Summary: It's Christmas time and we're all looking for free goodies to make us happy. Well, JoWood delivered one that a lot of us missed a few months ago; but Jakub picked it up and decided to help this excellent game find its audience. So what's Silent Storm? Why, the best turn-based squad combat game since X-Com. Now if that's not saying a lot, I don't know what is!
Game you never heard of
Remember X-Com? X-Com, also known as UFO: Enemy Unknown in Europe, is like this little box you place in your computer and worship it 16 hours per day, in lieu of sleep, food and all else but work. Havenít played it? Fine, fine: itís this little game released in the early/mid-90s about a force of elite human soldiers fighting off alien incursions. You did everything in X-Com Ė built bases, intercepted UFOs with aircraft, hunted aliens down at crash sites, researched new weapons, armor and equipment Ė as well as puzzled out the story of the alien invasion. On top of that, the combat was done with the absolutely most detailed turn-based tactical game engine ever. Oh, and did I forget to mention that in order to maintain funding, you had to protect the various nations of the world? In short, it was then and remains to this day, the absolute best game ever. Sorry Civ, sorry Wing Commander, and we love you too, Doom, but none of you can ever compare.
Exit X-Com, enter Silent Storm. Or rather, in this case, the Silent Storm demo. Take all the combat aspects of X-Com and mix them with World War II, throw in an absolutely fantastic graphics engine and you have Silent Storm.
While you canít build bases or shoot down enemies and fight them over a large selection of randomly-generated maps, you can take your team of elite troops behind enemy lines, engage in the finest turn-based squad combat in gaming history on pre-generated maps and guide their advancement as they level up. Your squad will have riflemen, snipers, medics and machine-gunners. The characters have attributes such as vitality points, action points, strength, intelligence and dexterity, as well as skills like shooting, interrupt, throwing, and special abilities that customize each character. You might want to focus your medic solely on medical abilities, or make him into a real combat medic whoís quite proficient with weapons.
The demo itself
As for the demo, it comes with two small levels. One has the player leading an Axis assault on a British train (weíre confused too, since Germans never stepped foot on British soil during World War II.) The other pits an Allied squad against a German unit entrenched along a ruined street. They have the buildings, you are exposed along a good 120 degrees, with the edge of the screen and a dilapidated car covering the other two thirds.
The levels are also very challenging Ė a good challenging, not frustratingly difficult. My first attempt on each was an unmitigated disaster, until the need of using planned, determined tactics became clear. Using a simple leapfrogging strategy isnít going to cut the mustard. Beating either map is a satisfying accomplishment; thereís no blind rushing through on autopilot.
SIDEBAR: I played CS for the first time in 8 months, and installed it for the first time in a year and a half. Dear God, what have they done to this game Ė or has it always sucked and I just didnít notice?
Not to discount the great gameplay, but the engine is a real gem. Bullets can go through not just windows, but walls and fences. The engine powering Silent Storm makes for a very interactive environment; in what is surely a case of overkill, a critical shot by a sniper demolished a wall of the building on the train level, and a machinegunner tore up the railroad tracks!
Perhaps thatís a problem with the way the game handles damage Ė assigning it all to one type Ė but the effects are rarely disruptive to oneís sense of disbelief. A wall thatís blown open in the right spot may offer brand new options in the current scenario, even if it is silly to think itís been blown open by a 7.62mm rifle round.
On the other hand, the game does allow for incredible options like the targeting of specific body parts, four modes of movement (run, walk, crouch and prone), six different ways to shoot a gun (snap shot, aimed, careful, sniper, burst and full auto) and a dozen other features that gamers have been wishing for ages, like crawling through windows or taking using the action points from multiple turns to take a really good sniper shot. On top of that, it doesnít go overboard with the penalties Ė changing from run to prone wonít cost you half your turn, nor is digging through your inventory absurdly expensive.
Thereís little else to say about this rocking little demo; pictures say a thousand words and I heartily urge you to check the screenshots out. To give you an idea then how highly we think of Silent Storm, consider that this demo has been out for two months already but we still dedicated time to reviewing it. The game is just that good, ladies and gentlemen.
Heck, here are some download mirrors: 3D Downloads, 3D Gamers, FileFront, Gamerís Hell, GameTab, Worthplaying, GameZone, and FileShack.
Enjoy your free holiday gaming!
Wow, has Jakub lost all critical edge? Has his weakness for X-Com left him vulnerable to the charms of Silent Storm, or is the game good enough to pimp a demo? Or maybe heís been just plain bribed? You decide, you make the call and Sound Off! in the news comments.
SIDEBAR: I wish guns were a touch more accurate at moderate ranges.
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