The Jagged curse
One has to wonder if the Jagged Alliance series hasnít fallen victim to some dark voodoo magic, cursed to achieve its former glory only when Ian Curry, its original creator, steps in to create a second sequel. God knows people have tried. Publisher Strategy First, current owner of the Jagged Alliance License, initially asked Game Factory Interactive to create the sequel, who in turn asked Mist Land Interactive to do the work. The latter was dissolved in 2006 after which Game Factory Interactive continued development on the game. Not being happy with the gameís progress and quality, Strategy First pulled the plug on the project. Having lost the license did not deter Game Factory from continuing work on the game. Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge was released to the North American territories in October and, having played the game, I can see why Strategy First decided to bail out.
Judging the game by its menu
Upon starting the game, it is immediately clear that Game Factory has attempted to make you feel like you are playing an actual Jagged Alliance game. The ĎJagged styleí has been applied to the interface, logos and menus with criminal abandon. The trend is continued when you open your laptop, connect to the internet and create your lead character through an admittedly funny set of questions. Hiring mercenaries, ordering weapons and ammo, it all feels very familiar. Unfortunately it all turns sour in a hurry as soon as you start playing.
After you have hired your first squad of mercenaries and outfitted them with weapons and armor, you can move on to your first tactical mission. The Ďsector gridí has been replaced by an overall map strewn with Polaroid pictures that depict a location along with information about the current occupational force. Initially, the map shows only one available location but adjacent locations become available as you take control or complete certain objectives. The new ĎPolaroid picture locationsí arenít a bad idea but I prefer the sense of freedom that comes with the good old sector grid. It also detracts somewhat from the strategic element of the game.
Sod out of luck
Your first mission is likely to make you howl in frustration (this doesnít change much later on either to be honest). Even wintered turn-based strategy veterans such as myself will want to play the game on easy level. Before long, the enemy forces had my mercenaries dropping like flies. Outgunned, underpowered and bereft of the extraordinary grenade-throwing powers of their opponents, my mercs were no match for the marauders and soldiers already present in the sector.
Of course some of these issues could have been solved if I could have equipped my squad with the rifles that were available in the hardware store. Unfortunately the shop didnít sell any ammo to go with it. Instead I got stuck with some light semi-automatics. Firing single shots proved to be a hopeless exercise: even at point blank range, a single pistol shot into an unprotected head resulted in -2 damage to a foe that had 60+ health. Wow, thatís a tough head! But at least my guy hit that time. Another merc, possessing an accuracy skill rating of 63, consistently missed head -and- body shots while standing right next to his quarry. I donít know about you, but anyone who can find the safety release on a gun will be able to pull that of.
Your enemies on the other hand, will have better weapons and hit you with twice as much accuracy as even your most skilled gunman is able to. They really dig their grenades which means you will have to spread out, losing the ability of your mercs giving each other cover. That almost sounds like a complaint but it is actually quite clever and would have been great if your enemies didnít use rocket propelled grenades, throwing them about twice as far than even your strongest merc can.
No Pros and Cons at this time