Preview

Theatre of War 2: Korea Preview (PC)

The thing about Theatre of War 2 wasn't that it didn't try hard enough, or that it suffered from sloppy production values or anything like that, it just wasn't that good. There are other games that simply did what it did better, even from the same publisher (1C Company) and so the game's efforts just seemed wasted. Still, in an era of more 'Hollywood' WW2 RTS games, Theatre of War 2's (and all its expansion's) hardcore attitude as well as it's homage to the classic Close Combat series is certainly refreshing, and is bound to find its way into the hearts of some die-hard fans.

It will be interesting to see how 1C have handled helicopter warfare

Theatre of War 2: Korea is the latest expansion to this game, and whilst it does take the series in a better direction than before, we fear it may not be enough to overcome what seem to be basic flaws. Set during the 1950's, Korea allows you to fight through the 'Forgotten War' from both perspectives, the Americans and the North Koreans. It's nice to Korea get some love once in a while, as there's a reason it's called the 'Forgotten War' but we fear the potential may have been wasted in game that essentially still isn't that good.

There are gems in this game that could be fun exploring, even if only for a while. For the first time ever, the series has shifted to a more non-linear dynamic model for its campaign, which makes it even more like Close Combat and functionally is just a better way of doing things in the absence of any kind of story. After all, you are shaping events, as opposed to 'following' a main character, so it stands to reason you be given full control over your actions. You can now manage reserve forces and strategic deployment, fuel and ammo reserves, as well as your axis of advance to really add an air of authenticity to the game that can be quite appealing.

As times changed after the Second World War, so did warfare. Whilst developments like atomics and jet engine aircraft don't factor into Korea, developments such as Helicopters do. Helicopters were actually put to limited use during the Second World War, but it was the Korean War that really showed how rotary aircraft could shine, either as troop transports or medical evacuation craft. Playing as the Americans, you get to make use of this new technology by rapidly deploying your troops in an 'Air Cavalry' fashion. This is not something you see often in strategy combat games, so it also should prove to be a refreshing new dimension to experiment with, provided they get it right.

The campaign mode at least has potential

Not that this is the most important thing, but the graphics engine has been improved as well, with smooth lines and models to give off an all round more polish feel. We always felt that the graphics of the previous instalments were a bit sub-par compared by modern standards, so it's good to see them bring those up to spec at least.

Unfortunately, for every plus point, there's at least two negatives. As we said earlier, this game has some fundamental flaws that we just don't see changing, but also cripple the game somewhat. The controls are very fiddly and difficult to get to grips with, whether you are trying to set up your troops prior to battle, or trying to control them during an advance. Even when you're fighting a defensive battle, managing battlements and positioning troops can sometimes be harder than it needs to be. Granted, we only got to play a small bit of the game and so only a few maps were available to us, but we got the impression that this game could get repetitive and frustrating quickly for people not already familiar with the series.

Combat is still a puzzling experience. Whilst unit stats, veterancy and a ton of other stats help make up the 'math' of battle, visually the ballistics can seem way off. You'll see shots land harmlessly beside you, but then a couple of your guys will randomly die anyway. Perhaps more correspondence between the battle algorithms and what you see on the screen is needed. Balance still may need working on as well, as the snippet we played had us as the North Koreans fighting the Americans, and we got our rear-ends handed to us on more than one occasion. Historical Accuracy doesn't always translate into an interesting gameplay experience.

Unfortunatly, Theatre of War lacks a certain flair

To be honest, it's not looking promising so far. We'll need to have a good long session with the finished code before we can give you a definitive answer, but we'd be surprised (albeit gladly) if things drastically changed between now and release. We are looking forward to some things, like trying out the helicopter-based airborne tactics and the non-linear campaigns, but we fear the more basic flaws with handling etc... may over-shadow what small steps it has taken. Ultimately though, It's unlikely this game will make the Korean War any less forgotten

Theatre of War 2: Korea is due out later this year for Windows PC.

Comments

By eloqui (SI Core Member) on Jun 10, 2010
eloqui
doesn't really look like Korea. They been watching too much M*A*S*H.