The second was the music. The instrumental score was very good, I thought. It really seemed to fit into the game, not just between scenes but also during the battle. I felt like I was watching Blackhawk Down again, especially thanks to the music combined with the first missions being set in Somalia.
From there, I ran into more and more of the annoyances that plagued this otherwise interesting title.
One of the biggest things about it for me was the fact that it’s set basically in the modern day. Oh, sure, it says 2008 – but that’s mostly saying “you’re going to be using modern day gear.”
The storyline is fairly straight forward. There’s a new terrorist group called Matar. They’re more vicious and smarter than the other terrorist groups out there and really, really, would like to get their hands on some WMDs. The UN and G8 set up the “Joint Task Force”, a multinational group of soldiers designed to take them out. You start off controlling Major O’Connell, who admits up-front he helped set up the current situation in Somalia, and now is out to fix it. Later, you end up also visiting Afghanistan, Iraq, Colombia, and Bosnia – all the greatest hits of the 1980s, ‘90s, and 2000s!
It’s not all flowers and puppies for the JTF, though – or even all sniper rifles and RPGs. The media is all over them like, well, you know the idioms. During the mission you’ll occasionally have TV pop-ups that tell you how the media (and thus, the public) feels about your mission. “So what?” you might say, the armchair general.
“Sew buttons!” No, not really. But what it does mean is funding.
You see, this isn’t your typical real-time strategy game. In many other games, you go about doing your thing – gathering resources, building a base, pumping out units. That isn’t how things work in the real world, and that’s not how they work in Joint Task Force. Instead, you have funding, in which you can call in reinforcements or extra units. However, you don’t just pay for them, you also have to pay for the transport – and if you’re killing too many civilians, taking too many casualties, or doing too much property damage (to innocents), you’re going to have more of your funding cut.
The biggest nod to game mechanics in the in-game units is the FRSV, which will repair your vehicles and resupply your forces right quick like. Other than that, things seem pretty realistic – you have some HMMWV (the famous Humvee) with various types of weapons, your soldiers will have a mix of weapons, and sometimes you can even find weapons. You’ll either find the RPGs lying around (hey, it is the third world), or, if you take a vehicle with a minimum of destruction meted out on it, you might be able to steal it. And there’s nothing nicer than using your enemies own AA guns back on him.
It does lead to some of the annoyances. For instance, to resupply your men takes a lot of button clicking. So does issuing orders. In fact, you’ll be doing a lot of micromanaging because your men and vehicles will often like to take the long way around. The AI isn’t very I, if you know what I mean. (If you don’t know, it means it’s not that smart.)
It also doesn’t help that units are fairly fragile. It’s realistic, yes, but your vehicles and soldiers fall apart quickly under fire, which means you’re going to be working quickly to try to stop your “hero” from dying and automatically failing the mission.
Heroes are the “leaders” of the missions. They have experience, and all the characters can level up between missions and get new skills. So you want to keep them alive (and in the case of the main ones, you have to keep them alive). The system definitely gives them more character than the voice acting does. You get to pick who gets promoted when, which was a bit of a nice touch – it actually feels like you are in command.
Oh yes. The voice acting. When gushing about the music, I’d almost forgotten about the voice acting, and honestly, I’d be a happier man today if I could. It’s flat, it’s bad, it’s SO bad, you’ll…uh…think it’s really bad. And the soldiers don’t exactly have a lot to say – by the second mission I think I already heard everything they might say when they’re bored or when they kill an enemy.
Because your soldiers will get bored, because you have to take breaks occasionally to reinforce. The idea of calling in helicopters or cargo airplanes to do the reinforcements helps add to the realism, but it also slows things down a lot. You take the airstrip – stand next to the building with no enemies around and let the flag change, that’s at least a stereotypical RTS feature – and then you can call in the airplanes. And wait for them. Then try to catch your vehicle before it runs away to where ever it is they go automatically after landing (‘cause it sure ain’t where I wanted them to go).
Not to mention the save lag. It’s set by default to autosave every 5 minutes. That’s good – because you’ll want the autosaves, obviously – but the game lags out each time it saves. I found that very annoying, especially when I was in the middle of some micro-management task and had to figure out where I was to continue.
The graphics are pretty nice, though I did see some weird out-of-sync issues when they’d talk. The environment is very well done, and entirely destructible – feel free to drive through houses, walls, and anything else – as long as you don’t care what the media thinks. And you should care what they think.
There are more game modes than just the campaign mode. For instance, in multiplayer, there are skirmish and scenario modes. The skirmish modes have some interesting areas to play in that you won’t visit in the storyline campaign – for instance, well, you can fight in Hell. You can also pick which side you want to fight as – JTF, dictator, or terrorist.
In short, this is a good game – but not a perfect one. The destructibility of the environment, the graphics, the music, the modern day setting are all very good things about the game. Unfortunately, the necessary micromanagement of the units thanks to a poor AI and the amazing bad voice acting detract, at times heavily, from the game. If you’re interested in this genre, it’s definitely worth looking into, especially if it’s not at full price. But be ready to take advantage of saving often and the relatively quick load times.