Jagged Alliance: Back In Action Review (PC)
I had no idea even what type of game this was. I had stayed away from reading or watching anything about it as I reckon it makes it easier to review games without and preconceptions. When the game first starts up it plays a video of an army roaming into a dusty desert village with a tank, and opening fire on the civilians. A single shot is fired back from a bell tower (why a village with only 2 other visible buildings has a church with a bell tower isnt explained, maybe its a missionary settlement), however the shooter has terrible aim and the bullet lands miles away from the Generals feet. This is clearly an insult not only to him but his entire family, pets, and his belief system, so he calmy waves his hand, motioning the tank to open fire. Lovely… From the opening video I could only guess this game is a FPS or more likely an RTS.
Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is a remake of Jagged Alliance 2 that came out originally in 1999. The development team at bitComposer Games tried to stay true to the spirit of the original, but changes were made, including the removal of the fog of war and an increased emphasis on real time rather than turn based combat. By pausing the game at any time you can give commands in a system called “Plan and Go”.
I’m greeted with a fairly simple main menu, mostly black with a couple of pictures added to try and spice it up (it didn’t). I click New Game and another video starts with 2 guys meeting on a foggy bridge very Mission Impossible style. One man tells the other that he wants him to kill somebody in exchange for some diamonds. At which point I ask: What bloody use are diamonds for payment for an assassination? “Yes I’d like to trade this diamond for a sniper rifle” isnt quite gonna work. After that thought, another occured: what the hell did this have to do with the opening video? Im sure it’ll all be explained as I play the game, right?
With no form of tutorials I was a bit hesitant about jumping right into the “action”, but I do what I must. The game starts up and tells me I must hire some agents to complete my mission. Wait, I have a mission? The only 3 options I have is the Start Mission which was greyed out (no real explanation why, I can only guess it was because I have no agents), a button with a cog on it, generally suggesting the options menu, and a button with a laptop on it (which is normally used to represent “options” in other games, but I wont get too much into that). I click the laptop and see that I have 4 emails regarding the mission I recieved during the second video. The emails dont explain anything to do with the game, just some back story to the mission. Randomly clicking on buttons in this menu takes me to a choice of agents I can hire. With no idea what the mission involves I choose to hire a single agent with the averag-est stats possible. She turned out to be a glamour model of some sort for Guns and Girls magazine… I had to call her to hire her, but the call turned into her saying hello and me clicking hire or hangup. Why the hell was this necessary? The call went through the stupid dial up modem noise to show me a terrible video quality of her face and 2 options. Why make someone wait 15 seconds to confirm their original choice? The only reason I can see behind this was if there was some sort of dialogue you can have with your agents, but if that was the case why make the calls with no dialogue so long?
Ok, I’ve not even started playing the proper game yet and it’s already annoyed me. Going into the mission the game loads up a forest surrounding a small military encampment with several buildings and enemies. I run my glamour model into the middle of the camp, gun ablazing. The first enemy she encounters runs up and kills her with 2 swings of an axe. So much for my suprise attack stratergy. With my only agent dead I was expecting a death screen of some sort, but no, I sit there looking at my dead agent for a bit until I open the menu and load from an auto save. Luckily it managed to auto save from when the combat started! Huzzah! So I load from there but annoyingly it reloads the entire level, meaning you have to sit and wait ages for a silly mistake. Once it had finished loading, everything was paused and I was able to queue up actions for my agent. If only there’d been some sort of walkthrough to show me this was possible. We could even call it a tutorial! I tell my agent to run back a bit and shoot at the fastly approaching axeman, which is what my agent does. She ran back to where I pointed and shoots at the enemy once. NO NOT ONCE, KILL THE BUGGER! But no, she fires once and gets an axe to the face. I reload (yet another wait), tell my agent to run back and spam shoot the guy. She is finally able to kill the crazed axe wielding madman, but the whole commotion has attracted more guys who have guns this time. Needless to say I die again and have to reload. I choose from the level start this time and…. You know what screw it. This game wasnt fun. It was endless trial and error, with a long wait for ever error you made. Im sure the mission would have been easier if I’d hired more agents, but a limited budget and no idea how many I’d need for the sodding mission I didnt want to risk it.
I’ve just totally ranted over a game thats being tested havent I? No, no I havent. They’re releasing this thing today. If its released in this state the only people that are gonna enjoy it are the people that loved the original so much that ridiculous game design decisions aren’t going to make them go on a witch hunt. If you’re looking for a tactical squad based game Frozen Synapse is still an outright winner in my mind. Jagged Alliance is slow, difficult and poorly designed. I got absolutley no enjoyment out of it what-so-ever, except from the fairly childish things like finding a hardcore lesbian magazine. The game was slightly pretty, but my god was it badly designed!
2 Jagged-knives-to-my-brain out of 10