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Act of War: Direct Action
game: Act of War: Direct Action
four star
posted by: Eric Bodrero
publisher: Atari
developer: Eugen Systems
ESRB rating: T (Teen)
date posted: 12:00 AM Sat May 14th, 2005
last revision: 12:00 AM Sat May 14th, 2005

Click to read.RTS games have never really had the flare and popularity that other genres have experienced, especially the FPS field, but Act of War: Direct Action is about as dynamic and solid as any game gets, and is definitely one of the best strategy games since Command & Conquer: Generals.

Author Dale Brown - who was once a member of the U.S. armed forces - wrote the story. He lends his skill to this techno thriller by using his experience, expertise, and pure talent to help make the story ultra realistic. You play the role of the commander of Task Force Talon, Major Jason Richter. The plot revolves around a group of terrorists, known as the Consortium, who are carrying out an array of global terrorist attacks in a merciless fashion, which has radically launched oil prices into orbit and created general turmoil.

The meat of the game is similar to other RTS games.  You gather resources and create bigger and stronger units to finally overcome the bad guys and reach victory. A nice touch in Act of War, though, is the role that smaller and weaker units can play in assimilating enemy territory. Once you capture buildings with a goodly number of your units and camp out on the rooftops, it's tough for even the stronger enemy vehicles to destroy you, which is something fairly unique in RTS games. There is also no limit to how many units you can produce. This fair and balanced level of gameplay is a very esteemed aspect of the game, which certainly adds to its value and takes a giant step over other games in the genre.

To make it simple, the only resource to be gathered is money. Sounds pretty dull, right? However, there are a number of ways to collect it, which is where the fun begins. There are any number of given oil derricks scattered throughout the level, which of course you can capture and exploit for money. This is a limited source though as they quickly become depleted. By taking a more clever approach, you can assign your ground units to search for injured enemy pilots and infantry and arrest them, throw them in your POW building, and let them suffer.  This attracts more funds. A more morbid technique will see you torturing your POW's and making them squeal, which reveals an area on the map.  This of course reveals more enemy territory or more oil derricks to capture, bringing in more money, and so on. This way of managing resources isn't only fun, but actually a very crucial part of the game, as oil gets extremely sparse the further in you get.

Let's not forget about one of the most important parts of any game these days: the graphics. Okay, graphics usually shouldn't be your top priority, especially in an RTS game, but in Act of War, Eugen Games has really outdone themselves with this element. Simply put, this is absolutely the finest looking RTS game I've ever witnessed. Units and vehicles are outstanding, structures are ultra-detailed, and such things as explosions and smoke are about as real as it gets in video games today. The details have really been given special attention here, such as the way buildings crumble and fall to the ground after being sprayed with artillery.  The game's sound effects are also well done, but if you've played many RTS games, you've probably heard them all before, and may not exactly be blown away.

While the single player mode is incredibly dynamic and full of all kinds of things to do and see, it's a little on the short side with roughly a dozen missions. I would like to have seen at least another four or five. However, there is certainly a high chance of an expansion pack or two, and the inevitable sequel. Multiplayer and skirmish modes are just gravy to this already feature-packed game, and they serve to extend the games shelf-life a little, although they are fairly mediocre and expected in terms of gameplay and feature sets.

The game is overstuffed with tons of live action FMV, which serves as a great story driver. Unfortunately, and to be quite frank, I've seen better acting in a Roland Emmerich film. Some of the accents are really pretty bad, and get quite annoying after about halfway through the game. However you'll be so involved with the story and action that you may not even notice, or care. Also, the energetic and vibrant musical score is extremely effective at building the intensity of the game, and is one of its stronger points.

Despite a few rough little bumps in the road, Act of War: Direct Action is a stellar gaming experience, and if you claim to be any kind of RTS fan you owe it to yourself to try it out. With its absolutely stunning graphics and visual pyrotechnics, an engaging story set in a modern day world that drives forward at a break-neck pace, and the appealing and outright fun way of managing resources, Act of War: Direct Action should keep most gamers happily satisfied while the experience lasts.

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