little disappointing because it has only 6 Instant Action missions and has an annoying fixed time limit in place. As a real-time strategy game, Wargasm is a little disappointing because the top-down operational view of the battlefield via an overview map permits such poor management of your forces. As a simulation, Wargasm is a little disappointing because tactical details are glossed over and your precise control over your troops and vehicles is constantly being disrupted by assaults from all sides. Yet despite these limitations, I really do enjoy this game. Its superb graphics, music, and real-world physics overcome its drawbacks, and the game is as close as you can get to a real combat experience without being drafted.
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