George W bush may well be a bit of a comedy president, but at least his alarming use of the world as his own personal game of Risk has provided games developers with plenty of new source material to base their games on. Will Of Steel is the latest effort intended to give you a taste of the war-on-terror from the comfort of your bedroom.
Specifically, the single-player campaign is split between the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the early stages of the current Iraq war. You follow the antics of a certain William Steel (geddit?) of the United States Marine Corps, the son of decorated general Thomas Steel. As well as being thankful that his father didn't name him Dick, William's duties are to kick some
terrorist proverbial over the course
of around 16 missions.
This all paves the way for some frantic RTS action, with the focus on shifting your units around, as there's no resource collecting or base-building to be found here. Among the 100 or so units are all the usual suspects, such as Cayuse helicopters and a cornucopia of tanks and armoured vehicles, as well as some more specialised units. The latter include medics ready to slap a band-aid onto the knees of your wounded soldiers, and some multi-talented engineer units who, as well being able to fix up your vehicles, can perform a wealth of useful tasks such as detecting and diffusing mines, capturing enemy vehicles and placing explosive charges.
You're also promised a system whereby you're awarded promotions depending upon your performance. Do the job like a pro, and the promotions you're given will unlock special abilities to use in later missions. These include passive abilities such as satellite reconnaissance and, of course, some good old-fashioned fiery death from above, courtesy of artillery support and air strikes.
What developer Gameyus is really hoping will set its desert combat apart from the rest is the addition of voice recognition. With the aid of the microphone that's planned to be bundled with the game, the idea is to bark out various orders to select and control your units. We have to
admit to not being fully sold on this idea at the moment though, as when it was demonstrated to us at a preview event, the early code had considerable difficulty in recognising many commands. We're also less than convinced about the usefulness of speaking a command, waiting a few seconds for it to display, then tapping a key to confirm while in the heat of battle. Of course, the final code may yet prove us wrong.
Voice recognition aside, the technical aspects seem to be shaping up quite nicely. Built around a proprietary 3D engine, the preview code we've played is up to spec aesthetically. We were also pleased to see that the enemy AI had a few tricks up its sleeve, such as outnumbered units adopting hit-and-run tactics. Indeed, it's the success of these aspects of the game rather than the voice recognition that's set to ultimately determine how Will Of Steel measures up to the competition. We'll bring you the definitive verdict next month.