Soldner: Secret Wars Final Hands-On Impressions

We get a final set of impressions while we're busy working on the review.

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Last week, Joint Operations: Typhoon Rising arrived on shelves to become the first competitor of EA's popular Battlefield series. This week, the newest competitor arrives--this time from foreign shores. Soldner: Secret Wars, developed by Germany's Wings Simulations, has just begun shipping to stores. We recently got our hands on the game to provide a final set of impressions prior to our upcoming review of the game.

Welcome to Soldner. Now run and find some cover or else someone is going to fill you full of hot lead.
Welcome to Soldner. Now run and find some cover or else someone is going to fill you full of hot lead.

Soldner is set in 2010. The nations of the world have largely given up on large-scale conflict and have turned to mercenary groups to wage their wars for them. You play as a member of one of these groups in gigantic battles featuring up to 32 players. (Wings has plans to expand server capacity later in the year to accommodate 64 and then 128 players.) Since the game is set in the near future, you have access to a wide variety of modern weapons and vehicles, including the M4 carbine, the G11 assault rifle, and the now-canceled Comanche scout helicopter.

Unlike Battlefield 1942 or Joint Operations, there are no classes in Soldner. Rather, there's just the universal soldier class, which can use any of the weapons and vehicles in the game, provided you can afford them. That's because Soldner uses a purchasing system similar to the one found in Counter-Strike. Essentially, your mercenary starts with a small amount of cash that can be used at any nearby weapons locker to purchase a basic assault rifle. However, you do start with a pistol for self-defense. As you kill enemies and secure objectives, you'll get more cash, which you can use on more-advanced weapons and vehicles. There's a considerable range of wheeled and tracked vehicles in the game, including armored personnel carriers, tanks, jeeps, tractors, civilian cars, buggies, and more.

The game features a number of different modes, though the most popular (early on) is the conquest mode, which is similar to Battlefield 1942's conquest mode and Joint Operations' "advance and secure" mode. There are a number of flags located on the map, and you have to secure them by eliminating any nearby opposition and staying close to the flag until it changes color. The team with the least amount of flags continually loses points, and the first team to run out of points completely loses the round. Then there's the "capture the vehicle" mode, which is a variant of capture the flag. In it, both teams start off with a vehicle at their respective bases. To score, you have to return the enemy's vehicle to your base while your vehicle is there at the same time.

Soldner features a fully destructible gameworld and physics, which means pretty much anything can be blown up if enough explosives are used. Trees fall over like dominoes, at times, and you'll quickly discover that sandbags aren't much help if the guy shooting at you is packing an RPG. The vehicle physics themselves are a bit more improved than in the beta versions that we played (in the beta, the tractor bounced around like it had no mass), but you'll want to be careful because it's still somewhat easy to swerve around while in motion. The helicopter controls require you to master the relationship between the collective and the cyclic; in other words, it's just like trying to fly a helicopter in real life--or in Battlefield Vietnam. It'll require a lot of practice before you get it down right.

Our initial impressions of combat are that it's fast-paced and brutal. A few rounds will kill you, and you often won't see exactly where they came from, though there is a handy directional fire indicator that at least lets you know you're getting shot at. You will definitely want to work with a teammate or a group, just as long as you have someone covering your back. When you move around, it seems best to both go from cover to cover and avoid running in the open. Speaking of which, sprinting (activated by the left Alt key by default) seems crucial. When approaching a village or objective, it seems best to go slowly and leapfrog with a teammate so that someone is always providing cover fire. And as soon as you jump into a game or spawn, it seems highly advisable to draw your pistol (the default is the "2" key) and then immediately run for cover. Odds are that some of the opposition will go for easy kills in your game by spawn camping, especially since it takes a couple of seconds to orient yourself whenever you spawn.

Your fellow players love to do nothing but strafe you all day with the helicopters in the game, so you better fight back.
Your fellow players love to do nothing but strafe you all day with the helicopters in the game, so you better fight back.

Publisher Encore Software has already issued a patch for Soldner that should be downloaded as soon as you finish installing the game. Before you get going, it might also be worthwhile to double-check that your computer is up to snuff. The game's minimum requirements are a 1.4GHz CPU and 256MB of RAM, and even then you'll need to tone down the detail settings quite a bit. In fact, even those who meet the recommended hardware requirements should probably tone down the detail settings, because Soldner will take everything you can throw at it. Encore also recommends that you use a broadband connection to play online. We're busy working on our review of the game right now, so you can look forward to our final world on Soldner soon.

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