Red Storm Returns to Battle

Rainbow Six creator moves ahead with its 3D real-time tactical wargame Force 21.

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Red Storm Entertainment, recently legitimized as a game company by the surprising success of Rainbow Six, recently showed off a build of Force 21, a 3D real-time tactical wargame set in the near future. The game is still a few months away from its late-June ship date, but it looks stable and nearly feature complete.

In Force 21, you play as either the Chinese or US/Russia allied forces in a campaign that posits a future where China is the United States' newest adversary. The game plays no favorites, though, and you can play as either a Chinese or US commander. There are 15 missions per side, taking place in real-world locations across Asia, including China, Mongolia, Siberia, and Kazakhstan. As the Chinese, your goal is to take all the oil in the fields of Kazakhstan and defeat the US presence in Asia. If you lead the American forces, you must ultimately march on Beijing.

The game's scenarios are played out on a variety of terrain, from snow to plains to swamps, and are being created using actual satellite photos and imagery. Every scenario can be played from two perspectives: a strategy overview map and a tactical platoon map. The strategic map doesn't really invite full-fledged gameplay due to its simple graphics and plain interface, but from here you can direct all your troops and issue orders in real time. The platoon map is where the real action is, and it's a view that is very similar to Myth. All the game's terrain, objects, and vehicles are 3D polygons, and you command them as you would in any other real-time strategy game. You can toggle their formations and rules of engagement (hold fire, fire at will, and so on). The basic unit of control is the platoon consisting of up to five vehicles. You can't control individual units, nor can you group together multiple platoons and give group commands.

A unique platoon commander, each with his own special abilities and bio, will command each platoon. Before the start of each mission, you'll be taken to an equip screen that tells you what vehicles will be placed under your command. From here you'll select from a pool of 44 platoon commanders (22 per side) to assign to your platoons. Then, you'll go to an intelligence-briefing screen that shows the layout of the scenario map and any force dispositions in the area.

Red Storm is taking pains to make sure the game is as true to life as possible. All the vehicles are either actual, real-world weapons or vehicles currently under research and development. In addition, General Frederick M. Franks Jr., former US Army Corps commander during Operation Desert Storm, is serving as an advisor to the game's design team.

While the attention to detail and the accurate depiction of real-world military vehicles and scenarios look promising, the game's 3D engine still needs work. It looks decent, but currently doesn't compare to the visuals of Myth II or Dark Omen. GameSpot will be receiving a build of the game in a few weeks. We'll play it then and give you an update in the coming weeks on its graphical look and the depth of its gameplay.

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