Been There Done that? No. World In Conflict Revives the magic and fundamentals that exist in war games.
Graphically, this game is simply stunning, one of the best looking games seen to date. The detail on the units and terrain is incredible; the smoke and explosion effects are some of the best I have ever seen. All ground and terrain is fully deformable, buildings as well, adding an element to gameplay that is too often missing. Little details are everywhere, zooming into look at an individual infantry squad sees them decked out with the weapons they are supposed to be armed with or hear them chatting with each other about trying to bum smokes. While tanks and armored vehicles leave deep treads on the ground that can be used to locate them, and infantry deploying from a transport helicopter can be seen kicking out zip lines and repelling down into the battle. All of it can be astounding to see. Sounds also are incredibly well done, and the soundtrack deserves special attention, there are a few tracks that those of us that recall the 80's will be delighted to hear, including 'Everybody wants to rule the World' by Tears for Fears, and a few other surprises.
Gameplay is where this game truly escapes the banality of most of the RTS games out now. There is no base building, no one needs to chop down trees, and there is no resource management. The game's focus is squarely on combat and it shines. During the campaign, you truly feel like you are a part of a massive battle, controlling your small number of units in concert with the AI, much like the Call of Duty games single player.
In addition to the various tanks, helicopters, personnel carriers, infantry, artillery and anti-air the player can call upon; support is also available in the form of tactical aids. Destroying enemy units and capturing objectives rewards the player with tactical aid points that can be utilized for off-map support. These range from simple radar scans to reveal enemy units, to napalm strikes that can burn down a forest hiding infantry, to a fighter sweep to shoot down exposed helicopters, right up to carpet bombing by heavy bombers, and the feared tactical nuke, the best looking nuke in a game yet.
The campaign is brilliant, if a little brief, but multiplayer is where this game shines. In normal multiplayer matches, players assume a specialty role, be it armor, infantry, air, or support. Careful cooperation with your teammates is the key to victory, and native VOIP and a brilliant communication system make that teamwork possible. You can even pass tactical aid points to other players on your team, saving up for that nuke or bombing run which might be the key to victory. The game has a very low learning curve, but is difficult to master, a great combination. In many ways, the multiplayer is reminiscent of an RTS version of Battlefield II, choosing a role, capturing points, and trying to work with your team to defeat the enemy. You can even join games in progress, a first for RTS to my knowledge. Lastly, native clan support, an incredible stats/awards system and a great multiplayer interface with Massgate round out the great set of multiplayer features.
For all the great features of this game, there are a few nitpicks to bring up. Most important, is the lack of a campaign where you play as the Soviets. This is a major letdown that will hopefully be addressed in a likely expansion. Second, a little more unit variety between the three sides really would have been nice. While balance is always paramount, especially in a game built from the ground-up for competitive multiplayer, the sides are a little too similar in capability, and differ generally only in appearance. Lastly, while during development Massive tried to suggest several times they weren't "picking sides" in this tale of World War III, there can be no doubt that the US ended up the 'good guys', which is a little disappointing as it is such a cliché.
All in all though, this is one of the best games to come out in recent memory. It is a frantic and amazing looking 'RTS' in a great setting. With a deceptively deep gameplay that shines especially in multiplayer, action fans and RTS vets alike should find plenty to like here.