Atomic Motion’s debut title is a bit of an atomic failure as Raven Squad fails to meet expectations... or even standards
No matter how good or bad the final product turns out to be, one must always give a certain degree of respect to a developer who at least tries to do new things. When it comes to the first-person shooter and strategy genres, there’s been an underlying desire for something ‘new’ for a while. To be fair, shooters don’t suffer from the problem as acutely, apart from the odd Halo/Call of Duty clone. The strategy genre however has needed innovation for a while, and even though there have been a few attempts, no one has managed to revolutionise things quite yet.
Enter Raven Squad: Operation Hidden Dagger from Atomic Motion, Evolved Games and SouthPeak Interactive. Raven Squad’s main theme is to ‘blend’ RTS and FPS gameplay. As the player, you control two 3-man mercenary squads caught up in a civil war as they rampage through the Amazonian jungle. Each member of the squad is ‘unique’ in the sense that they all have their own specialties and personalities. There is no exchanging of weapons, nor even upgrading of weapons. Instead, if you need to change tactics in any given situation, you simply jump to another squad member with the desired equipment.
All of the characters have cheesy codenames. This one is called "Shadow".
Sometimes you can forget the games flaws by taking it out on far flung enemies through your scope. Sometimes...
This allows for a wide variety of load-outs between the 6 men, and you can employ a range of tactics and armaments in an instant. Naturally, the control schemes vary between FPS and RTS (or ‘tactical’) modes: The former being good for increased accuracy and reaction times (personifying the phrase ‘if you want something done right, you’d better do it yourself), and the latter allows you to take in the ‘big picture’, including planning ahead and path finding. It’s possible to play the game using either one mode or the other, but the best results are garnered by swapping as needed.
Unfortunately, what little plusses the game has is far outweighed by the fact that the two gameplay elements are poorly implemented. In the FPS mode, there’s an exaggerated recoil and poor weapon accuracy will spoil the action, and every now and then there are environmental glitches which prevent you from shooting stealthy from cover. Coupled with a poor AI (both enemy and friendly), this mode is far from perfect, and it’s only saving grace is that it’s more fun to play then the other mode.
The ‘tactical’ side of the game, even though it’s extremely useful in planning ahead, is just too bland and simple to be exciting. Indeed, it’s most useful function seems to be a way to pass the time as you walk from one hotspot to the next, saving you the need to do it yourself. Whilst you can do everything that can be done in single player, since it’s the AI that is controlling the individual soldiers instead of yourself, you’re often greeted with poor accuracy, path finding problems, and several other minor irritants that, when you think about it, are typical of an RTS. It’s funny then, that amidst all these faults and failures, the transition between FPS and RTS is seamless and without incident. Perhaps they spent a tad too long working on that single gameplay element?
On the plus side, the game tries to through a variety of environments at you, which is something.
The RTS mode. Even though it can help you with tactics, that’s all it does.
Technical and gameplay issues aside, Raven Squad is just a tad disappointing overall. A short campaign with short levels utterly stunts the game in terms of longevity, and its linear quality kills any replay-value it might have. The multiplayer mode simply offers the opportunity to team up with someone online and control a squad each through the exact same campaign. Whilst conceptually interesting, in terms of value it’s very disappointing. Coming back to the campaign, expect a lot of cheese. The official word is that the entire story is meant to emulate the classic 80’s action films, and whilst you can see elements of that, like everything else it’s poorly implemented. The jokes and one-liners are the wrong side of cheesy, and the voice acting isn’t just clichéd, it’s bad. As someone who’s played through Men of War’s campaign, that’s saying something. On top of that, the ‘extra content’ you can unlock is more than a little worthless.
If you’re going to play this at all, it’s best to stick to the PC version. At least whilst playing it on the original gaming platform there’s the hope that some of the problems can be fixed through patching, the 360 version is unlikely to get a similar kind of love, and the graphics make a mockery of Microsoft’s console.
Cue 80's rock music.
The effects aren't bad, even if the environment rendering in general is a bit poor.
Whilst the theory behind Raven Squad could have been interesting, possibly even amazing, the poor design of the game, as well as the short campaign and general lack of features just shoots this one out of the sky. Unlike the do-or-die Raven’s however, there’s no emerging from this wreckage, and a part of me feels sorry for the developers, and what this dismal title will do to their livelihoods. But then the other part of me remembers how the game crashes a lot, even on start up. At the end of the day though, this is but one opinion. The game can be fun, in a weird sort of why, and it’s easy to imagine the more casual players amongst us picking this up and getting a good afternoons play out of it.
But no matter what we have said about Raven Squad, let it be known that it tried (which is more then what can be said for a lot of games), and for that, our hats go off to the team at Atomic Motion. Putting them back on however, it is imperative that the grim reality is hit home: Raven Squad is not a good game. To clarify, it’s not a game that you should spend your money on quite yet. Maybe, after the passage of time, when you can find it cheap or even for free, it will be worth a cursory glance. For the moment however, it’s best to skip this one out.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The realisation that the game had been completed which meant I didn’t have to play anymore…