Team-based shooters with vehicles are among the most popular games on the PC. Each day, thousands of players log on to the Internet to play games like Battlefield 1942 and Operation Flashpoint. Encore and developer Wings Simulations hope to break into this market with their upcoming PC game, Soldner: Secret Wars. We recently had the opportunity to take an up-close look at the game.
The first thing we noticed about Soldner is its grand sense of scale--specifically, the game features maps that encompass over 24 square miles of terrain (modeled after real satellite data of Eastern Europe). With so much area to run around in, the game will support 32 players on standard servers, but a much more high-end server running on the Linux operating system will be able to handle up to 128 players. The game's modes will range from standard team deathmatch and capture the flag to hostage rescue, assassination, bombing run, and king of the hill. Soldner will also feature a day/night cycle and weather effects like rain and snow. In the dark of night or in extreme weather, you can make use of low-light night-vision goggles or infrared goggles that show warm bodies and warm vehicle engines.
Soldner will also have plenty of different weapons and vehicles. The game currently includes more than 70 modern-era weapons, ranging from the Heckler & Koch Mark 23 handgun to the infamous Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle, on up to heavy weapons like the LAW 80 antitank rocket launcher. Standard assault rifles like the M4 carbine and AK-47 are also on Soldner's extensive list of weapons, as are experimental guns such as the US Army's high-tech OICW. Soldner's vehicle list is just as impressive, including Humvees, armored personnel carriers, and tanks like the M1-Abrams and Russian T-80. You'll also be able to fly aircraft, including HIND helicopter gunships, UH-60 transport helicopters, and fixed-wing planes like the F/A-18 Hornet and F-16 Falcon.
Aside from huge lists of weapons and vehicles, Soldner has other interesting features, like destructible terrain and buildings. Bombs or tank shots can create craters in the ground, and any structure you see on the map can be destroyed if you hit it with enough firepower, be it a shot from a rocket launcher, a blast from a tank cannon, or ordnance fired from a fighter or gunship. It's worth noting, however, that this level of interaction isn't done with a true physics engine; buildings seem to have specific states of destruction, so hitting a house in the corner with a rocket won't necessarily blow a hole in that corner of the house. Aside from structures, trees can also be knocked down, as can concentrations of brush. The game also takes material properties and weapon power into account when calculating collisions. An assault rifle won't penetrate the armor of a main battle tank, but it will easily penetrate the side of a regular jeep or the walls of a wooden house.
Several other features are designed to reduce the dreaded act of camping--hiding in one place and taking potshots at your opponents. With so much area in the game for players to hide in, the developers felt a specific need to minimize the impact of snipers. Aside from having destructible buildings, the game attempts to model the effect of cover fire on snipers. If you attempt to aim through your scope as bullets whiz over your head and around you, you'll see the crosshair shake violently, and you won't be able to control your aim very well. This fear effect basically forces snipers to move positions once they're discovered and find a new hiding place. Furthermore, there will be no one-shot kills in Soldner; not even a sniper shot to the head will take all the health from an enemy. Though this will make the game less realistic, there are other aspects of Soldner that imply that the game was never meant to be very realistic (such as the ability of a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter to airlift a main battle tank).
The game will feature a number of different character classes you can play as, including scouts, medics, soldiers, snipers, and engineers. Each team will also elect a commander, who has the ability to see an overhead view of the entire map and direct team members to different areas and designate targets. The classes will vary slightly in ability; for instance, the medic can drop health packs for teammates, soldiers are more accurate with weapons, and the engineer can set traps with explosives.
Soldner will likely appeal to fans of modern wargames and shooters, thanks to its huge variety of weapons and vehicles. The destructible buildings and covering fire should also keep multiplayer matches from degenerating into sniper contests. Although team-based shooters with vehicles are not exactly in short supply, Encore is confident that Soldner can win over a sizable following when the game ships next February.