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Posted on Dec 19, 2005 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Battalion Wars – Game Review (GameCube)

Armchair General

Did I mention this game was fun? It’s almost as much fun as Worms (and I’m not talking about the medical condition). The troops energetically bounce around the terrain quite gleefully and follow you to certain death in a cartoon-style almost like they are on the Moon, even the Bazookas charge up like their Worms equivalent, and Tanks are a blast (literally). Like beach buggies on acid, driving a Tank in Battalion Wars is like taking a box of armoured springs for a ride. And Recon’ vehicles are even bouncier – push one as fast as it’ll go and you end up with something akin to the Warthogs from Halo, including the tendency to roll over the edges of cliffs if you don’t pay attention. Ah, this’ll be the river then…and as your helpful assistant informs you, the Recon’ is "totalled". The only trouble is that the Recon’ Vehicle can only fire backwards, which is fine if you are being chased but not much use if you’re trying to bust through a roadblock. Take a tip from me and find something to bounce off and you can sail right on over it instead.

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Each mission has its own unique features, whether it’s defending an abandoned facility, storming a beach to knock out enemy artillery or bombing missions. Yes, you get to control aircraft in this game as well as ground forces. Commanding from a Helicopter Gunship can give you a good overview of a battle, but screaming through the air knocking down slower enemy Bombers in a Fighter Plane is so satisfying. Unfortunately though, unlike the Advance Wars games, there are no sea units in the game, no Battleships, Cruisers or Submarines, which is a real pity as I’d have loved to see a combined arms operation using ground, air, sea and sea power.

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As these blurred images amply demonstrate, air combat is fast and furious

Graphics

This game is nothing if not eye-catching. The lush terrain, sparkly explosions and bouncy troops all immerse you into the Battalion Wars world. Tracer fire leaps at you from every direction and irrevocably locking on to an enemy with the target reticule whilst you whirl around to avoid the fire directed your way means you know he’s going down…eventually. Your men seem to have boundless energy for throwing themselves at their objectives, and will even stand around and impatiently scratch themselves if you take too long in dishing out the orders. With big chunky toy-like icons representing the forces under your command almost exactly like those on the handheld versions of the Wars series, it’s rare to get confused about who is who and what is what. My only gripe is that the information tips that flash up periodically on the screen are a little large for my liking.

Audio

The squeaky voice of the lady giving you your mission briefings can grate after a bit, but other than that the voices are rather amusing. Indeed, hearing the banter of my men the first time as we patrolled the forests of the Western Frontier made me laugh out loud. "It’s quiet" squeaked one, "Too quiet" agreed his mate. "Shut up!" said a third. Of course, we were walking into a trap, but at least my men and I had a laugh doing it. As for weapons and engine sounds, they are suitably clunky and loud and for once I didn’t find the game music annoying in the least, which probably means I am coming down with something and need to have another lie down.

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Pause the game during a battle and this handy map pops up,
it allows you to scroll around and identify where your men are

Interface

As I mentioned in the main section of my review, learning how to use all the buttons on your controller to select from your forces can be a little tricky, it just takes a bit of practice. But failing a mission just means you want to have another go, so even if you are a cack-handed geek like me, you should be OK at working it all out in the end.

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Here’s a lesson for us all – not that surrendering
is even an option in Battalion Wars, it’s a fight to
the death in every mission

Conclusions

So how does Battalion Wars compare to its handheld cousins? Well that’s a bit like comparing a spanner with a banana, albeit a rather yellow bendy spanner that tastes quite nice. The answer is that Battalion Wars holds up very well to the Advance Wars games, there’s a little less strategy and a little more running around to kill kill kill, but despite the real-time aspects, the feel is very similar and it’s a worthy addition to the Wars series. Alas, the lack of any kind of scenario generator or multiplayer option is a real shame as the ultimate replayability of the game will be sorely affected by these, frankly criminal, omissions, but I’m not going to let those issues detract from my scoring of the game as it stands as I had too much fun.

If you are an existing Advance Wars fan, I would suggest that you scoop up a copy of this, what is essentially Advance Wars’ louder cousin in a Hawaiian shirt, just bear in mind that you will need to think on your feet and don’t necessarily expect it to be exactly the same. Alternatively, if you’ve never even heard of Advance Wars but you own a Gamecube and you fancy fighting a small war one Sunday afternoon, go get it. No, it’s not going to take over your entire life like Animal Crossing, but it’s good for relieving a little stress. Kudos to Kuju! This one is recommended.

Armchair General Score: 85%

36/40 — Gameplay
12/15 — Graphics
08/10 — Sound
12/15 — Interface
05/05 — Documentation
12/15 — General’s Rating

Links

Nintendo

Battalion Wars site at Nintendo

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A J Summersgill

andrew@armchairgeneral.com

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