To beat or not to beat, that is a question!
Past days were signalized by a great joy to all the Absolute Games staff on occasion of arrival of Fallout Tactics demo-version for the press, and for what I express my deepest acknowledgement to the Interplay's staff. We planned to make up a comprehensive review of this game, but we happened to be shocked to some extent by this beta-version...
When one comes - he is judged on his look, when he leaves - he is judged on his intellect (AI)?!
The game demonstrates a lot of things that have been known earlier only from the developers' words, but the antiquity of the version amazes - it is younger :) then the first demo-version of Fallout Tactics. Thus it is hard to give an adequate review to the game. But, on account of my respect to Fallout, its developers and Interplay, I'll do my best to give you more or less average judgment of the game without running to extremes. For the sake of objectivity, I suggest you to read our previous reviews of the first and the second demo-versions of Tactics. Thus, chronologically, this review should antecede reviews of demo-versions.
As Stanislavsky used to say, the theatre starts with hanger, thus the game, obviously, starts with video introduction. I have to say it upset me. Unfortunately it is the video introduction that forms the attitude of the gamer to the game itself... You have not seen the game yet, you may just guess what will there be... and it is an introduction clip that forms your feeling to the game - it either intrigues or disappoints. Altogether, the clip is nice, I was truly impressed with the 'hammers' racing (it's awful how I love this small cars :). But it lacks some action and crown phrase: "War never changes..." Technically it is almost perfect: it is beautiful and completely 3-dimensional, although the grass could look more realistic... though such a statement is a kind of faultfinding of the reader who is spoiled by the latest technologies.
Where am I, and where is my stuff?
Contrariwise, I am apt to consider this clip to be a "try-out", as far as this version is obviously an old one, and as far as developers promised the complete revision of the introduction movie... But anyway, the question remains undetermined... What is that?
Fallout Tactics has been depicted and described for a long time and with all possible efforts, but the storyline has not appeared in any audible form yet. Thus, let's sink into a reverie... what do we know about the game? Developers have been keeping the lid on the storyline details over a half of the year. So, let's not blemish it, but let's add some strokes to the general view.
A cockroach is not simply some kilograms of meat and long horns...
Since the mutants had been defeated in the war, many years have passed. Mutants retreated to the north-eastern side away from the once sunny and beautiful California. Chasing the enemy's disembodied groups, Brotherhood's fighters reached the Chicago city neighborhood. Actually, right here, official version of storyline could come to the end. Even the introduction movie does not demonstrate more then that. All the missions of this version of Tactics, apparently, do not open the storyline, and your obedient servant does not have a smallest desire to mess up the surprise. Altogether the storyline is quite colossal, I dare to say that it is worthy of the Fallout universe.
Chicago and its neighborhood are of biggest industrialized centers of the USA. Should it be continued?.. Okay, I'll elaborate... specially for those whose perception lowered by the tank armor :) ... Developed industry - it is, first of all, high technologies, robots, weapons, and, of course, atomic energy... Thus it is a true Klondike of versatile 'ancient' technologies! One place has become the sphere of common interests of weakened mutants, the Brotherhood of Steel and the mysterious Reavers society. And one may just wonder how can all of them stay in peace? Thus our steel brethrens and sisters have to sweat blood fighting for the ancestors' treasury.
Press-version has 10 unique missions, selected from the developers' previous creations, especially for demonstration to journalists. I will not venture to berate authors as far as after Chris Tailor's trip to Australia they came to decision to remake all maps completely. In spite of the maps conciseness and apparently crude objects building and its absolute linearity it should be appreciated that all the levels are huge. As a matter of fact, many-storied buildings, balconies and basements, the texture richness, the dynamical lighting and wide spectrum of environmental objects give a great potentiality into the developers' hands for creating a first-class tactical simulator. But the levels' design still remains an undetermined question.
Old AI bugs and the imbalance of turn based system does not allow to feel through all the ideas that Tactics developers decided to put into the game. Each of ten missions offers to complete absolutely different objectives: to redeem a imprisoned general, to drive a retrieved automobile to the camp, to help the poor ghouls, to crawl by raiders' patrols staying unidentified and meet with the Brotherhood's spy. The last mission can be completed only by using a half-cheating method of constant saves and re-loads while the using the means of camouflage can be left behind.
If one views each mission separately from the game itself he may not to understand what is going on here. All the storyline is built on the consequent missions completing. Each chapter of the game consists of several missions, all of them together form the storyline's hugeness. Thus developers acted wisely not letting us play the game on the campaign maps in the multiplayer mode, as far as all the maps interconnected by a common storyline like elements of one chain.
or there are no ugly women but there are bad men with bad tastes :)
The Tactics fauna deserves to be paid a special attention. All the living beings here are called 'races'. Unfortunately, in Tactics, cockroaches fall into the conception of 'race' :) Though, bearing in mind measurements and agility of these bugs... why not? The Tactics world is inhabited not only by humans and mutants, dogs and cows, but also by overgrown lizards, huge wasps instead of mantes, by rats and cockroaches, terrible deathclaws, robots and dystrophic ghouls who look nastier then in the previous parts...
Creatures who can be hired are numerous from "good-natured" four legged friends of the human beings with a good hundred of fangs to haired good-looking deathclaw unicorns. Fighters' portraits are precisely depicted and apparently have been reworked from the real nature... But there is a question, who had enough courage to posture for the mutants? :) Admirers of the fair sex were not forgotten, there are ladies to any taste and size, but the ghoul ladies do not enjoy the sexiness (at least, according to the point of the author's coy view :)
It is positively that the artists succeeded creating the personages... and one gigabyte of sprites and textures astounds to the bottom of the soul.
Automobile is not the luxury, but the mean of transportation.
Tactics' cars are true candies! We were demonstrated only two types - caterpillar armored car APC and 'Hammer'. Each one has its own parameters, maneuverability, radius of turn, speed, durability, and they may carry active weapons. In this version the option to shoot the passenger or to reach a luggage boot is not available, but in the release-version it will be possible to shoot a driver or a sniper hiding in the car basket.
Oh, how nice the smell of napalm is...
As it was promised, one will be able to fire at the adversary right from the car. It looks pretty nice, although our poor 'Hammer' are being quickly destroyed by some rifle shots. But it is convenient to use the 'Hammer' as a protection, to hide behind it, to run hiding behind its armor protection from the enemy fire, having the freedom of soldier's move and maneuver.
To smash the enemy by APC caterpillar or 'Hammer' wheels is a nice deed itself. In particular, completing the mission with APC it is fun to crush a mutant (one may see his legs and hands swinging under the caterpillar). The poor mutant does not die right away... he is crying out something inarticulate for a while... One may even be a sadist and to make a turn staying on one place laminating a poor mutant on the asphalt :)
Unfortunately, cars are extremely good, and first of all, are convenient to be controlled in the CTB mode only. APC, for instance, is a very choosey thing and will not go wherever you wish. Any barrier on its way, whether it is a stone or an edging will stop it. Thus you will have to accomplish a complicated maneuver to bypass an obstacle but that would cost you time and 'health' of your armored friend, as far as you will be under sustained fire of the good-humored mutants. While in the turn based mode, your 'hammer' transforms into the true iron wheeled coffin. One of the most funny things is animation of the turning wheels of the 'Hammer' that does not move during your enemy's turn. But you will get used to it.. as far as the most important is... right you are!... the engine! Does it work? The rest is not that important now :) Under the fire your vehicle does not 'die' right away... it becomes slower and slower then it stops while its joint-pin breaks down and it ... may burst up. So, you'd better not to lose your time and RUSH AWAY with all your team!
Public demo-versions demonstrated a lot of weaponry, but in beta-version we have even more. Here, you may test almost everything from handguns and armed blanche, to grenade-launchers and heavy six-barreled machineguns on the enemies' credulous beefs. Quantity of ammunition amazes! There are several types of ammunition for almost every type of weapon. The shotgun weaponry is great! Developers made good: all the sprites for weapons were re-depicted. A look of a six-barreled machinegun 'Avenger' was accomplished accordingly to the good traditions of the Fallout 2, and its firepower is good too.
Was that a cither sound?
But the animation in this version is not that good, especially animation of fighters who are crawling and moving in a lower position. And I do not understand why rockets in Tactics move somehow sideways... does the wind blows it aside? Though this bug was in bug list for rework.
New graphic effects of grenade blasts and other pyrotechnics, that were added to the multiplayer game version much later, make Tactics one of the most colorific games. But there is a question - how many bugs will be 'killed' in the release version...
All the AG staff was looking forward to estimate new creations of 14 Degree/Micro-Forte composers, and finally... Only few tracks were included into this version of the game. Music is accomplished on the high level and according to the Fallout traditions. We can just hope that there will be more music tracks in the final release! As to the sound effects, they are not that worthy... thus armor rattling sounds like the clutch rattling on the iron floor. But it is a bug of previous version, and it was abolished in later versions of Tactics.
Pathoanatomist's conclusion :)
Altogether the beta-version appeared to be ambiguous. I'm in debts to evaluate it as 'good' or 'bad'. On the one hand, the game is old and many bugs were fettled (whether it is a design or AI). One may satisfy himself simply taking a look at the multiplayer demo-version. On the other hand, the game demonstrated many interesting things concerning vehicles, although missions where one may use them are so short that one can hardly evaluate real potentialities of the vehicle in the battles, not risking to be destroyed... right away. For example, your adversary does not have vehicles and thus there are no mines to burst them up. For complete review we lack a newer version of the multiplayer mode. And it also very hard to evaluate the game not seeing such important elements as the world's map, Brotherhood's base and random encounters. Moreover, the version is very unstable and sometimes fails... returning the gamer back to Windows, without any apparent causes.
We are all at sea why such a version was given to the press... in fact, journalists should either save their breath not saying anything or abuse the project what does not give any use to the Tactics.
But, in spite of all the technical drawbacks, Fallout Tactics remains the most-waited project of this year. The game offers a lot of interesting and previously unknown stuff and I cannot simply dare to call this project unsuccessful. So, I'd better end my review with suspension points and wait the newer version of the game.
P.S. An advertising that is enclosed to the Tactics should be noticed separately. The game's box does amaze with its decor and loveliness. It seems to be the most worthy opponent to Diablo 2's box.
- Yuri Bushin (aga Yurg)