Soldiers: People of Honor - game review

Date: 2004-08-05 17:48:00
The review was based on the PC version.

Many words about the game "Soldiers" have passed through the Gry-OnLine website, many of them were my work and I feel responsible for creating around this game that emanates only the advantages of aura. Great engine, extra ideas, exemplary representation of the military and the battlefield ... fortunately I didn't throw these words into the wind, but it turned out that the final product ... well ... the operation was successful, but the patient died. Let's not act impulsively, after all, you cannot cross out such a promising title at the beginning of the review. So let's look at the whole thing rationally. Before the actual text of the review, I would like to note that the article below may seem quite chaotic, but it is difficult to schematically describe such a complex game as "Soldiers". Besides, what is war if not chaos?

The engine on which "Soldiers" was created is a phenomenal environment that allows you to experience the events taking place on the monitor in an unprecedented way (in the RTS field). Not only is the visual setting very detailed and carefully made, and the organic and inorganic elements appearing in the game world look extremely realistic, you can also object to the physics of the world itself. Most importantly, everything can be razed to the ground in a very precise way. A shot at a building usually does not completely destroy it, but only partial damage, collapse of one wall (which reveals its furnished interiors!) Or breaking the glass in the windows. It is no worse in the case of nature, trees break under the weight of tanks, and green green is on fire; you can even move rocks with the right force. Interestingly, in the event of larger explosions causing part of the damaged item to be thrown into the air, they can fall to damage other elements of the environment or kill a person walking nearby. Demolishing a house causes, for example, the destruction of cars parked nearby, and trees ready to fall over by the force of a nearby explosion. So everything that protrudes from the surface and appears on the screen has its own skeleton and can affect other elements.

The animation of the units is also great, and the movements our soldiers make are extremely natural (the enemy falls nicely when we shoot him, not to mention splashing when he gets something bigger;)). It has also not been forgotten that the soldier likes to smoke a cigarette in his spare time, and that during the war, various animals (including chickens, cows) still walked on the ground, although in their case the animation of movements is much worse ( cow turns 360 degrees on the spot). Overall, however, the game engine makes a great impression and it comes as a great surprise to me, especially since the elements found in it are rare in games that approach the strategy genre. The game has a great foundation, so let's see how the developers used the power hidden in this engin.

The visual setting of the game can be attractive in two ways. The first case is a fairy-tale decoration that looks nice and nobody can pick on its authenticity. The second option is a game that simulates the appearance of the real world - this is what the team working on the game "Soldiers" undertook and ... showed full class. Not to mention realistic water and its animation (especially when an object falls into it), realistic-looking explosions, dust, rain, shadows, clouds (whose reflection can be seen on the water surface), special attention should be paid to the representation of military units. Every tank, every vehicle, every weapon and outfit of foot units is visually consistent with historical realities (if you look closely, you can even guess what rifles each soldiers have on their shoulders). Military and World War II enthusiasts can at first glance recognize vehicles moving on the board, and their detail is so refined that the appropriate appearance of e.g. exhaust pipes has been taken care of.

Each vehicle also has a realistic damage model, and its possible failures are graphically presented on the panel in the corner of the screen (similar to, for example, in car racing simulations). In order to immobilize a tank, it is enough to attack its tracks more aggressively, the front of the tank is much more resistant than the rear and side, you can also see differences in the use of armored and high-explosive shells, and the body of our steel machine is very resistant to machine gun bullets. In addition, each vehicle has a fuel tank that runs out naturally and must be refilled as needed (the gasoline can be drained and poured into canisters or barrels). It is also very significant to repair damaged machines, which is possible only when the vehicle has not suffered too much damage and although it takes an unrealistically short time to repair a heavily damaged tank by one man, it is a very positive element that adds variety to the gameplay.

Tanks are not the only means of transport, however, in "Soldiers" you can also find motorcycles, trucks and armored cars, which in turn can puncture the tires or shoot the driver. Reversing lights, load weight limitations for individual units (more on that later), as well as taking into account the actual capabilities and strength of individual models were also not forgotten. At the end of the topic of vehicles, it is worth mentioning the planes that fly in the virtual skies and you can not only hear them, but also see them, which is a very nice and unusual sight. The details of making the aircraft models are surprising, as well as their animation, for example when they are shot down and fall into flames to hit the ground and ram various elements of the board. Unfortunately, the player cannot control flying machines, and this is due to the fact that the game developers considered it an imbalance in the game. Fortunately, you can manage such means of transport as train and floating objects. But what is delaying ... we are waiting for the sequel to "Soldiers" :).

Soldiers are not your typical RTS; you cannot build a base or train units in it, the army is assigned in advance and we have no influence on its selection. What's more, when one of ours dies, there is often a small problem, because in some cases we have several soldiers on several missions ... This is of course a very realistic solution, but nevertheless quite clearly imposing on the players how to play the game. A limited number of troops often does not so much increase the difficulty level or forces you to act with generally accepted principles of a good strategist, but in extreme cases it leads to an unnatural difficulty in the game. Unfortunately, the people working on "Soldiers", at some points overdone.

Before getting into the details of the missions we perform in the game, let me remind you that we have access to four campaigns: Americans, British, Russians and Germans; apart from campaigns, a set of bonus missions deserves a separate mention. Ok what you need to know, you know :) let's get started. Unfortunately, the mission assumptions are mostly absurd and, unfortunately, not always too playable. The way they are perceived obviously depends on what type of gameplay we were hoping for, but I do not think that it will satisfy both those who expected a typical strategy game, and fans of tactical games (a la "Commandos"). Worst of all, the game can also have problems convincing people who wanted to play something that combines the two genres. Why? The answer is simple, because arcade elements have been added to the game. It is, of course, about the famous Direct Control mode, which allows us to manually control the actions of a single unit (we control the keyboard, aim with the mouse). Above all, in all this confusion, it is absurd that this mode seems to be one of the most successful ideas. Are the programmers from Best Way unfamiliar with strategies and tactical games and should start making arcade games?

Of course, this conclusion turns out to be wrong, creating a computer game is a very complex process and you cannot blame the entire team working on a given product for several shortcomings. In the case of "Soldiers", the specialists in creating assumptions for subsequent missions failed. In most cases, we have to show a very large initiative so that our "people of honor" start to resemble "demolition people" (although in the original they were "heroes" - "Soldiers: Heroes of World War II"), who almost alone have to send to hell hordes of enemy units. This applies mainly to the campaigns of the USSR and, as usual, the invincible British. It is much better when it comes to tasks on the side of the Germans (although I have some reservations about some missions here as well), and in my opinion, the Americans are the best. It is during this campaign that we will learn about the life of snipers and the strength of tanks participating in World War II. However, the greatest masterpiece is the last mission, in which we fight for bridges over the river in a truly cinematic scenery and breathtaking action. This is not the end of good news, however, as the whole is complemented by bonus missions. I will mention here only such tasks as: fighting in the open ground with the use of several tanks (finally, strategic sense may come in handy), acting with a single soldier on the front line (heroic but realistic deeds) and defending the city with a handful of people (very playable).

The problem of Soldiers is that missions in which a few units need to do things that are theoretically impossible (and they are possible to do, which was proven in the games from the "Commandos" series) somehow do not fit this game very well. As if the game engine was not designed for this type of mission, the action looks much better here. Especially when we are very busy fighting, and after the clash it turns out that our game destroyed half of the board - great thing! Fortunately, thanks to the ability to turn on an active pause, and to slow down the game time, the game tries to take on typically strategic values. Mainly, however, I lacked access to more units and conduct large-scale operations (for example 30 vs 30 soldiers + several tanks), unfortunately in subsequent missions the death of each of our soldiers usually either prevents it from being completed or makes it very difficult.

It is possible, however, that the matter would have been completely different had the behavior of our people not been compromised. As long as the enemy acts rationally (although he does not pay too much attention to the changing environment) and with an idea, our people, left to their fate, cannot take care of themselves (worse, they get themselves into trouble). The same is true with units on our side, but controlled by a computer (although their errors are not so glaring and, most importantly, incidental). However, nothing changes the fact that the tasks we have to perform do not require the strategist's sense, but luck and dexterity. Personally, I was disappointed at this point, because I was counting on missions in which I would use my strategic genius (oh my modesty;)), and not the dexterity of my fingers and the speed of reacting to events on the monitor (even despite the pause and time slowing down). Summing up: you can find a few thinking missions (mainly bonus ones), there are also a lot of interesting and playable tasks, despite their small resemblance to strategy games, but personally in general, I get the impression that it was at the stage of creating tasks that someone should have had leg. Personally, I prefer World War II presented in RTS as a slaughter of many thousands, rather than the brave exploits of a handful of soldiers who ill-simulate the heroes of tactical games. Noting that I am a huge fan of tactical games. Or was it assumed from the beginning that it would be a clone of the Commandos?

I am a bit abusing the name of the work of the gentlemen from Pyro Studios, but in "Soldiers" you can notice that ideas are derived from this title. Mainly I stick to the mission assumptions, which resemble typically tactical games, but these are not the only similarities. Of course, it's not about missing something, because, for example, such inventory can be found in every cRPG game, but it all looks quite familiar and it's tempting to compare these games in this way. I will not say, the solutions in "Soldiers" are comfortable and transparent, and generally known and liked, so you cannot have any objections to them. What's more, for example, each vehicle has its own trunk, where you can hide something. Of course, it has a limited capacity, and each item placed in the glove compartment increases the weight of the unit. This is best seen in the case of soldiers who are clearly slowed down by being overloaded with heavy equipment. It is interesting because it is possible to remove a machine gun from the vehicle and then run with it on the battlefield.

The drawback, however, is the necessity to frequently give orders to our soldiers to lie down. My point here is not that you have to act discreetly, but a certain drawback, which is that without issuing an order to rise, our people like to get up from the ground at the least appropriate moment. It is especially irritating when we give the order to crawl under the wall or into the brush, when the unit reaches its destination and you do not know what crate it is getting up from. It is also interesting why we can give the order to crouch only when the soldier is motionless, because he cannot sneak on bent legs (he can only crawl and walk upright, he crouches only motionless). Hopefully some patch will fix it soon.

In addition to the phenomenal graphics (great textures) and physics (although objects like to penetrate sometimes), in "Soldiers" we find many flavors and details. I have already mentioned some, but I will repeat it again. It is about such "little things" as: the obligation to take care of the right amount of fuel in the tanks of vehicles, collecting ammunition (both for vehicles and for soldiers), the possibility of repairing vehicles (and removing equipment from them), the possibility of putting on and detecting mines (using a special detector) and their neutralization, the ability to hide behind obstacles; also the phenomenal possibility of peeking out from behind them, firing a shot and covering again, and a fairly limited, but interesting solution for visiting the rooms and shooting from buildings (unfortunately not all of them).

It's hard to list all the details here, but what I just mentioned is just a small part of the complexity of the game world. It is worth mentioning here the difficulty levels, which are three. Before each mission, we can choose one of them, and they are very different. This is not a typical increase in the number of enemy units, but a diversification of their intelligence. At lower levels the enemy makes a lot of mistakes and fights too bravely, at more demanding levels his decisions become precisely recalculated and the life of each soldier is precious. Fortunately, thanks to a good and interesting tutorial presented in the form of a training camp, we will be well prepared to face the enemy. I must admit at this point that it was this paragraph of the review that had the greatest impact on my final evaluation of the program.

The stories told in the campaigns are presented in the form of successive events and they complement each other. So you can say that we have four separate adventures in "Soldiers", taken straight from the Second World War. The historical background is very interesting, so much so that you can believe that we will be performing tasks that took place over 60 years ago. The missions themselves are not an exact representation of the actions carried out during the war, although they have historical equivalents, their assumptions are adapted to the needs of a computer program (playability above authenticity). One thing that worried me was that the creators only prepared one ending. Not that I have anything against linear plots (although I have something there;)), but it is funny, for example, in the final text that "the entire crew participating in the action arrived in the country in good health", when half of them died during the mission.

The noises we hear during missions are phenomenal! Screams and groans of the injured, explosions, varied rumbles of vehicles, nature - everything was done perfectly. However, it is a bit worse in the case of the music itself that plays us in the fight. Most of the themes are known from other war games or movies (which of course counts as a big plus), but sometimes they are too monotonous and kind of put to sleep. On the other hand, the Polonization of the game, undertaken by CD Projekt, deserves a mention. The voices and translation of the texts - as usual in the case of this company - are at the highest level (although the German teacher speaks a bit like a drunk Pole, and I would love to hear Mariusz Max Kolonko as an English speaker :)). Such a high level that I am tempted to say that the Polish version is much more attractive than the original one, not only because of the language barrier, but also because of the quality of the content.

This is the question that you should ask yourself when judging the game "Soldiers". The game was announced as a mix of "Commandos" with a typical RTS and I must admit that something did not work out here. Everything is nice, beautiful, we have a lot of tactics, a large dose of action has been added to slow it down at the same time by providing an active pause and the possibility of slowing down time ... like everything was going like a Swiss watch to finally hum, squirt and "fart". The case went wrong, because the product, despite its dormant potential, as a whole did not fully meet the requirements (at least some) of the fans awaiting it.

But is it that bad? Sometimes I complain too much, but I think the game fully deserved the rating, because despite its mistakes, it is one of the best RTS / tactics / action games I have had the opportunity to play recently. During the game, you do not have to think too much about logistics and making strategic decisions, but the whole game is very pleasant, which is also important - unlike other products of this type (mainly due to the large number of interesting facts and details). It is worth playing in "Soldiers", even for the phenomenal engine and interesting technical solutions. Fans of strategy and tactical games have no choice but to find money for "Soldiers" from somewhere. Too bad, no one has ever said that computer games are a cheap hobby. :)

Daniel "KULL" Sodkiewicz