Reviewed: September 29, 2011
Released: September 26, 2011
Interwave Studios has done something interesting with their new title, Nuclear Dawn. They have somehow combined an online multiplayer FPS and RTS into a single game. The real question, though, is: did they pull it off?|
Ever since the online multiplayer FPS became the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of gaming genres, one of my biggest complaints, and I know I’m not alone, are the Rambo players. Unless you take the time to find a group of like-minded people who want to work together, unit cohesion disintegrates once the bullets start flying. Put two teams of Rambo players against each other and you have a slug-fest of epic proportions. But introduce a cohesive unit and you have utter domination. What I’ve always wanted is to be able to just jump into any game, no clan meet-ups or scheduled gaming sessions required, and be able to experience the real pleasure of working as a well-oiled killing machine.
I’ve seen other games try to come up with ways to encourage players to work together before. Some work better than others. Usually, however, they just don’t. In Nuclear Dawn, players are not so much “encouraged” to work together, although there are built-in incentives, but they are led by a commander, who sees the game from a top-down, RTS style perspective, where he can direct the battle and use resources to build various defenses to further the cause.
This is, perhaps, my favorite aspect of the game. Beyond the general layout of the level and the location of “resource points”, control of which allow the commander to build facilities and defenses, there are no set rules as to how the level is won. It is more of a free-form chess game between each side’s commanders. The commander can choose where to set up forward spawn points. He can choose at what rate and in what order to research new equipment for his troops. He can highlight certain strategic areas and direct his soldiers towards it. He can build gun turrets, resupply depots, and more.
With that one added game mechanic, unlike any other game I’ve seen, they have given one player per side the power to actually be in charge and win or perish by his own leadership capabilities. I’ve played in games where the leader obviously understood what he was doing and led us to a quick and seamless victory. I’ve also been on a team where the leader had no idea what he was doing and we were quickly slaughtered. It didn’t really matter how good the people on the team were, we were merely delaying the inevitable.
That’s not to say that if you have a leader who knows what he’s doing, you’ll automatically win. The other side will still make the going very difficult, no matter how well you lay out your defenses towards victory. I feel that, all-in-all; this combination of RTS and FPS has brought something more like actual combat to the game. A good leader will only do as well as his troops that are fighting for him, but a crack squad of troops will fail if their leader fails. Success really depends almost equally on both the ground troops and the abilities of the commander.
So, as far as that dynamic goes, I feel that Nuclear Dawn has succeeded. At the very least, they brought something new to the table that I haven’t seen before. It might not be the perfect solution to the problem of the genre, but it gets us a few steps closer. Add to that some pretty neat, but perhaps slightly limited selection of weaponry and character classes, and you’ve got yourself a tight little package for a game with some pretty good potential.
The graphics are what you would expect; nothing mind-blowing, but nothing sub-par, either. There are some clipping bugs and such that still need to be ironed out post-release, but the game has come leaps and bounds from where it was during its beta stage. My favorite graphical aspect is the HUD. It is set up on an angle to give you a real feeling that you are seeing the display on your visor, rather than just plastered up on the screen. Ammo counts and waypoints for various strategic locations hover over the items on screen. It is cool. It makes you feel like you’re really decked out with some pretty high-tech stuff. The guns, themselves, however, don’t really blow me away. You’ve got your typical guns that you come to expect from these types of games, and there are a few stylistic additions to make them look a little techier, but aside from that, they aren’t that special.
The FPS combat is a little hard to master, but I feel like the learning curve is appropriate. The same goes for the RTS, I think, though I must admit that I’ve never been very attracted to that particular type of game. The different classes are fun to explore and the game allows you to switch between them very easily to find the best fit for the situation. There are massive “Exo” tank units that take, and dish out, a beating, but move extremely slow. There are “Assault” units that are your typical all-round fighters with access to machine guns, grenade-launchers, or sniper rifles. There are “Support” classes that can either be medics or engineers, or flame-throwers. And then there is the “Stealth” class that can use a special invisibility cloak to go all Predator on your enemies and either kill them up-close as an assassin, or long range as a sniper. There are also a good assortment of maps that all feed into the post-apocalyptic feel of the game.
I was impressed with the sound effects. If you are distant from a skirmish, you will hear gunfire and explosions, but they are muffled and distorted as you would expect them to sound in real life over a great distance. There are, however, some annoying voice prompts that get extremely repetitive and monotonous after a short period of time, however, and I hope that someone at Interwave gets the memo to tweak that pretty soon.
The multiplayer experience is pretty well done. I never felt like I was getting killed due to lag, even in full-sized maps with 32 people running around. The integrated voice-communication system is important to the game and implemented well by the players. I felt that the community was made up of a little more “mature” audience than your COD players typically are, which appealed to me.
I really feel like this game is well-rounded and offers a more intelligent style of FPS gameplay for those who don’t just want to run around blindly killing enemies until a score limit is reached or whatever. I also think that the addition of the RTS style gameplay will attract that audience to the game, as well, which will lend itself to some very interesting battles. That is perhaps the most attractive thing about this game. The fact that, even while fighting over the same maps, the fights are never be the same because it will be up to the commanders on how it is won, rather than fighting over the same things over and over again.
As I said before, it may not be perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction for the genre. It’ll be interesting to see what improvements come to the game as the minor bugs are ironed out. And even more interesting will be where we go next, now that Nuclear Dawn has shown us what a game is capable of doing.