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Thursday, February 03, 2005

Now isn't a good time to die, boss

I finally took a break and played on the Republic Commando demo a bit. I was probably anticipating this demo a bit more than the usual joe because Commando sounded remarkably similar to my original design goals for Unreal Defense Squad. That goal was to allow a player to think about a squad-based strategy in quick order ... in other words, allow the "squad commander" to react to the environment smoothly enough to get their squad into position.

It really seemed like Commando would be that game, which made it easier to abandon that design for the current turn based one. Now before I speak too harshly about the demo, let me say that the production values of this game are simply through the roof. Everything oozes of quality, from the models to the textures to the voice acting. The dialogue doesn't skip a bit, the HUD is easy to learn and the weapons feel really solid.

Unfortunately, that's doesn't alter how different it is from how I perceived it from the ads/previews. I really do try and ignore hype, but I can't help to think I was kinda told something different than this game offers - but I might have just romanticized it in my head. Basically the game boils down to moving your mouse around trying to find hot points to command your soldiers. That pile of barrels might be a good sniping point, or it might not be, but you won't know until an icon tells you.

If it is a good sniping point, rest assured you should use it as such. See, your magic helmet knows what is going to happen in a situation before you do, and only suggests actions which will directly aid you. There isn't so much of a choice of strategy here as simply figuring out which one the developers laid out for you to solve. Many times this seems like it will require figuring out which spot on the wall they meant you to place a charge. All the while limitless enemies spawn to rattle you.

Weirder still is that your squad seems to have limitless amounts of bacta to revive a player, but not to heal when they're simply limping around. This means once you're down, you're probably going to do down again. You can't even be proactive about bandaging.

This might sound damning, but it's really not. I think Commando will be a good game in the long run. I'm glad to see a developer change up the basic ratmaze shooter design with some clever interactivity. I think if the player is willing to play along, the game would be very enjoyable.

It's just hard for me to play along when I'm pointing at the rubble the mercs are using as cover and thinking ... if you'd just place a charge there, we'd have a way out AND a lot of dead mercs.

But I guess your way works too.

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