Review

Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge Review (PC)

Coming from a single parent family, I guess I should consider myself lucky that the mom/dad break up thing was rather amicable. Children who grow up in hostile home environments, whether their parents are separated or not, can often enter adult life with any number of problems – lack of confidence, aggression disorders, social ineptitude.... but let’s not digress. Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge is the spiritual successor of the Jagged Alliance series, and it’s clear that the hostile environment it grew up in during development has stunted what was supposed to be another great game for a great series.

The Jagged Alliance franchise is a classic from the birth of PC Gaming, starting life as a simple DOS game before moving into a more up-town environment with the advent of Windows and DirectX. The series has spawned 5 titles so far, with the current IP holders planning several more titles to come.


Eh, Men of War does it better...
You need to make sure you carry enough supplies to last a whole mission.

Hired Guns however is not one of them, not officially anyway. It started off life as either Jagged Alliance 3D or Jagged Alliance 3 (It’s hard to tell), however, with disputes between developer Game Factory Interactive and the IP holder Strategy First on the increase, the game itself had to suffer through re-works, dropped features and reversals. Eventually, SF pulled out of the deal, leaving GFI with a half made game that lacked an IP. So, with some subtle tweaks (including the removal of all official Jagged Alliance material), GFI eventually released the game you see before you today.

It’s a shame, because listening to Strategy First’s vision of the game, the next title in the series was supposed to be great, take the series to new heights. Instead, with an official sequel still in the works, we’re left with this game. It’s not that it’s overall bad; it’s just not good either.

With outdated graphics, a rather complex and confusing UI and a slightly inept in-game help menu (which, coupled with the lack of a manual made things quite difficult), the ‘spiritual successor’ leaves a lot to be desired.

The premise of the game is similar to the previous titles, despite all official links being removed. You as the player are tasked by the exiled ruler of a fictional African sate – the Diamond Coast – to take it back from an evil dictator who ousted him out of his own home. To do this, you have access to a wide array of mercenaries for hire, and equipment. The main mode is almost like a fancy version of risk, with the ‘campaign map’ split into several battle maps owned by various factions, including your own. You must beat the enemy on a map in order to claim it.


The ability to stand on almost anything is, I’ll admit, a nice touch.
The environments are quite varied, which is a plus.

This, along with a number of other features that the game posts, are actually quite innovative in themselves. The small-time gaming companies are good for pushing the envelope when it comes to games, and you’ll find many gems amongst small-time and foreign developers. Unfortunately, most of the features in Hired Guns were present in the original games, so the lack of anything truly new is disappointing. You’re unlikely to see much difference between this game and the previous ones, apart from the graphics, and even that is touch and go.

Still, there some good points to the game. Jagged Edge tries to provide you with a pretty deep RPG system, with each hired mercenary coming with their own personality and needs, as well as even people they like/dislike working with. Its small touches like these that redeem the game somewhat, and with a fleshed out stats and abilities system; you can have a lot of fun making sure your character is at his or her best.

RPG elements aside, Strategy is the name of the game. On the campaign screen you’ll mostly take care of admin tasks – checking emails, getting missions, healing, re-equipping and assigning your squads. The ‘meat and potatoes’ of the game are the battle maps. To give the game some credit, there are a good variety of map locations to play on, and it really gives you a feel that you’re moving about the country. Until you run into an enemy, these battle maps are in real time, and you can walk around, talk to locals, and make sure everything checks out. As soon as you encounter someone who wants to kill you however, things switch to a turn-based mode.

Each of your characters has action points which they can use every turn, and you have to use these to try and defeat your enemies. Whether it be hiding, sneaking up on the enemy, or simply having a shoot out, once you’ve used up your action points for each of your characters, your turn ends, and then the enemy can respond in kind. This goes until one side is defeated, and once you have defeated all the enemies on the map and/or completed your objectives, the mission is over. It may take some time to get used to this aspect of the gameplay, especially if you’re not a veteran, so expect to lose more men then you would like in the first few matches.


Buildings cannot escape the carnage either.
The loading times aren’t bad, but then the game isn’t exactly Crysis...

The game arguably gets better and perhaps slightly easier the further in you get, provided you don’t mess anything up. You can have more than one squad, and you can hire people to guard captured provinces. So long as you keep the money flowing, everything should be ok. Unfortunately there are other various niggles that may hamper your enjoyment. The English localisation was done quite poorly for example, and some of the maps are too small for their own good. Coupled with the fact that some of the RPG elements are a bit quirky – for instance your characters collapse from exhaustion rather too quickly – means that the game is a mixture of good and bad.


If you were a fan of the original Jagged Alliance games, and still play them, then you’ll probably feel right at home with this title. Despite the lack of innovation, there is enough here to please the fan base, and so it will probably be an enjoyable experience for those select few. Unfortunately, there’s little here to entice new people to the fold, and so it’s better to give this one a miss. Who knows, when Strategy First finally gets their act together, the official Jagged Alliance sequel may provide a better entry point into the series.


Top Game Moment:
Getting through a mission without losing anyone.

Videos

Comments

By V4ndall (SI Veteran Member) on Jun 25, 2009
V4ndall
Heh. actually the game has good graphics only. Turn based gameplay mechanics and weapon stats make the game feel overly synthetic compared to 7,62...
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 29, 2009
herodotus
What a shame. I expected this to be quite good being a fan of Jagged Alliance 2.
By Evmeister (SI Newbie) on Jul 03, 2009
Evmeister
Being a huge fan of jagged alliance 2 and also played mods for it and made my own maps, it was very fun and addicting, havent played this yet but it seems like it'll be a disappontment...we'll see
By JoeyZaza (I just got here) on Jun 22, 2012
JoeyZaza
I've finally decided to give this a go, with the current lack of entries in the genre and given the epic failure that was JA:Back in Action, the crappy *action game* (yuck!).

Hired Guns: Jagged Edge turned out to be a very good game, and most serious issues seem to have been fixed with the latest 1.08 patch, making it all the more enjoyable. Tip: don't give up the first second if the game seems difficult; very soon you'll get the hang of it and you'll be hooked - exactly as with the first time you played the original JA!

Definitely recommended for people in search of some good and solid turn-based squad level gaming.