Stalin vs Martians Review (PC)

Whoever wins a war dictates history. Hitler’s World War II loss meant his name would always be associated with genocide and unfathomable cruelty. Stalin on the other hand, (if we discount the Cold War), got off lightly. It’s a rare occurrence that anyone questions his purges. He was a truly evil man who got away with the mass killing of aliens. Wait, what? Didn’t you know? While America was storming the pacific and the United Kingdom Normandy, Stalin was busy sending wave upon wave of troops against some pesky aliens.

Martians to be exact. Forget about those stern Nazis, this hidden conflict is far more interesting. Stalin vs. Martians is a three-way collaboration between Black Wing Foundation, Dreamlore and N-Game. They’ve made nothing of note, and sadly after grappling with Stalin vs. Martians nothing has changed. Intended as a satirical attack on the genericism of World War II games, Stalin vs. Martians’ falls short. The only thing that the Russian developers have succeeded at is managing to get on our nerves.

We’re all for humorous games. As Eat Lead showed, the video games industry is ripe with clichés. If you’re going to poke fun at a genre, at least make sure your product is actually good. It’s easy to get the good out of the way first. The core concept is actually relatively intriguing. You’d be mistaken in conjuring up mental images of Universe at War or Resistance: Fall of Man. Why not throw in some aliens in gaming’s much loved subject. Alternate realities / histories have always fared well, and if the developers had developed the idea, rather than just dumping a load of Toy-Story-esque aliens against tanks, it might have been a successful design choice.

As a substitute, we’re left with a ludicrous game where Russian-techno contrasts with unintelligible pop-music as hordes of colourful Martians come up against your hapless infantry. After five minutes you’ll have seen everything the game has to offer. Objectives have you moving from A to B or defending a given point. You could argue that the RTS genre has been doing that for thirty years, but at least enacting such objectives is engaging.

Mars Attacks

Graphics circa 2002

Stalin vs. Martians hits the ‘Real-Time’ nail on its head, while using the ‘strategy’ part as the hammer. You control your units with a couple of clumsy buttons. You’ll struggle to select the units you want as they'll never go where you tell them to. It’s frustratingly difficult to get them to attack what you wish. Put simply, the game’s a pile of rubbish. If you possess the patience to get past the first two levels, you’ll quickly learn that selecting everything and moving on masse across the level gets the job done.

All the while, you’ll be spamming the reinforcement button. There’s a range of ‘authentic troops’ to bolster your army. You’ll pay for them with the coins that your tanks magically pick up. On top of that, there are various power ups to increase your battle-effectiveness. Well there would be if they didn’t vanish after a couple seconds. In fact, blink and you’ll miss half the battle. There is so much going on – it’s infuriatingly confusing. Disorientation is no fun.

It’s not helped by the aged engine. Decrepit would be a more suitable term. Buried and dead would be the solution. It really is appalling. There’s a fine line between intentional minimalism – something Stalin vs. Martians cuts to shreds. It’s old, ugly and depressing to look at. The game’s presentation is severely lacking. Shoddy menus, a nonexistent story and no multiplayer.

Its price is extortionate and it’s shocking that its seen release. Its execution is inherently flawed. Mother Russia is calling and we’re not ashamed to say we’ve given Stalin Vs. Martians a big push. Avoid.

Top Game Moment:
The doctored historical photos. They’re the reason it scored a 3.

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By Nicolas19 (SI Core Veteran) on Jun 09, 2009
Really a shame this title could see release. History is always written by the winners...