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Summary[v1.3] The spiritual successor to Jagged Alliance in everything except for gameplay and combat mechanics.
The GoodReview Version: v1.3 - I really got to stop revising this review.
Review Date: November 12, 2010
Review Length: 5 page(s)
Tech Specs Used: Intel Core 2 6300 1.86 Ghz CPU, 3 GB Memory, 512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT Video Card.
Game Version: v1.07.001 and v1.08.000
Finished: No. Too frustrated to try.
Level Difficulty Used: Veteran
Number of Mercenaries: One (main character). Captured 3 sectors too!
Last time played: November, 2010.
Well I'm a Jagged Alliance fanboi, since it combines the some of the best elements of role-playing games and strategy games, which for me in this regard refers to character development and tactics.
Unfortunately for Jagged Alliance fans and gamers who love similar type gameplay such as X-Com, there has yet to be a worthy successor for either game. There is an abundant of bad copycat games and Hired Guns: Jagged Edge unfortunately falls under the same category.
The game does however, try its best to duplicate the feel of Jagged Alliance 2: same colors used for the title, interface, mercenary control. Even the process of creating a new character is similar, the website contents to hire mercenaries, and buying weapons online, though the names have been changed, obviously due to licensing disagreements between this developer and the licensor. Being a 3D version of Jagged Alliance is quite an overhaul. For the most part, at least graphically, the game did succeed with flying colors.
There are some considerable differences in the AI (Artificial Intelligence) and combat mechanics when compared to Jagged Alliance 2. The AI here is a bit more tougher, though unfortunately not that smart. Probably because of their high accuracy and access to a lot of grenades. Melee combat (with a knife) also has higher damage, even more so than bullets. Skills have also decreased in variety, such as electronics, picklocks, etc., have been removed.
A new movement feature was also implemented which has its uses. A side-step command allows the merc to move side-ways, without having to move-and-turn as in Jagged Alliance 1&2.
I sometimes really don't get it. Is it really that hard to do some adequate playtesting? Or is the gaming industry that moronic that playtesters can't say anything bad about a game or else be fired by oversensitive developers?
There are too many issues apparent from a few minutes of gameplay, much less a few hours of gameplay. Apparent if you're a fan of Jagged Alliance that has tried its best to create a balanced game. A balance that has been crudely removed from this game, which no doubt the developers feel should be closer to realism. A perspective only shared by developers who think like gamers before they think like game developers. Realism should only be implemented to further gaming enjoyment...not frustration.
Let's start with the minor irritations first, shall we?
Something worth mentioning before we talk about the big issues. My male character is supposed to have hair, but he's bald when he enters combat. This is a first example of sloppy quality assurance in the game.
- Lack of Mercenaries
Whereas all Jagged Alliance games came with several pages of mercenaries to pick to your hearts content, this game only provides a handful of mercenaries to choose from.
The reasoning for this may have to do with additional AI that needs to be implemented for the 3D physics engine in addition to time spent to create individual skins. Which is understandable, but still engrossing lacking in the choice department. The other reasoning may have to do with the assumption that the developer team feels that previous Jagged Alliance games had too many mercenaries, thus wasted. Thus, they opted to created a few mercenary types. Types that unfortunately, I didn't like.
Since I have a fetish for character development, I don't use high-level characters. My purpose in playing is not to win (easily) but to create a killing-machine out of a low level character. In Jagged Alliance games, it refers to the Wisdom attribute, which cannot be increased manually. In this game, mercs that are low level, cheap, with high wisdom do not exist. The next person with a high wisdom (around 80) is in the mid-level price range. The rest are the most expensive mercs. So practically, if you have unique merc choices like myself, the game does not provide satisfaction in this regard.
- Over-Enthusiastic 3D Physics Engine
“Rag-Dolls” is a term used for an engine/algorithm that seeks to realistically imitate falling bodies. Since this is a 3D game about killing people, there's bound to be a lot of rag-dolls falling all over the place. The rag-dolls however, are far from perfect. Far from perfect is fine, however in this case, it's a bit annoying:
- Shot guns have an extraordinary effect. They can blast a body literally halfway across the screen map;
- Rag dolls often (almost in every occasion) suffer “epilepsy attacks”, each body part shakes furiously like disco inferno. This is only annoying since you have to wait for that body to stop the groove to end the turn. If you've played a lot of old first-person shooter (FPS) games, you've probably seen a lot of this going around. Apparently, they're still using the same recycled technology, just the same level of programming skills. :p
- Crappy Voice-Overs
They didn't pay much attention in this department. Although I only tried out a few mercs, including both male and female main characters, none of them were noteworthy. After experiencing sound in Fallout 2, I have since then greatly paid attention to its effect in later games. Sound does greatly increase the pleasures of gameplay. The voice-overs in Jagged Alliance 2 were unique enough, most had 'character' in their voice, emotion, and such. Here it's bland. The user-created female voice is most annoying when she gets shot. Ever hear someone scream over a walkie-talkie in a high pitch voice? Not a pleasant experience.
- Minimal Item Information
I like to judge a game by how much information they present to the player. Although there are a lot of help tips (which they did not fail) however, information for the items themselves and a lot of settings have little information presented. For new gamers not familiar with war-games, I would guess they may be wondering what AP means in regards to ammo. No mention of “Armor-Piercing” whatsoever in the description. Actually, all the ammo doesn't have any description of any kind.
- Item Dragging
Didn't like this. To drag an item in the inventory you have to click-and-hold the item, instead of the standard of click here once, click there once.
- Day/Night Cycles
Well, there's a clock. There's also perks like that should allow you to combat more efficiently at night. The only problem is, there isn't a night. I entered combat at 00.15 AM and it's bright as day. Can even see that enemy merc peeing way over there. :p
Sloppy and stupid.
- Slow Restore Game & Memory Leaks
Not surprisingly, the game does have some minor memory leak issues. Game loading starts to slow down after around 4-5 times reloading a saved game, of which then you will have to exit and restart the game for the fast default reloads. Though the fast reloads in this game still takes too long, especially with all those path-finding bugs on the loose.
- Patch Screw-Up
For some odd reason, updating the game from v1.07.001 and v1.08.000 corrupted the PDF files (game manual & FAQ). Technically that's not much of a problem. The real problem is the developers forgot to include information about the assigned keys in the game. Doh. Which leads me to my next point.
- Non-Customizable Assigned Keys
Either no one bother to notice, but gamers really do have unique tastes. Some prefer W,A,S,D, while others prefer arrow keys or just using a mouse. The ability for the developer to provide options for the player to change their own personal experience can be considered a sign of mutual respect. A respect that is not give because [a] you cannot customize keys for players who do not agree with the default assigned keys [b] as mentioned before, reason why you can't customize keys is because they forgot to mention it in-game too. Dimwits.
Yet another game that thoroughly screws up path-finding and movement. This would not be a problem with they had the sense to make this a true turned-based game when, for example, movement squares are identifiable so that movement is specifically designated.
What may totally annoy the player is that the blueprint of the movement may not actually occur exactly as the blue print. When you attempt to move a character, a blueprint or ghost of the intended movement is displayed to the player. When you do continue with the order, often the merc ends up several steps away from the final destination. This is extremely frustrating in narrow areas such as doorways, when trying to implement a hide-and-seek tactic. The last time I experienced something like this was with Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (2001), probably one of the worst excuses for path-finding programming in the history of gaming.
I basically gave up this game when I experienced an extremely moronic path-finding bug, when resulted in two equally moronic variations. First, the order I gave was simple: close that door. Shouldn't be too hard - I'm in a building, surrounded by enemies, all I want to do is close that stupid door. What does the merc do? He closes the door alright, from the outside. Even more stupid since he was exactly beside the door to begin with.
Another experience with door-closing stupidity. The blue-print says that the merc need only spend 3 action points to close the door. But for some odd reason, he can't get to it, so he spends all of his action points moving to another direction without prior warning. In a game where primary strategy refers to correctly using action points of mercs as efficiently as possible... [well, you can probably imagine what kind of insult I would put here].
The new side-step feature is also problematic. In side-step mode, you cannot shoot. Why? No idea. So you have to manually turn the side-step on-and-off every time you want to shoot something. Totally inefficient.
So whoever did this particular movement algorithm: quit programming and become a camp boyscout. That way you can at least pretend to be a scout and still get lost.
- Unbalanced Accuracy and Targeting Screw-up
Apparently, you don't have to become a marksman to shoot the wings of a fly in this game. I'm totally flabbergasted at how your mercs and opponents can shoot accurately from an extremely far off distance. I can't recall how many times I got shot at while hiding behind a rock, where you can only get hit by a head shot. In Jagged Alliance games, if you don't have an accuracy of more than 70-80, good luck trying to hit anything at medium range. Here, even with an accuracy of only 35, I often hit my target. Head shots too.
Additionally, the targeting system is really screwed up especially in close quarters. Opponents that are lying next to you are sometimes impossible to hit. I had an opponent that fell right beside me, and the merc says “I don't have a shot”. So you can shoot a bloke 1,000 metres away but you can't shoot the dude sitting right beside you. I've heard of short-sighted but this is ridiculous.
So whoever did this particular targeting algorithm: quit programming and become a golf caddy instead, so you don't have to target and hit stuff.
- Line of Sight Total Screw-up
This has to be one of the most annoying features in the game. The line of sight in the game is extremely limited. You can only see around 45 degrees in front of you, more or less. You can hear everything miles away, through walls, but you can't see that bloke standing right next to you. Amazing. Apparently none of the mercs in the game have necks, so they can't turn their heads to see their surroundings. You often have to manually turn the merc around just to see if anyone sneaked up on you. Apparently, many do.
Another annoying feature is that the line of sight isn't refreshed. So if you see an enemy and you hide behind that rock, you can still see that enemy, but you don't have a line of sight to him. Line of sight usually has to do with your line of fire, or if the line of fire is narrow. The game doesn't give a visual estimation of the difference. So hiding from enemies is a bit annoying, since you can't tell if you are in their line of fire. In Jagged Alliance 2 enemies that are no longer in the line of fire or line of sight is replaced by a "black silhouette".
So whoever did this particular line-of-sight algorithm: quit programming, join the circus, and "see" how it feels like to miss that trampoline 180 degrees below you.
- Grenades Overkill
More than half of the time your injuries will be sustained by grenade blasts. Apparently everyone here carries a grenade. That, although annoying really isn't the problem. The problem is that you start in a location exactly within grenade throwing distance. What? Someone screwed up big-time here. Almost always there's at least one opponent who will throw a grenade at you on the first turn. Now isn't that ridiculous?
So whoever came up with level mapping: quit programming and join Greenpeace. That way you can chain yourself to a tree and still get bulldozed over.
- No Interrupt Mode - Well Almost
Probably one of the worst features they took away is the "interrupt mode". In Jagged Alliance 2, a merc that has some action points may act first during an opponents turn as a form of "surprise". This is terribly useful when you are on the defensive and an opponent "tries" to move in your position. This feature is both realistic and entertaining, as no one is stupid enough to move in a fortified position.
As the interrupt feature is removed from the game, the AI is aggressive and reckless. It is easy to move in on an enemy position, since no matter if they have 10 guns pointing at you, both you or the enemy AI can just move-in-and-out at will, since there are no interruptions by an opposing enemy, as a player can only shoot during their own turn.
If they had this feature implemented, at least you could dodge those grenades...since the enemy AI never misses to throw a grenade near where you are standing. Even if he is on the other side of the building.
 Actually, after my fourth game, I suddenly did come up with an interrupt mode, though not of much use. The algorithm doesn't make sense: it doesn't show up when it's supposed to: (e.g. your mercs having with full action points saved up) and when it does show up (not sure when and how) it's usually when your mercs have run out of action points. So the only thing this game's interrupt feature is interrupting, is unfortunately this game, as it does not contribute a tactical necessity as it did in Jagged Alliance 2.
So whoever forgot to implement this: quit design and become a test subject for Alzheimer's. At least now forgetting is part of the job description.
The Bottom LineEnd note, this game had big ambitions, but no one bothered to play test it correctly. Eventually, the game is only similar to Jagged Alliance as a graphical imitation. It has failed to follow in its footsteps in the matters that count: gameplay and combat mechanics. Due to the serious amount of bugs in the path-finding, targeting, and line of sight algorithms, the game itself too “jaggy” to provide gamers with minimal gameplay enjoyment of any kind.
Too bad. I had high hopes for this game. Better wait for the official Jagged Alliance game to come out. For fellow turn-based fanbois, after viewing the many years turn-based gaming precedents, I'm sad to say...it seems turn-based is practically a dead scene. You'd think turn-based games are easier to program. Apparently not.