PC REVIEW: WILL OF STEEL

There are some aspects of Will of Steel which are quite good but overall this is a game that suffers from technical problems which will only serve to frustrate meticulous RTS fans.

Will of Steel requires a great deal of micromanagement. I know that alone will scare some people away. What's even worse is that for a game that demands so much attention to detail, the payoff is typically an army that has a mind of its own and refuses to obey orders - or can't find its way out of a parking lot - literally.

William Steel is the Marine officer in charge of the battalion which is engaged in modern urban warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq. His father is a highly decorated general which explains why William is so driven; has a lot to live up to. The story really doesn't go much beyond that. Everything you need to know will be revealed in the missions and various objectives. Suffice to say that there will be a mix of combat locations including rugged mountainous terrain, the desert and urban areas.

At your command will be infantry, snipers, medics, tanks and aircraft. For the most part the formation of your units will take place rather easily. Issuing commands is straightforward as this modern-day approach to warfare virtually takes care of itself. Send out some recon to assess the situation and take the appropriate measures. You'll find there's little room for error. The game takes a very realistic approach to some aspects of warfare such as the limited number of soldiers. They don't respawn and you can't recruit new ones. The medic is capable of restoring some back to health but that's another story that I'll get to shortly.

You will only control about 30 units, give or take. They won't be able to sustain too many hits so you have to make sure they have some kind of cover or escape route. Unfortunately your units don't always do what's best for them. Expect to spend all of your time on micromanagement. Even when you issue strict orders they will be disobeyed. Most of this can be attributed to the pathfinding which will have units stumbling over each other and getting hung up in places like a parking lot where they can't get over a fence. Other times, some units will just walk out into the open for no reason at all to be taken down by the enemy. It's some kind of glitch in the system. I'm sure we would all agree that we'd like to take control of units that did more thinking for themselves - but not when they act like multiples of the Three Stooges.

Engineers are required to rebuild damaged vehicles and medics will heal the wounded. You will spend a lot of time overseeing each repair to both vehicles and humans. In a strange twist of fate, once the vehicles are fixed they automatically come equipped with human operators. I don't know where these men came from since you are only supposed to have a limited amount of soldiers. Perhaps they are ghosts.

When the game works, it works well. The various locations require different strategies. You can take cover in the mountains but tanks are useless. In the desert, tanks are invaluable. Aircraft are useful in both areas but are not effective for urban combat. There's a lot of variety to this game that would make it such an interesting game if only it weren't plagued by mechanical flaws.

Another problem is the voice command system. It just doesn't work. It's as though it was programmed for another language. When I ask for one thing I get another. Talk about frustrating. Add to this the choppy framerate and the occasional lag between commands and you have more than just a war to worry about.

Graphically the game is good, aside from framerate. It's nicely detailed although the desert scenes get a little repetitious looking. Urban areas have narrow streets, a variety of shops, houses and war-raved ruins as well as cars that give it a lived-in look. With the camera you can zoom in and check out the explosions. The special effects are limited to a few flashes and puffs of smoke but they look realistic enough. The sound effects are equally realistic and will server to remind you that you're in a danger zone.

I can't recommend Will of Steel even to the most ardent of RTS fans. It's just not the kind of game that will stand up to the scrutiny of a demanding gamer. Don't give up hope just yet, there may be some patches available or a low-priced expansion pack that will address some of these issues.

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System: PC
Dev: Gameyus
Pub: Tri Synergy
Release: Nov 2004
Review by Dan
RATING (OUT OF 5)
OVERALL
2.0
GRAPHICS
4.0
CONTROL
2.0
MUSIC/FX
3.5
VALUE
1.5