Sunday, 15 August 2004

Archive Review: Soldner: Secret Wars

(PC review)

Piece of...

Action games can be great fun. Just look at realistic military FPS games like Battlefield 1942, Joint Ops, and Raven Shield. I accept that they are more than often a case of love or hate but the fact is... someone always loves them. When I heard about Soldner: Secret Wars, Encore's new title which has been developed by Wings Software, I heard many particularly interesting rumours about what these intelligent, highly paid, professionals were planning. I heard that this FPS military game would offer destructible environments and even an ability to blow large craters into terrain which would stick on the map. I imagined this, if done well, would bring a great new potential into multiplayer gaming - the ability to create cover like soldiers are trained to do in real life through throwing grenades into fields and diving into the explosion's crater for some quick safety.

The computer game known as Soldner (pronounced zold-ner, apparently) also offered some neat other aspects that caught my attention. I was waiting for Joint Ops to come out but noticed how Soldner's team were managing to get some e-headlines with their boasts of the titles promising features. Without going too deeply into what they claimed, which was mostly the destructible elements, I can now see clearly that not one of the features made the final code.

I guess at this stage I better mention the story. This game has one and it's about as clever as a Tom Clancy novel. These "prophets" have forged a future where super powers of the world no longer need armed forces. Instead they use small groups of mercenaries and give them as many ex-soviet tanks and choppers as they need to wreak havoc in small, isolated, battles. It's just an excuse for small-scale warfare with jets thrown in.

Soldner is quite frankly a downright, classically and comically, bad computer game. Once you buy it the first thing you must do is download a patch to... get it to work. Enough said. So, once the patch is downloaded and your game is ready it's time to give it a try (being somewhat surprised by the forced patch download). The first thing you will experience is a German male shouting at you in some wild bellowing tone. After this the cheesy military themed music cranks into action, which meant I quickly turned the music off. I then fiddled with the basic options screen and entered the training mode.

Normally in training modes you get an outline of what your meant to do and learn. Soldner takes this system, and..., well it actually just takes it. What Soldner offers is a completely unexplained tutorial that you, the player, will have absolutely no idea about. So I just ran about the abandoned warehouse and fired a few shots before stumbling across a plank of wood that brought up an option to play a mission. Wow I thought...

The list of missions was completely un-inspired and lackluster. For example in most games of this type the missions are given fancy names and flashy briefings. Raven Shield was a prime example of this. Instead of this Soldner is not afraid to be blunt with you. The mission is to "destroy a radar dish in China" so by heck that's all you need to know. Son, go destroy a radar dish in China. You click accept (like you would deny it) and your soldier spawns into the middle of a map. Before this point you get to customise your soldier. You can select what "he" wears and this is actually quite in-depth, including an ability to select armour, camo netting, boots, hats, all sorts. The actual outcome always resembles some modern day mercenary, so don't go trying to forge some comical yet "l33t" look, you can't with the options offered. Funny thing here is that there are all sorts of old ex-Nazi Germany garments to be had. You can make yourself out to look like an SS troop quite easily. This Nazi aspect has no links to the story, it's just a little addition. Apparently people like dressing up as the Hun in multiplayer games. (I have a skin pack for Counter Strike that makes the terrorists various evil henchmen).

The tried and true Evil-Soviet look

The single player is terrible. The missions are basic and easy. I went and found that radar dish and destroyed it and completed the mission with almost no effort needed. There is some attempt, well I think, of enemy A.I though. I noticed at one stage whilst heading for the dish a bunch of characters hanging around the immediate area. I let them live since they didn't seem too bothered about my Western Ass turning up in a killer jump suit and planting some TnT on their evil radar dish. Maybe the A.I likes getting their base pWn3eD!

I tried multiplayer out, which is the real point to the game. Two factors came into mind here. The first was that there were only about 30 or so active players on when I tried it. This was not a huge problem though as they were mostly all in one server. I entered the game and the second factor hit me. The small amount of players I had come across were literally all German or Swedish "l337 r0x0r Ub3r" players who were likely all trying to hack each other at the same time as playing the game. The framerate was so low it was almost non-playable and the lag was extreme. Even ignoring this I gave the game a go and realised that there was some "economy" system that worked like Counter Strike. You make money by killing and buy guns with money at the spawn point for your team. Personally I just didn't have the incentive quite explained to me to play on some laggy server like this for 5 hours only to then be able to have enough to buy some big gun. I didn't care.

The combat was basic and hardly impressed me. No iron sights, no real feeling of realism in the physics or bullet impact. You just drill. The sound is at least acceptable. The draw distances are too narrow to offer long range sniping and there is no real point here doing anything more and strafe shooting and bunny hopping in and out of cover.

There are vehicles in this game and the truth is simple - you either drive or pilot something or die. There is no point being on foot, what-so-ever. the coding is so bad that you don't seem to be able to kill anyone. The bullets fail to register, the framerate adds to your hellish gaming experience, and then some hacker-kid flies over your face with a Jet fighter. Soldner, you can tell I love it!

During my tour of duty the talk bar consisted of such good team talk as;

-Antonio_l33t-101st: How do I get a jet?

-No Hold Bars: Blow me and I will tell you!

-_'_: You're so fUx0red, stop talking like a fUx0rerzing poser and go home, ub3r-n00b

-Antonio_l33t-101st: F*ck you lamer

This riveting example of team co-ordination is just another feather that must be rightfully added to the hat that makes up Soldner: Secret Wars. My theory is that the name says it all. This is a "Secret" war, and only those dumb, or unlucky, enough to fall into this manhole of depravity will ever be able to account for the low frame-per-sec carnage.



+expensive, yet effective, screen saver.


-very bad graphics

-very bad gameplay

-very weak story

-bugs, issues, patches, stability, "uber boys"


Keep it a secret

by Pai Mai 2004

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