The History Channel: Civil War Review (Xbox360)

The History Channel: Civil War has managed to miss just about every important item on the FPS genre To-Do-List. At first I thought maybe I’m just knocking it because it naturally doesn’t have that appeal that the sci-fi and modern time period shooters have, but after a closer examination I found a half-eaten candy bar covered in a nice shiny wrapper with the letters “The History Channel” printed on front of the package. Some of the game’s problems derive from the limitations of the time period, but most are simply cases of designer neglect.

This may look epic at first, but it quickly dwindles down to a few small skirmishes Ducking behind this wagon will do you no good

One of the things the Civil War was known for was its bloody, epic battles in which 10’s of thousands of soldiers fought and died. During the game several of the 12 missions (six as the North, six as the South) available started out with this open sense of battle with a good deal of friendly and enemy units running about, but it eventually bottlenecks into a few linear skirmishes which consist of moving to point A, destroying either a Gatling Gun or Cannon before moving to point B, to mop up the remaining enemy forces. On top of it all it doesn’t include an autosave feature so you’ll either have to pause the game frequently to save your data or have to restart all over again. Enemies also have the special ability to shoot through objects such as concrete barriers and wagons which can be very frustrating. Thanks to the game’s branding it does offer some informative and well narrated history tidbits before and after every mission.

The game is full of mindless kills and will offer up some entertainment for about a half hour. The enemy AI has soldiers constantly trying to bum rush you even though several of their comrades have fallen just seconds before them. They’ll constantly be found out in the open and when shot at they don’t even make an attempt to take cover. All of this makes the game into a glorified Duck Hunter in which you can sit back, relax, and fire without a real concern for dying. Friendly units are not any different however they do take out enemy units rather consistently.

Take a good look at this screenshot as you’ll be seeing the enemy constantly charging at you The fun factor of using Gatling Guns and Cannons quickly diminishes

You will quickly learn to stick with the multi-shot rifles and revolvers because the reload animations are done realistically…which is very, very slow. This is one of those “time period specific” problems so I really can’t harp on this aspect of the game because most of us want realism, and this is just the price we have to pay. Two things that are not realistic about your arsenal of weapons is the fact that you can carry every weapon in the game on your person and their accuracy. With the game on Normal difficulty it was rather easy to get 80 percent accuracy, and it doesn’t really vary with the type of gun you have either. At other times you’ll get to use the Gatling Guns and Cannons but they too become old after the first 15 seconds of use.

Not counting the last-gen environments the graphics in the game aren’t too shabby. The gun models look to have been modeled correctly and look great along with the hand animations when reloading. Character models and animations are hit and miss with one of the misses being that death animations look to have been taken out of an Old Western saloon shootout. One cool visual effect in the game occurs when you’re fixing to die. Your vision becomes distorted giving a real sense of vulnerability and will most often send you seeking cover.

All the sound effects in the game are great be it the exploding barrels or the alarming sound of an enemies Gatling Gun. Along with the narration the voice acting is great although a young voice is often paired with a grey haired general which takes you out of whatever experience you can muster out of this game.

Most particle effects look great, but the environments are the best of last-gen It’s often times hard to pick out the enemy from friendly soldiers

Without any facet of a multiplayer mode (no co-op, deathmatch, etc.) this game should be over in less than 4 hours, and I doubt you’ll want to go back for more. I think the biggest lesson that should be learned from this game is that developers should probably never try to tackle the Civil War time period if they plan on making it into an FPS. In the end if you can’t have guns that have a decent magazine capacity and semi-quick reloading times, it’s no game I want to play.

Top Game Moment:
My vision becoming distorted as I was on the brink of death giving a great sense of vulnerability.

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