The major development out of Sierra Gamer's Week regarding World in Conflict is that this highly anticipated World War III strategy game is finally complete and in the process of duplication in preparation for its September 18 release date. That, and Sierra finally made official what we already knew: Academy Award-nominated actor Alec Baldwin is indeed the narrator of the game, which is about a Soviet invasion of America during a fictional third world war that erupts in the fall of 1989. We also learned that the game's soundtrack will include the hair metal band Whitesnake, in addition to Tears for Fears.
With the game complete, Sierra and Massive Entertainment let us play the opening levels of the single-player campaign, which begins with the Soviet invasion of Seattle. The invasion force, which was hidden in a fleet of civilian container ships, lands in the middle of downtown Seattle where heavily outnumbered National Guardsmen must attempt to delay action in a fight to buy time for civilians to retreat. During this mission, you must command a small force of Bradley-armored personnel carriers as you attempt to scout the waterfront and then proceed to rescue pockets of surrounded guardsmen. Then it's off to secure the parking lot of the Kingdom to open up a landing zone for helicopters and battle your way out of the city. The downtown Seattle in the game is relatively faithful to the real thing.
The second mission is set in the suburbs east of Seattle where you must hold the Soviet invasion at one of the floating bridges that cross Lake Washington. This mission involves a lot of fortifying as you dig in, but you must also race across the suburbs to rescue a general's family, as well as use air strikes and artillery to take out high-value facilities, such as gas stations or electrical plants the Soviets use. Additionally, you'll use a repair vehicle to get some disabled antiaircraft vehicles up and running. The end of the mission sees the bridge destroyed by air strike to slow the Soviet onslaught.
We finished with a glimpse of the third mission, which was set in fictional Pine Valley, Washington, on the Pacific Coast. Soviet airborne forces have seized the town, which you must liberate and then fortify against oncoming armored forces. This is a mission that we've seen on earlier occasions, and the map used for this mission is essentially identical to the one played in the recent multiplayer beta tests. Indeed, quite a number of the maps that we've seen in the single-player campaign serve double duty as multiplayer maps as well.
The one thing that we noted about all the missions is just how quickly they throw you into the action. There isn't a long lull as in many real-time strategy games because you don't have to worry about sending out workers to slowly gather resources that you'll use to build a base and then an army. Instead, you instantly start with a handful of units and are thrown into the fray. As soon as you accomplish one objective, another one opens up, and the action propels you forward. Because the story focuses on three main characters, there's a lot of character development and dialogue throughout, as well as between, missions. We've only seen about half of the single-player campaign at this point, and many of the key story moments have been purposely kept to the missions that we haven't seen, but we're curious to see where all this is going. The storytelling seems to be of a much more intelligent nature than in most games, where characters are merely caricatures. Instead, in World in Conflict, one particularly oafish character might generate sympathy from you because his story isn't merely black and white, but one that's full of moral shades of gray.
The game ships in a few weeks, so we won't have to wait long for answers. World in Conflict remains one of the most exciting, cinematic, and refreshingly original real-time strategy games that we've seen in a long time. We're looking forward to its release.