|Dev: Intelligent Systems|
|Release: March 13, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Suggestive Themes|
There were also some times when it seemed like enemy reinforcements would be employed as a means of artificial difficulty. Getting close to a goal? Hey, some more aliens coincidentally appear. Fortunately, maps rely on objectives like "reach this spot," "save these people," or "beat that boss" so engagements are often optional. Still, optional doesn't mean entirely unavoidable, and it can be easy to get drawn into longer engagements than intended.
It's not a stretch to say that sometimes I found myself playing Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. so I could unlock more characters, steam packs, and weapons to use in the multiplayer. With the exception of the Abraham Lincoln mech battles, it's easily the best element of the game. The diversity of the character roster allows for the implementation of many different strategic maneuvers. Especially since the Deathmatch and Medals options each require different approaches to guarantee success. You can't have one team or plan and apply it everywhere. Success is earned.
Which isn't to say the multiplayer elements are perfect. If you want to play with friends, you have to go with a Tournament series. Single rounds only have a random player option, which should prove quite irritating after launch. When I was savoring the Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. versus with an extraordinarily kind man I shnookered into playing with me, we were pressing the OK buttons simultaneously to ensure we were matched with each other. Even that probably won't work once people are playing around the world.
Speaking of which, one of my first matches illustrates how well balanced Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is when it comes to playing against real people. When we engaged in our first three matches, he had played far longer than I had. I'd only unlocked the first four characters and Marth (scanned in from his Amiibo). Our first two matches, Deathmatch and Medal Battle rounds in that order, went to him. However, the third match was mine. I even managed to best him without losing a single agent. It proved that even though he had access to characters I hadn't seen yet, they weren't gamebreakers. You can do as well with the initial four as you can with end-game characters.
I only wish the multiplayer allowed a person more time to determine a course of action. You get one minute before you turn ends. That's 120 seconds to arrange four units on a map. It makes reconnaissance more difficult, and I found myself exercising far more caution than I would in other strategy games. Perhaps it's something that will become more comfortable with time, as I intend to enjoy the versus element in the weeks, maybe even months, to come. Still, a little less constriction would have been appreciated.
All in all, it feels like Intelligent Systems isn't quite sure of what kind of audience it wants Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. to find. My gut says this is for adults and strategy game veterans. It can be a rather challenging game, some of the characters have origins in advanced reading material, and the campaign clearly requires patience.
However, there are so many random and cartoonish elements that I can't help but wonder if Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. is supposed to be "My First Strategy Game." The Mecha Abe moments are clearly pandering to a more juvenile crowd in terms of both gameplay and premise. It also felt like it was attempting to encourage entertainment in disguise. "Hey! This is Tom Sawyer! Don't you think he's cool? Doesn't this make you want to read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?"
Code Name: S.T.E.A.M. felt uneven to me. There's a lot of promise here, and the jovial experience was inviting. I loved the multiplayer far more than I expected to and look forward to many more hours playing it. The problem is a campaign that feels like it takes far too long for things to really happen, especially when all aliens move in real time and you have to clear multiple maps before you get a real stopping point. I like the lore and world enough to hope that this isn't the end for this series, and that instead Intelligent Systems will be given an opportunity to build on this foundation.
Date: March 12, 2015