War is hell. War is evidence of mankind's savage nature. War is also an excellent moneymaking opportunity. In New World Computing's Wages of War, you head an organization of mercenaries. Your task is to complete military missions for different sponsors while making as much money as possible. Kick ass, take names, and collect your paychecks! Wages of War is outstanding - when it doesn't crash.
The premise of the game is not unique, but its execution is impressive. You must hire mercenaries, lease weapons (you cannot own them!), and pay for information and travel. The office setting where you run MERCS, Inc. uses common items as icons for different activities. The rolodex is filled with mercenary profiles, the weapons catalog shows what's available for your men, and the fax machine provides contract and travel information. You can choose any of 16 individual missions involving theft, hostage rescue, and lots of shooting. A campaign option strings the missions together. While more missions would be nice, their time-consuming nature compensates for this shortcoming.
Once you have hired, equipped, and trained your people, it's off to the target area. The mission graphics are well presented - a third-person angled perspective reveals great detail. The men run, crouch, crawl, and shoot realistically in a turn-based system. Sound effects include shattering glass, gunfire, and the occasional "I'VE BEEN SHOT!". Even more impressive is Wages of War's AI engine which is smart enough to cause you a great deal of grief as you play. One guard with an Uzi can devastate your entire squad. Smart military tactics do pay off in this game - it's important to learn them quickly.
Once you have completed or failed your mission, it's back to the office. You receive a profit and loss statement reflecting your performance. A brilliant clone of Don Adams (from Get Smart) analyzes your financial situation and makes recommendations. Since you only lease weapons, stocking up like Rambo is a waste of money. Experienced mercenaries cost more to hire, so be careful when putting together your teams. Overall, the financial element of the game makes careful planning a necessity.
One significant flaw mars this game - it crashes. It crashes hard, and it crashes often. It usually waits until you've spent a couple of hours achieving the mission goals. Suddenly, the screen goes black. This major flaw will sufficiently motivate you to save your work often. Wages of War has great gameplay, excellent graphics, and serious replay value. If New World Computing can make it more stable, it may be the perfect squad-level game.