8.5

Let's get something straight - this is the best game created so far in the Silent Storm Universe!

Silent Storm came quietly in 2004 and stormed the gaming world like a hurricane. Well, of course it did. It was the first turn-based tactical game after Jagged Alliance 2 that was actually worth something. Despite it's many weaknesses, it had a superb physics engine capable of delivering hours and hours of cool-looking combat. I cried tears of joy when I first threw a grenade through a glass window and watched it explode with thousands of shrapnels, sending men and pieces of broken glass and shattered wood through the air in the most spectacular John Woo - style blastoff you've ever seen. Or when I shot an enemy through the wooden floor of the house without even seeing him. My character simply heard a footsteps above him and shot a burst of fire from his MP-40, ripping the wooden boards apart and leaving his enemy in a pool of blood. Yes, it was THAT good.

But Silent Storm also had an extremely stupid story, horrible voice acting, idiotic missions system and an annoying system of hints you had to collect to finish a mission. It was also insanely difficult and you could've grown a beard while waiting for your enemies and brain-dead allies to finish their turns. All in all, I never finished Silent Storm. I never liked it much either, despite some cool features it provided. But I sure as heck finished Hammer and Sickle.

In this third installment of Silent Storm universe you play as a Russian commando, a veteran of the Great Patriotic War sent to the other side of an Iron Curtain to investigate certain suspicious activities. You start alone, with some cash and guns, and it's up to you to figure out how to get more allies and resources. You explore new areas as the story progresses, and this time you finally know what you're doing and why. Unlike Silent Storm. Voice acting is still horrible, but now the characters finally have some personality. You'll even grow fond of them until the end. The whole world now reacts to you and your actions, and there are a lot of ways you can achieve your objectives. You walk around towns, talk to people, earn money, even disguise yourself so the American patrols wouldn't recognize you as a Russian who's up to no good in Western Germany. You can't simply waltz into town all guns blazing, because the police will bust you if they see you're armed. At some point of the game, you'll have to forge your papers to get past a checkpoint. But maybe you don't have the money to pay for that. Now what? How about getting some British uniforms? Or avoiding the guards? Or simply start shooting? A lot of ways to catch a rabbit, my friends...

And that's why I love this game. It took the best from the original Silent Storm game and implemented it all into a new, living and breathing world with a decent story. It's not perfect, mind you. You still have to wait until you go crazy for your enemies to finish their turns, and some technical glitches make this game less enjoyable. Combat is still extremely difficult, but this time at least you can customize the game's difficulty any way you prefer. There still are some annoying chapters, mostly because you're always facing an insane number of enemies. I mean, COME ON! I know the bad guys are bad, but I find it hard to believe that a super-secret evil organization can simply send three dozens of trench coat-wearing, Nazi-looking commandos armed to the teeth on a manhunt at any possible location of Allied-controlled towns and villages without ever raising suspicion. Sure, you have to think hard and plan your strategy in order to prevail against such odds. But most of the successful hits you can accomplish by pure luck, rather than careful calculation. Many times a perfect tactic may not be enough if an enemy gets a lucky shot. Or your character misses for no particular reason, despite the fact that he had a nearly perfect shot. But then again, such was the original Silent Storm as well. Jagged Alliance 2 was a lot better at that, calculating every aspect of a gunshot. If you saved your game before your turn and performed an action that wasn't successful, you could load your game again a thousands of times, you'd always get the same result. The game simply calculates all of the parameters, and until you change your tactics the result would always be the same. But not in Hammer and Sickle. Here, you can simply save your game and try the same thing over and over again until you get the right result. Tactical brilliance? Nuts! Pure luck.

As for the graphics and sound, it's exactly the same as the original Silent Storm. No point describing it. Just read the Silent Storm review. All in all, this is an extremely underrated game. Victim of prejudice and bad reviews. Sure, the first impression is kind of bad, but after an hour or so, when you learn the basics, this game will suck you in so hard you won't leave it easily.

This is, all in all, the best game in Silent Storm universe. It's really easy to recommend, despite some shortcomings that have plagued this series since day one. Besides, this is the only turn-based tactical game since Jagged Alliance 2 that's truly worth the time and money. Play it and love it!

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