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PSP  header logo

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command

For: PSP   Also on: DS

Dicing with disappointment?

Product: Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command | Developer: RedLynx | Publisher: THQ | Format: PSP | Genre: Card/ board game, Shooter, Strategy | Players: 1-8 | Networking: wireless (adhoc), wireless (network) | Version: Europe
 
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command PSP, thumbnail 1
When it comes to fighting, you can take two roads. Down one, you stroll in polite conversation with your opponent, lending him your gunpowder when it's his turn to strike, and patiently aiming a cannon at his forehead when it's yours. Down the other, there's fire, noise, blood, confusion, careening missiles, buckling metal, and you bludgeoning your opponent in a blind rage.

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command dresses up like the second kind. Its superb CG cut-scenes are pure metal aggression, with rockets thundering and cameras shaking. The Chaos legionnaires are innumerable and implacably hostile, and before you start playing you automatically expect a hurricane of violence instead of the slow dance that arrives.

Popular in the first instance as a table-top role-playing game, Warhammer belongs to that most civil of genres: turn-based strategy. No matter how angry the Chaos legion seems to be with you, they won't take a step while it's your turn to move, soaking up your bullets with irreproachable patience. The catch is, you have to extend the same courtesy to them when the time comes.

Given that it originated in the bookish world of table-top gaming, you might be expecting more from Squad Command than this summary contains, but there isn't much more to tell. Experienced players may be familiar with the franchise's running storyline, but those for whom this game is a first point of contact with the Warhammer universe shouldn't expect to discover any narrative sense to the destruction.

And it isn't only in narrative terms that simplicity dominates. Each mission allows you to take a total of six units unto the breach, and while more unit types are introduced as you advance through the single-player campaign, bringing new weapons with them as they trudge into the barracks, you can't actually decide who you take with you on any of the game's 15 missions.

To get a sense of what Squad Command is like, let's zoom the camera of our imaginations into a typical sequence of events in its grimy high-tech universe:

You insert beside a dilapidated wall, and immediately switch to map view with Select to reconnoitre your surroundings. You're in a ruined landscape of half-walls and silos, and at the far end of it a red target marks an enemy commander you have to assassinate. Between him and you, concealed by objects and buildings, are four red triangles indicating enemy units. These are all within your raggedly delineated fog of war, however. Beyond its fringe there are undoubtedly more.

Each of your unit types has a fixed ration of action points (AP), which both moving and shooting exhaust. If you choose to move a unit into cover or a handy line of sight, you'll only have a certain number of points left over to shoot with.

If you use them all up and leave the target standing, you're in trouble. Although you can duck with Triangle, doing so just makes you look craven when the bullets are flying and the health points are popping above your unit's head.

He dies. The enemy's turn ends and you're down to five units. A quick look at the map screen tells you that several more enemy units have emerged from the fog of war and are lurking on the fringes of the battlefield. Some of them are circling for your flank, which is worrying, but several others are gathered in imprudent proximity to a fuel tank.

Wasting no time, you fire a volley at the tank and it explodes, taking out a few surrounding parts of Squad Command's fully deformable infrastructure and…

You get the idea, so let's dolly the camera back and take stock of what we've seen. The rules of Squad Command are simple, but games are loaded with emergent complexity. Despite the bombastic apparel, it's closer to chess than Halo.

Don't let the chess comparison put you off, though: Squad Command strives successfully to be accessible, which will appeal to newcomers as much as it deters the hardcore faithful. Unfortunately, however, not all of its problems can be put down to taste.

The camera, for a start, is nonsense. Although the game takes place in a 3D engine, the perspective is functionally isometric, fixed at a point above the action so that enemies are frequently concealed by scenery. You can swivel the viewpoint very slightly, but doing so literally never helps, so the only option is to move the cursor over the map until your red line of sight fixes on an enemy.

The range of unit types is disappointingly narrow, and the assignment of them to missions gallingly inflexible, although the same is less true of the weapons they wield, and the galloping advance of your firepower is fairly satisfying.

However, niggling issues with the camera and the asymmetrical ability of the enemy to see you from the safety of their fog of war beset Squad Command at every turn. You can learn to live with the restrictive, overly simplistic unit selection, but on the battlefield every little problem matters, and it's here that the game veers closest to disaster.

As it is, though, excellent presentation, accessible simplicity, satisfyingly deformable terrain, thrillingly escalating hostilities, and a comprehensive range of superb multiplayer modes help save the day and make Squad Command just about worthwhile.
 
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 10 December 2007
Squad Command strives to be as accessible as possible, and while the casual slant is clearly a great idea, a few basic issues prevent the game from being all it could be
 
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Anonymous | 17:24 - 19 August 2009
can you please can you put lots of cheats on the website thank you
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