Windows - 1998
Description of WarGames
Hackers are the role-models of young computer freaks and the dread of every systems administrator. A while back, a movie was released on the subject, where a young boy named David Lightman cracked into the military supercomputer WOPR and well near caused a thermonuclear war, by playing the computer in what he thought was a computer game. WarGames is a game developed by MGM-Interactive and is set 20 years after the movie. David now works for NORAD, and the WOPR is still around doing war simulations, despite the generals inclinations to sell it for scrap at the end of the movie. To test the WOPR, David lets the gamers play the computer through the Internet, in a game of tactical warfare. There is a feeling of deja vu here.
Shall we play a game?
The copy I have of this game is just the CD. The manual did not come with it. One of my colleagues informs me that the manual is a standard fit-the-CD-box booklet, and not very informative. He might provide a second op on the game, though. Apparently, you are a gamer who has hooked up to a gaming company's Internet server to play a game of strategic warfare. Does this sound familiar? Somewhat, but the nukes have been left out this time, and you now take control of military units such as tanks, jeeps, walkers, boats, etc - all in the name of world conquest, or liberation. You have the standard choice of playing either the NORAD forces (good guys) or the insidious WOPR (misunderstood computer), after which you proceed to blast the others into their component compounds. And for the second time, it turns out that this is not just a game. You are actually commanding your troops towards your goal and the fate of the world is at stake... again.
As the game opens up, you see a commercial for a company called Protovision, which is a large gaming company that makes all sorts of bland games, including the strategy game WarGames. The sequence is not very attractive, the FMV-sequence is fuzzy, and it doesn't really tell you what is actually happening. The next thing you know, you are off fighting without really knowing why.
One double WOPR with cheese.
The gameplay is very similar to every other C&C-clone; out on the market, and if you are familiar with that type of game (which reading this, you probably are), then you will have no problem with getting accustomed to the controls. Everything you are used to is there. Recourse management, building bases and units, putting together a force and demolishing your opponent... in fact there is not much new being added at all, and the whole game has the "been there, done that" sorta feel.
There are, however, a few nice features, the most notable being the 3D-engine. WarGames is completely 3D with a fully rotatable and scalable map. The background graphics are in fact very good, and the terrain is very much of strategic importance, as you can rotate the map to the best possible camera angle. The 3D-terrain does come at a cost, however: that the units and buildings are not very detailed. They are not ugly but they are not special in any way. Explosions are not very good either, and buildings just sink through the ground when they are destroyed. The whole things looks rather cartoony.
The missions start up with a briefing from Captain America, if you play NORAD, or a synthetic female voice, if you play WOPR. You are given a set of objectives, and the storyline is advanced. Once you start playing, your mission is updated by e-mail, which tells you the progress of the war effort, and how best to achieve your objectives. This is quite a nice feature, as most missions are divided into numerous sub-missions, which have to be completed. Still, everything boils down to surviving the odds. Generally, the toughest part is getting a foothold, but once you have entrenched yourself, you can concentrate on annihilating the enemy. The missions take place in numerous environments. My personal favourite was the arctic missions, which look absolutely fabulous. The falling snow is a nice touch.
The units used are not very original. There is the standard assortment of tanks, walkers, jeeps, airplanes, SAM-sites and choppers. One thing I did like about the NORAD units was that they were mostly units that exist today, so there was some sort of familiarity involved. The WOPRs units were a bit more sci-fi. The unit worth special mention is the hacker. The hacker hacks into computer centers that are scattered over the battlefield, and obtains money from the national banks, stealing away peoples well-deserved pensions. The hackers can also work inside command centers that you build, where they can work to upgrade your units statistics, or degrade that of your opponents. The stats are speed, firepower and armour. This is a nice novelty, but not a very logical one. Many of the soldiers are flesh and blood, and can still have their stats reduced. If hackers were able to affect people physically to such an extent, our world would be a bit more interesting. Still, it does add some variety to the gameplay. It also adds quite a bit of micro-management, trying to counter opponent hacking.
How much is that walker in the window?
Money is the sole resource in WarGames and it's scarce. You will have to plan your purchases carefully, and early on start looking for more computer centers in order to obtain more cash. You quickly realise that spending all your money on military units is a losing battle. You are outgunned ten to one anyway. Hackers are expensive, but the more you buy, the faster you can upgrade your own units and degrade the enemy's. With enough hackers, and a decent chunk of common sense, your units will be close to untouchable. A computer center doesn't seem to be depleted once a player has gotten all the money inside. Another player can also get his share, if he can get his hackers to it, that is.This small unit count makes combined arms more important. Your ground units are extremely vulnerable to air attacks, so bringing along appropriate air defence is essential. This works both ways, however. The air units are very powerful, but very vulnerable to ground-to-air defence. They are also very expensive.
Gang way, comin' thru!
WarGames has so far held up pretty well... but sadly, the worst is yet to come. WarGames has some of the worst AI that I have ever seen in a computer game since the dawn of real-time strategy. A simple chore such as driving around a small group of units results in a group of confused nitwits twisting around on the spot. If you order a group of tanks to attack a building, the rearmost ones will just pile up, not being able to get to the front ranks and bring their guns to bear. The path finding is outright terrible, and it's damn frustrating to have to babysit your tanks when you really have more pressing matters to engage in. Your units are not very good at analysing threats. They will watch happily as your base is being obliterated, move them a bit closer, and they will suddenly realise that everything is not going the way it should. The computer will usually not try to stop you if you waltz your hackers into his computer center, then waltz out and drive them off in your APC. You really get the feeling that the whole AI-business has been done as an afterthought. So much for the worlds greatest super-computer.
There are not many bugs in the game, apart from the occasional texture glitch, but the one that is there is pretty inexcusable. The game crashes when you press the Windows button on your keyboard, as it exits to Windows and is unable to pick up where it left off. If you are one of the lucky ones without this device, then this won't bother you. If you do have it, shut it off prior to playing.
Shall we play a game... of Russian roulette?
Somewhat disturbing is the fact that WarGames as originally shipped comes with a real computer virus. The virus is called the Marburg virus and is relatively new, so most virus detectors won't find it, as it goes through quite some trouble to remain concealed. The virus is contained within the electronic registration files, so if you have this game already, do not under any circumstances run the registration program. The game itself, however, is safe to play. MGM is apparently quite embarrassed by this turn of events and is offering full support to people whose systems have been infected. A program that will remove the virus is available at their homepage, and information about it can be found here. This is not a particularly nasty virus, however, but I recommend that you read the information if you think you might have it. MGM assures us that future copies of WarGames will not include the virus.
All in all, WarGames has potential but falls short due to the fact that it doesn't really contribute anything new to the genre, except the isometric view. It is quite fun to play, but it can't really compare to StarCraft or Total Annihilation. Another sad fact is that the game doesn't really have anything to do with the movie, except for the WOPR and the names of some characters. If you are short of RTS titles to play, then you can give WarGames a go, but if you are considering a purchase because you liked the movie, then you'd better make a pass.
Review By GamesDomain
Captures and Snapshots
Comments and reviews
Kithran 2020-12-01 0 point
I d/led both and scanned both and found no viruses. I couldnt get the RIP to work but the iso version works perfectly.
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