Jagged Alliance - Deadly Games
Ok, so you thought that you were pretty cool in the little skirmish at Metavira. Just because you helped that professor out by waxing a few bad guys, you think you can handle situations. Well, this time, things get a little more interesting... A little more deadly...
Jagged Alliance - Deadly Games is not really a sequel to the first Jagged Alliance, but more like a mission disk. With more mercenaries. And a mission editor. And, of course, more guns.
In the game, you take control of a squad of mercenaries (up to eight) and try to accomplish some sort of objective. Unlike the first Jagged Alliance where the missions usually consisted of killing all the bad guys, the objectives are now many and varied. You have tasks such as photograph a target, area or person. Destroy a bridge, building or selection of structures. Guard an area. Deliver an item. Locate and escort a civilian. Of course, there are still good old missions where the objectives consist of nothing more than blow away all the bad guys. You can either play single missions, or campaigns. Both can be either predefined or randomly generated, or you can design your own with the built-in editor.
To accomplish these tasks, you have to control your small squad of lethal and highly trained specialists by moving them around the map, and controlling their actions. Trouble is, theyre not all highly trained. In fact, some are right dorks who couldnt hit a barn door if they were sitting on the handle. Well, thats the mercenary life. You get what you pay for, and if you arent prepared to pay top dollar for decent manpower (and womanpower), then perseverance better be your watchword. There are 70 unique persons to choose from, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. For single missions, you could probably get away with eight people who can shoot well, but over a campaign, youre going to need a good balance of skills to get through the days.
Each mercenary has 4 skills you will need as you progress through the campaigns, rated out of 100. They are Medical, Explosives, Mechanical and Marksmanship. They also have an experience class rating, which, as it goes up, increases their general field skills (such as stealth and booby-trap detection), and their wages. The mercs also have four personal attributes that have an effect of their survivability. Health measures the damage a merc can take and their general physical well-being. Agility determines reaction and coordination. Dexterity is used to show their skills in working on small fiddly things, such as medical procedures, and wisdom effects the ability to learn from experiences and training.
The best thing to do when you first start is go through the tutorial campaign. This is an excellent introduction to the way the game works, how moves are taken, aiming, firing, and all the other things that you do when youre a mercenary. Youre also introduced to Gus Tarballs, the man who gets you your work for you. Because his relationship with AIM is a little strained, its up to you to do the hiring and firing. AIM is the Association of International Mercenaries, and they hold up-to-date information on all the mercenaries you can hire. From the AIM screen, you can find out what the merc has in his possession already, his skills and his background. It also tells you when they are due to return if already on assignment.
So this is it. Youve got manpower. Youve given them all a little extra ammo. You may even have purchased some extra items from Mickey, the Irish chap who pops up before a mission now and again to try and sell you things. Time to hit the target zone. You start with your squad on pre-selected locations within the mission area. The mission areas are all the same size, but there the similarity ends between them. You can have desert landscape, urban areas, snow-covered ground, fields, and a few other different environments. The bad guys always start in the same places too, but as most of them move around, youll probably never meet one in the same place twice. As mentioned before, your objectives vary from mission to mission, so you may have to search buildings, open crates, pick door locks, or blow up walls to get to where you need to go. Locked doors can be a real pain, but if you dont have the right key or a decent lock-picker with you, then a few blasts with a shotgun usually do the trick.
Movement is governed by action points. Different mercs have different amounts of action points, and they use up action points differently. Some things take the same amount of action points, no matter who you are, but in other actions, such as aiming a weapon, vary from merc to merc. Terrain also has an effect on how many action points it can take to move from location to location. Wading or swimming through water takes up far more points than walking along a beaten path or pavement, as does traversing rubble-strewn ground. Bearing this in mind, theres a handy toggle option for each merc that allows you to reserve enough or that particular mercenaries action points to firing a weapon, either an aimed or snap-shot.
The actual screen layout is simple and effective. In the centre area is the main view, which is a look-down view of the terrain and your mercs, plus whatever they can see. If they cant see any bad guys, then neither can you, even if theres ten of the buggers just inside the door. Down each side are the portraits of your eight team members, showing their names and statistics. Along the top is the turn counter, game buttons, and a status indicator. Along the bottom is the inventory of the currently selected merc. Each merc has two hands (weird, huh?), and up to five pockets to hold items. Right-clicking on these brings up a screen showing details , and allowing you to move items around, or pass them to an adjacent mercenary.
When you get
bored of beating the computer time after time, you can also play
against a friend or three using the network option. Or just stick
to two players using either the direct link or modem options, and
you can have hours of un in the multi-player missions, either
working together to achieve an objective, or going for it alone,
and trying to take out the other team as well as the bad guys. I
havent tried this option myself, but I can imagine that it
would turn into a bloodbath very quickly. There is a second CD
included in the game, just for multi-player gaming, so at least
you dont have to buy two copies if you have two machines.
The manual that comes with the game covers everything you need to know, including the mission editor. With the editor, you can create single or multi-player missions and campaigns, defining everything from separate objectives for each team, the inventory of the enemy soldiers and their stats, civilians, and, of course, designing the actual map yourself, including buildings, traps, goodies, and anything else you want in there.
Graphically, its a little poor, only showing things in VGA. It still looks OK, but the move to SVGA is probably only coming in Jagged Alliance 2, and thatll be a huge improvement. Saying that, the graphics are still sufficient to enjoy the game. The sound is pretty good, with all the weapons sounding different, and the mercs with all their comments, plus a nice background tune that is best turned down so that its only just audible, otherwise it tends to get annoying.
If you enjoyed the first Jagged Alliance, then its probably worth getting this one too, as its more of the same fun. But if you got a bit fed up of it, then steer clear this time, as theres not enough differences to spark a new interest, even with the mission editor. On the other hand, if youve never played the old one, then its probably worth a dabble. After all, you can get a great deal of satisfaction going after a couple of guys armed with pistols when your lot has M-16s, grenades, and a mortar.
Tim Still for Game Over!