Silent Storm Review
Silent Storm is so over-the-top that the rough edges seem acceptable in the context of everything else, and overall, surely this is a game whose strengths outweigh its weaknesses.
Just when you thought World War II was pretty played-out as a setting for computer games, along comes Silent Storm, which has enough great qualities that it'll make you happily indulge in yet another game that pits the Axis and Allies against each other. Occasionally in top-secret walking tanks. It's primarily a turn-based strategy game of small-squad tactics, and it plays out like an homage to the cult classic Jagged Alliance 2. Silent Storm features a surprisingly impressive presentation, complete with realistic physics and some of the most destructible environments ever seen in a game, which lead to some very exciting unscripted moments. The game offers a lot of interesting tactical depth, to boot. Silent Storm is unfortunately a little too open-ended for its own good, as the dynamic campaign structure is a little weak, and the game suffers from some noticeable balance issues. However, the core gameplay is so cool that you'll probably be willing to forgive Silent Storm's shortcomings.
Unfortunately, there's no multiplayer mode, but Silent Storm does feature two big campaigns--one for the Allies and one for the Axis--that may be played in any order and at any of three levels of difficulty. The fact that one of the difficulty settings is called "easy" is a bit misleading because even at this setting, Silent Storm will provide a hearty challenge even for an experienced squad-tactics gamer. In any case, the campaigns' stories aren't well told and primarily unravel through the discovery of awkwardly written textual "clues." Regardless of which campaign you choose, you'll get to select or create a main character, who can belong to one of several nationalities and six different classes, like soldier, sniper, grenadier, and scout. After an introductory mission, you'll get to select five additional squad members with whom you'll conduct a top secret campaign throughout Europe and Asia.
Like Jagged Alliance 2 and games such as X-COM: UFO Defense, Silent Storm features role-playing elements in addition to turn-based, tactical combat, which means your characters will gain experience as they fight, find better weapons, learn new special abilities, and become more resilient to damage. At any rate, while it's theoretically possible to replace killed team members with fresh recruits back at base (it's game over if ever the main character dies, though), this is the sort of game that will have you saving and reloading your progress frequently. Not that there's anything wrong with that. For what it's worth, the game is quite forgiving about character death on the easy and normal settings--characters who lose all their vitality points merely fall unconscious, and will recover if extracted from the mission area.
The nuts and bolts of the gameplay are very interesting and represent the best part of the game, along with the presentation. As in many turn-based games, your characters' actions here are governed by abstract "action points." Things like running, aiming, firing, and crouching all require different quantities of action points, and for the most part, this is an intuitive system. For instance, it generally takes more action points for a sniper to draw a bead on an enemy than it does for a soldier to squeeze off a pistol shot. Actually, Silent Storm features a number of different firing modes, so in any given situation, you'll often need to weigh the relative advantages and disadvantages of being able to take a number of relatively inaccurate "snap shots" versus using all of your remaining action points for a single "careful shot." Furthermore, you can even attempt to cripple an opponent by specifically aiming at his head, arms, or legs.
Characters also have a great range of motion. They can run, walk, crawl, move while prone, and they can also lock which way they're facing and can then move backward or side to side without looking away. They can also hop over fences, they can leap out of first-story windows, and more. In short, they can pretty much do everything you'd want them to be able to do, and excellent animations make all these different actions look convincing. You'll need to be careful, though, because your character's movement may be interrupted if he or she stumbles upon an enemy. Your characters can interrupt enemy phases, too, so it's often strategic to conserve action points.
The game seamlessly switches between real-time and turn-based modes depending on whether or not your characters are engaged in battle. All combat is turn-based, and the real-time mode is conveniently there for when no opposition is present. The game's pacing would be excellent were it not for significantly long AI phases both for enemies and any computer-controlled allied characters in the area. Turn-based games, by their nature, are best suited for patient players, but Silent Storm definitely would have had a better feel to it if its turns didn't take so long to resolve. It can be pretty frustrating when your main character gets smoked right at the end of an enemy phase, thus forcing you to reload, retry that part again, and hope the enemy misses the next time around. Partly because of the length of the AI turns, and also because many of the maps are quite big and feature multistory buildings that must be carefully explored, individual missions in Silent Storm can easily last a couple of hours.