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Future Tactics: The Uprising Package Art
†GENRE
††Turn-Based Strategy
†DEVELOPER
††Zed Two
†PUBLISHER
††Crave
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1-2
†CONNECTIVITY
††no
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Future Tactics: The Uprising

I liked Command & Conquer for about fifteen minutes. I love Advance Wars more than Advance Wars 2. I feel, and have always felt, that simple is better for a strategy game. Look at chess. You have your pawns, rooks, knights, bishops, king, and queen. In other words there are six character types, but the game can feel fresh and challenging every time. Assuming, that is, you have a worthwhile opponent. Itís the same with real-time and turn-based strategy video games.

Future Tactics: The Uprising for GameCube takes the "simple is better" approach to the strategy genre while adding action elements. Manchester based developer Zed Two uses familiar elements from the strategy franchise and tries to bring them together to make a game that is easy to learn, but still enjoyable to play.

visuals

Two things about the graphics in Future Tactics immediately impressed me. The game runs in progressive scan and features a 16x9 widescreen mode. This is more than you get from top tier Nintendo games, so it is amazing to see in a budget title like Future Tactics. The 16x9 mode even increases the visual area, unlike other titles that simple frame the screen as in a matte. The camera has the same problems as every other 3-D game, itís a little tricky to learn and never does everything you want it to. When you are moving your character, it is tied at a downward angle overhead. This often makes it hard to see what is in front of you on the battlefield. There is a first person view to help combat this and it can help as long as you arenít trying to sneak around the enemy characters. With the free floating camera you can get a much better view, but sometimes you can get stuck in areas because the camera isnít allowed to pass through solid objects.

The visuals in the game are polished and sharp. The textures look good and all the levels look open and have a long draw distance. After the destructible environments have taken some destruction, the textures revert to basic coloration. This isnít always the case, certain objects will break down in a pre-determined fashion, but for the most part youíll end up with a lot of brownish red holes when you finish a level. Character models are impressive for a budget title. Each character represents an archetypal video game character or stereotype, but most characters never feel overly derivative or flat. The game is even mildly self-effacing with certain stereotype characters, like the quiet guy with a darkish secret past. The characters are mildly exaggerated like in the first two Timesplitters games, and equal in detail.

On the whole, besides a minor gripe about textures and the camera problems, the visuals in Future Tactics are excellent. And any game with 16x9 and progressive scan deserves a few bonus points.

audio

The music in Future Tactics is absent most of the time. One of the first things you will notice about the game is that the opening menus are silent. You donít hear music until you start the game, and even then itís scarce. During the battles the music is simple, by which I mean minimal. Most of the songs consist of a few seconds of music that repeat of mix with a few other seconds of music. This could be a definition of all modern music, but in terms of this game itís clear the music wasnít a huge focus. There are even brief pauses when the music restarts. After the second level I played the game with the sound muted, which is too bad because the sound effects and voice acting are also impressive. Every cut scene features spoken dialogue to tell the story. There is even a variety of accents for the characters, and the accents donít sound phony either like in so many of todayís games.

gameplay

If you have read the review up to this point, you probably have a good idea of how the gameplay works in Future Tactics. It plays like Worms 3D with fewer weapons and more strategy. This means that, when itís your turn, you control each character like you would in a third person adventure game. You move into position, fire your weapon and end your turn by resting, activating a shield, or restoring health. The shield reduces your movement for the character the next round and must be recharged and restoring health leaves the character more vulnerable to attacks during the enemyís turn. Weapons are fired either using a first person crosshair or an overhead crosshair. Both require you to time button presses to determine the accuracy of the attack. The closer you get an ďXĒ at the center of the crosshair or lining up the outer ring and radar sweep the better you accuracy and attack power. Characters gain experience for successful attacks and gain levels which unlock abilities if you have found and used the hidden weapon upgrade packs on the character. If any of this sounds complicated, it isnít. You can pick up 90% of the game during the first level.

There are a few problems with the game and its progression though. For instance, until you reach a certain point in the story line you have to restart a level if one of your characters dies. Zed Two included a feature that allows you to retain the experience points you gained before you died when you restart, but it still gets frustrating. Imagine having a character because he somehow ended up stuck in the roof of a village hut and was an easy target for the enemy characters. Then restarting the level. Or imagine you character drowning in water that doesnít kill an enemy. Then restarting the level again. Also, the first person target system is designed to artificially increase the gameís difficulty. The crosshair constantly moves and not back and forth like in a normal games. It slides in whatever direction you press. If you pull down on the stick, the target will move down until it hits the edge of the characters visual spectrum and then stop. This ends up more irritating than anything and no sane person will find a way to explain this as rational. It is arbitrary and artificial and easy to learn how to overcome.

My final point of contention was with the repetition of the game. Some levels continuously respawn aliens until you reach your objective. Otherwise the repetition is what you would expect from the genre. If you played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance for more than sixty hours youíll be familiar with the strategy genreís unique form of repetition. You know youíre stronger, but you still have to take the time to kill all the enemies to get to the next battle where you have to kill all the enemies.

multiplayer

There is a multiplayer mode that allows two people to take alternating turns. This uses the same maps as the story mode, which are unlocked Ė along with new multiplayer gameplay elements Ė by playing the story mode. If you like the one player mode, you should like the multiplayer mode. Even though it suffers, like all strategy games where you share a screen, from a lack of secrecy and therefore becomes less strategic.

overall

I wasnít expecting anything from Future Tactics: The Uprising, so I was really happy with my experience. It ended up being one of the most entertaining games I have played in a long time. It kept my interest for as long as The Wind Waker, Metroid Prime, and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay; three of my favorite games from this generation of video game systems. Iíve seen Future Tactics for as little as $15.00, so I certainly recommend this title to fans of the genre and anyone looking for a way to pass the time until the Christmas season of AAA titles. Although it does get repetitive and you may get frustrated with the camera, it is still worth checking out in the long run.

final score 7.1/10





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Staff Avatar Mark Martinez
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"Unless you're being ironic, turn that off."


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