ALFA: Antiterror E3 2004 Preshow Impressions

This turn-based tactical combat game is based on Russia's answer to America's elite Delta Force, the ALFA commandos.

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ALFA: Antiterror is a turn-based tactical combat game based on Russia's equivalent of America's elite Delta Force, the Alfa group. Founded as part of the old KGB in the 1970s, Alfa specializes in antiterrorist and crime-fighting operations.

Turn-based is an ideal gameplay mechanic for tactical combat games, as last year's Silent Storm and the classic 1994 hit X-Com have proven. In ALFA: Antiterror, you'll command a squad of up to 16 operatives in real-world missions based in Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Middle East, and other locations. You'll be tasked with a wide range of missions, such as locating and securing a downed Russian helicopter in a mountainous wooded region. The game's 17 missions will be broken into four historically based campaigns.

As commander, you'll have to select the commandos you'll bring along for each mission, weighing their specialties and abilities. And like in X-Com, team members will gain experience over time, so you can command a group of elite veterans if you can keep them alive.

Naturally, you'll also have access to a wide range of real-world weapons and equipment, the vast majority of which will be Russian in nature. This includes Kalashnikov rifles, Russian-style body armor, and rocket-propelled grenades. However, there will be weapons and equipment from other nations, given the international nature of the arms market and the proliferation of Western-style weapons around the globe.

ALFA's 3D graphic engine will provide large, realistic, and detailed environments. We saw one of the game's BTR personnel carriers up close, and it looked quite nice. The terrain is also littered with lots of rocks and grass, offering plenty of cover. (We also saw some gutted urban environments--a soldier's worst nightmare--as well as a sandy desert locale decorated with palm trees.) Of course, the game will incorporate tactical elements such as line of sight, so you can only see what your commandos can see. In addition, the game will actually take camouflage into account, and you can try to lower your visibility by blending into the background.

Though billed as turn-based, the game will incorporate some real-time elements. The game has two phases: the strategic phase where you can plan your actions and a real-time phase where you watch the results. You can play with the time controls to freeze the action, slow it down, and rewind it--much like you can in the instant replay feature found in many console football games.

And while based on the exploits of Russian commandos, developer MiST Land is going to make sure that the game appeals to Western audiences by including NATO special operations forces that you can play in mutliplayer. You'll have access to Britain's SAS, America's Delta Force, France's GIGN, and Germany's GSG-9, the most elite commando units belonging to those countries.

ALFA looks promising, especially if you're a fan of tactical combat games, and the game should offer plenty of realism. It certainly helps that the developers are even consulting with former Spetznatz and Alfa team members. Publisher Strategy First is aiming to get the game in stores by the end of the year.

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