by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
Another 'unique' blend
As a games writer, I never cease to be surprised by how ignorant the publishers think their public is. Once again, a game is proclaimed to be a unique blending of FPS and RTS, even though we've had these sorts of blending games several times before. The only problem with them has been that none of them has been completely successful in blending the genres and finding gamers who actually like to play these sorts of FPS/RTS blends - at least enough to make this a genre of its own. Perhaps Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger will be the one to find the correct mix, but we will know only when it actually hits the market. Until then, we can only hope.
Burning up a bit more of the Amazonian jungle
As if the greatest jungle in the world had not suffered enough in humanity's hands, Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger goes and crash lands a couple of squads of mercenaries into these lungs of the world, ready to level some trees and, if they have time, kill some of their enemies. Basically, the story involves mercenaries who've been hired to retrieve some data and rescue the survivors from the jungle, but as the mercs themselves get shot down, the mission turns into their own struggle for survival. Amidst their own struggles, the mercs will also get involved with local politics and they end up, over the span of the game, doing their part in changing the outcome of a local civil war.
Combining the focuses of FPS with RTS, each story driven objective will require both tactical planning and brute force to complete successfully. Each member of both squads will have their own skills and weapons in addition to the standard assault rifles and they have their own place in the grand picture of things, allowing the gamer to take control of any one of them in any given situation. The secondary weapons include sniper rifles, mines, grenades and rocket launchers. Each of the two 4-man squads is also specialised in their attack modes: one of them specialising in long-range attacks and the other one excelling in more up-close-and-personal approach.
The developers promise that every conflict that the player gets involved it will have multiple solutions and every battle will play out in many different ways. Compared to the classic win or lose setting, this sounds pretty interesting and I look forward to seeing what this means in practical gameplay.
Focus on cooperation
The gameplay in Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger focusses strongly on cooperative aspects, which sounds very refreshing to me, considering the competitive approach of every single RTS and most FPSs out there. Basically, the two players will be able to switch freely between the FPS and RTS modes of gameplay in order to progress in the game. Playing the campaign through in a cooperative mode will also rank up the difficulty a little bit, just to keep the game challenging enough.
Using the RTS mode to... cheat?
Certainly you know what it feels like, in a FPS, to sneak around in a building, wondering if there are enemies sneaking around in the very same building looking for you – or trying to sneak over the top of a hill to see if there are enemies where you cannot see them? Well, we already know that Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger will remove some of this excitement from the menu by allowing you to quickly change into an RTS view, letting you spot any hidden enemy units and plan your attacks accordingly. These little excitement-spoilers are explained away with the high-tech gear that the squad carries around, letting them get real-time video feed from the satellites above the jungle (never mind the cover that the foliage in jungles should provide you).
Into the jungle
The game has been delayed a little from the originally planned winter 2008 release, and the new planned release date is Q3 2009. Personally, although I'm put off a little bit by the false advertising relying on words like “innovation” etc., I'm looking forward to seeing how this game turns out. Especially the cooperative aspects in FPS games have been lacking in the past and I'm hoping that Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger will remedy that situation a little. At the same time, I also hope that the developers have found a way to keep the game exciting even if the satellite views remove most of the excitement of unknown.