by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Interface design 101
The interface in tactical mode takes a dive for the worst. Even after hours of play I couldn’t shake the sense of tunnel vision while overseeing the playing field. The view is further restricted by some odd stuff sticking out of the mini-map and aim/stance button area in the bottom-left section of the screen. Not that you want to use those buttons: the bottom row is so close to the edge of the screen that it invariably causes your screen to scroll away from the action. You can only select multiple mercs when they are visible on the screen, and when you move them they respond in a clunky fashion that makes you want to click a dozen times with each action in the hopes that all of them respond to the marching orders. Can someone order Game Factory the book ‘Interface design 101’ please?
One problem that both friends and foes have in common is the ridiculous path finding. Selecting six mercenaries and sending them through a narrow pathway will stop four or five of them dead in their tracks while the others trudge away into danger without enough backup. I even had one character run up against a wall for 2 minutes. It wasn’t until I selected him and moved him elsewhere that he stopped running. Perhaps that is why one character was on a leash. She ran around with a rope that led from her hand to the ground about five paces away from her. It didn’t appear to hamper her in any way but stayed until we moved to a new location.
In the land of the blind
Oddly enough, your mercs are near blind when they are flat on their belly hoping to avoid fire. Without any obstructions in the way other than some grass, your merc will tell you that there is no line of sight between him and his target at 10 paces away. By then, he will have burned their action points on a non-action and is a sitting duck. That same enemy has no problem seeing your guy, and will surely take your merc through the meat grinder the next turn.
The list of poorly implemented gameplay elements goes on and on: The dialogue between the player characters and NPCs is extremely limited and does nothing to draw the player into any sort of storyline. When your team is engaged, they better finish the job as there is no way to retreat to a neighboring sector. The day and night cycle has gone M.I.A., removing a very important strategic decision from the player. The graphics may be an upgrade compared to the nearly 10 year old Jagged Alliance 2 but the artwork is uninspired and leaves much to be desired and so does the quality. Simply put, they are not of this day and age, no matter what way you look at it. The voice acting is appalling and you will quickly want to switch off the ability of your squad members to audibly comment on what is happening on the battle scene. When on a slope, dead enemies flicker in and out of existence at leisure even when you are standing right on top of them, making it a frustrating task to loot their bodies. I will spare you the rest of my rants.
So is there nothing good to mention about this game? Well, there are a few new additions that I did appreciate. To start with, fallen enemies provide a lot of loot. This is necessary as money is hard to come by and you will need to pay the bills for a full squad right from the start to survive the first mission. After the first mission, my team was already lot better equipped, at least weapons wise. Targeting individual body parts has also become more intuitive with the introduction of a small area located at the bottom-right of the screen on which you can select which body part to hit. If you prefer you can still switch to the old system of hovering over the body part.
A new button allows you to set ‘always use maximum aim’ which is especially handy in the early missions when access to long-range weapons is limited. The four factions are a cool addition, changing the dynamics between the player and the game in a variety of ways. But the best option of all is the ability to increase the mining income from mines in owned territory by buying better equipment.
Not Jagged Alliance
Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge -is- a murderously difficult game and it ultimately fails to deliver the promise of the license that was its inspiration. The narrative, a strong point of Jagged Alliance 2, is so poor that it discourages you from forming any sort of attachment to your mercenaries. The game lacks the personality that made the real Jagged Games such fantastic experiences.
Hired Guns had a lot to live up to, I realize that and I really wanted to like it. I kept on playing for much longer than the initial impressions warranted, hoping to find something there that would redeem it in my eyes. Because of my persistence, I found that once you have resigned to repeated loading of your game during combat to deal with the high difficulty, one may actually enjoy the game.
I was torn between scoring the game with a five or a six. Three reasons tipped the scale to the six. The first is that turn-based tactical games such as these are hopelessly rare. The second is that my hopes are dwindling for a true sequel now that Strategy First has become mute about their efforts to revive the Jagged franchise. The last reason is that I know how persistent hardcore fans of the genre can be and that I am sure that some will find something to like in this game.
No Pros and Cons at this time