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X3F Impressions: World in Conflict: Soviet Assault

Real-time-strategy isn't exactly the largest, most well rounded genre on the 360, and while we have seen Lord of the Rings and C&C3 do relatively well on console, there still isn't any kind of breakout hit. While the appropriateness of RTS to consoles is debatable (as is the likelihood of there ever being a breakout hit) the games that choose to go that route are nevertheless getting better. World in Conflict: Soviet Assault will be the next big real-time-strategy release on 360 and it improves on the console-specific tweaks made to past console RTS games.

First and foremost, the game's camera is not controlled like a typical RTS, where the angle is set, and the camera only zooms in or out. The camera is controlled exactly like a first-person-shooter, meaning that the player can aim the camera parallel to the ground if they so wish. It also means that any players who are coming from console FPS play will be able to feel at home much faster than they otherwise might.

The basics of RTS gameplay are here of course, with a variety of units, selectable via several different options (paintbrush, individual, on-screen, similar type, etc). The more typical stand-by of using resource gathering and unit creation to extend game time is absolutely gone here though. In WiC the emphasis is on the tactics and movement, attacking, retreating and maneuvering to constantly gain the upper hand.

During our short time with the game's single player we didn't do much jumping around the map and the emphasis seemed to be more on the units that were already on-screen, rather than those that were off in some remote corner. And while all the units have strengths and weaknesses, there wasn't much immediate and outright destruction of units; it felt as though there was always a way out (even if that meant giving up a little ground.)

From what we were told, the game is actually character driven, and features a number of new missions from the Soviet perspective. The story involves a, well, world in conflict, and an invasion of the pacific northwest of the US by Soviet forces. So it's world war III, the reds have hit Seattle, and Washington and Oregon are in the midst of a ground war.

The bits of the ground war we saw were manageable and didn't feel overly complex or overwhelming. While RTS on PC have the advantage of a mouse and keyboard, a controller isn't exactly the optimum control interface for this sort of genre. Thankfully WiC builds on the unit selection and organization systems introduced in the earlier console RTS games of the generation.

Unfortunately, the game is still lacking some of the features that the PC version has. They're mostly little things, but hotkeys and patrol routes are some of the larger omissions. As for the game's technical merit, the draw distance was excellent, but there didn't appear to be any anti-aliasing, and there was some graphical popping as things got farther away. We'd like to think these would be fixed by release, but only time will tell.

Despite any technical flaws, World in Conflict: Soviet Assault looks quite solid, and appears prepared to pick up where LotR and C&C3 left off with console RTS. So if you played either of those two games, or if the scenario sounds interesting, or even if you're just an FPS gamer looking for something new (remember the game's camera control is just like an FPS) WiC is definitely worth checking out when it hits this fall.

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