Jagged Alliance

Review by Tim Still

Name:           Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games
Publisher:      Sir-tech
Format:         CD-Rom (plus second CD for multi-player)
Available:      Now

Requires:

O/S:            Dos 5.0+, or Windows95
Processor:      486/DX2 66
RAM:            8Mb
Graphics:       256 colour VGA
CD-ROM:         Double speed
Soundcard:      All major sound cards supported.

Tested on:

O/S:            Win95/Dos7
Processor:      Intel Pentium166 MMX
RAM:            32Mb
Graphics:       2meg ATI Mach64 Graphics Pro Turbo
CD-ROM:         12x
Soundcard:      Sound-Blaster 16 ASP
Controls:       Std 2-button mouse, MS Sidewinder Pro
        

Sirtech

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.

Mercenaries

Choose your mercenaryIn 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, they’re not all highly trained. In fact, some are right dorks who couldn’t hit a barn door if they were sitting on the handle. Well, that’s the mercenary life. You get what you pay for, and if you aren’t 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, you’re 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 you’re a mercenary. What's he got?You’re also introduced to Gus Tarballs, the man who gets you your work for you. Because his relationship with AIM is a little strained, it’s 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. You’ve got manpower. You’ve 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, you’ll 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 don’t have the right key or a decent lock-picker with you, then a few blasts with a shotgun usually do the trick.

Movement

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...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, there’s 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.



Other things you have to watch out for while searching are traps. These come in a variety of flavours, such as the vanilla bomb, the strawberry grenade, or the mint choc-chip booby trap. Kabooomb!This involves an innocent looking item, such as a first aid kit, which has been rigged. Now if the mercenary who tries to pick it up isn’t that smart, he’ll probably ignore a whole brick of plastic explosives taped to it, but if they’re a lot sharper, they might even notice a very thin wire leading to a hidden grenade, and not actually pick it up. They’ll also offer to try and disarm it, but that’ll depend on their skills whether they succeed or not. There are lots of items you can find in the game, as well as a fair few weapons. Such things as a medical kit, canteen, camouflage kit, tool kit, locksmiths kit, armoured vests and rocks are all things you can use in the game. Some of the mercs also come with their own stuff that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, such as a hedge trimmer, letter opener, and a leather jacket. But no group of professional assassins are complete without their own collection of war toys, and these people are no exception. Revolvers, automatic pistols, a variety of grenades, shotguns, automatic rifles, uzi’s, and, for those more demanding situations, grenade launchers and mortars. All have their own ammo, whether it comes in boxes, clips or individual rounds, and you have to make sure that enough is carried, otherwise if someone runs out of ammo, they soon let you know about it. In fact, they seem to let you know about all sorts of things that are happening around them. For example, when someone spots a baddie, they call out and let you know they’ve seen them. All the mercenaries have their own characters, and their own way of expressing things whether it’s to tell you they’ve found something, or just to let you know they’re dying. Some of the sayings are really quite amusing, but if you get fed up of them, you can tell them to shut up.

Screen layout

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 can’t see any bad guys, then neither can you, even if there’s 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.

Singled outWhen 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 haven’t 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 don’t have to buy two copies if you have two machines.

Do it yourselfThe 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.

Graphics

Graphically, it’s 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 that’ll 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 it’s only just audible, otherwise it tends to get annoying.

If you enjoyed the first Jagged Alliance, then it’s probably worth getting this one too, as it’s more of the same fun. But if you got a bit fed up of it, then steer clear this time, as there’s not enough differences to spark a new interest, even with the mission editor. On the other hand, if you’ve never played the old one, then it’s 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-16’s, grenades, and a mortar.

Overkill, anyone?

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Tim Still for Game Over!

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