By Neil Schneider
By now, we’ve played it all, right? In most of the Call of Duty series, we have fought in World War II. In Battlefield 2, combat took place overseas in the Middle East or in Europe. In fact, most FPS shooters or strategy games take place in a fantasy word or some distant land outside North America. This is one quality that sets Sierra’s World in Conflict (WIC) far apart from the rest.
It’s 1989, years before the commercialization of the Internet, but recent enough for most veteran gamers to remember. It’s a sunny day in Seattle, Washington, and without warning, the unthinkable happens – the country is invaded. Hidden underwater and in ship cargo holds, the cold war takes an alternate turn from history, and a Russian amphibious attack force takes over the city.
Far from reality, yet not quite so far as it once was, World in Conflict explores the question of what could a potential modern invasion of the United States be like? The story revolves around an alternative progression of the US/USSR cold war, but I think the more interesting issue is if the United States is indeed as impenetrable as we have grown up to believe, or is this an illusion?
Word in Conflict is best classified as an RTS or top-down strategy game. Narrated as a story teller by a stern Alec Baldwin, you play Lieutenant Parker, a US Army soldier under the command of Colonel Sawyer. Each mission features a top-down map of a city or geographic area, and you are given primary and secondary objectives to accomplish.
Primary objectives usually require you to capture strategic points on the map or clear hostiles in an area before you run out of time, while secondary objectives offer additional firepower benefits when achieved, but can prove distracting. An example might be buying time for civilians to escape an attack while being asked to destroy all fuel supplies in the region at the same time.
You have four categories of firepower or manpower to choose from: infantry (anti-tank, anti-personnel, snipers, etc.), armor (e.g. tanks, mobile artillery), air attack units (e.g. helicopters), and air support (e.g. napalm, artillery, laser bombs, etc.). As you play the missions, you are given a finite budget of points you can spend on these units and abilities, and this budget gets slowly replenished as your units need replacing.
The terrain plays an important role in what type of firepower you will select. For example, soldiers and snipers are great in cities because they can hide and ambush from buildings, but they are sitting ducks if they are in plain view. Tanks and armor are great for holding strategic points in open areas, but a good anti-tank helicopter can take them out without a hesitation. The helicopters are great fighting machines, but a little air support or an anti-air tank will tear them to shreds. While there are a lot of grey areas, World in Conflict has a bit of a rock-paper-scissors system to it.
For me, storytelling and character is what makes a game interesting. It’s not enough to have the shock value of singeing American sites and cities. I have to care about people and understand why they do the things that they do.
While other characters come into play, you are immediately introduced to Bannon, a commanding officer who on the surface makes big talk and shows no fear, but in practice, is not quite as courageous. Colonel Sawyer is the real head honcho, and it’s his tactics and commanding nature that gives the battles a fighting chance.
As you play through the game, it is clear there is a back story between the characters, and there are secret demons that the game is just begging to reveal. Why is Bannon always unsure of himself? Why does the Colonel speak of him with such distaste and lack of respect? It’s a good story, and I think it is so important that video games put equal if not more attention on consequences as they do on action. I’m not saying the game should be depressing or not fun, but I think there is some responsibility here to give at least a taste of what can happen – and World in Conflict does that.
The single player campaign is just half of what makes the game interesting. The game features a well developed multiplayer functionality too. You can choose any of four roles including infantry, armor, air, and support. You get a wide selection of units to choose from depending on your specialty, and unlike the scripted story and tactics you face in single player, you will find the multiplayer maps much more challenging. With the added benefits of VOIP internet chat and ranked play, this game offers a great deal of shelf life.
From a stereoscopic 3D point of view, WIC was tested using both the iZ3D 1.07 stereoscopic driver software and the NVIDIA 174.76 stereo driver release. There are some trade-offs here and there, but all in all, I think you will find it to be a very positive S-3D experience using both solutions.
Stereoscopic 3D has a very high level of influence in this game. The first mission takes place in Seattle, Washington, and I can’t begin to convey how overwhelming it is to have the entire city envelop your screen and visual space. Even though it was the first level of the game, I felt frantic and borderline panicked because the 3D added a very intensive feel to the experience.
I find this game is very conducive to having a lot of depth and a fair amount of pop-out. While the game is mostly played in a top-down environment, you have the complete flexibility to change angles, zoom in and out to great detail, and see the battlefield from all perspectives.
What makes this game visually beautiful is the ease that you can zoom in, and see objects like trees transition from deep inside the screen and smoothly protrude outside to your personal space. Even simple things like falling snow seem to naturally hover over your monitor’s glass. Your screen really becomes a live action window, and not a flat reproduction.
I also enjoy watching the helicopters fly and hover in stereoscopic 3D over the deep and changing landscape, and it is visually rewarding to lay down your first path of napalm in a forest.
In the case of the iZ3D software solution, 99% of the core parts of the game are well done without complaint. The battlefield, the stereoscopic smoke and effects, the interface – I’m confident that stereoscopic 3D gamers looking for an immersive experience will find it here.
The trade-off is the movie sequences. The change in camera angle is friendly 80% of the time, but there are problems. For example, you can play through an entire mission in beautiful stereoscopic 3D, but when a movie sequence begins, the separation can go higher than wanted – and the result is an unflattering appearance in 3D. If Sierra or Massive Entertainment is reading this, it would be helpful to be more consistent in your camera positioning and range of depth.
There is a silver lining, though. iZ3D’s upcoming 1.08 and better drivers are expected to feature an auto-convergence feature, and it is designed specifically for a situation like this. For example, in World in Conflict, you can set your game to the 3D parameters you’re comfortable with, and when there is a camera change, their driver will automatically compensate so you get a good S-3D image nearly 100% of the time.
Another anomaly is the water reflections. I find that the separation between shadows is too wide in some instances. Not very noticeable, but I have an eye for these things. Also, the sky doesn’t separate 100% of the time. Again, most would miss it, but it happens. I have made iZ3D aware of these issues, and they are already testing new profile updates to correct these anomalies. I will amend this review when the solution is complete.
In the case of the iZ3D driver, I was running on an 8800GTS 512, a good mid-range card by today’s standards. Using the World in Conflict benchmark, I was able to get a high of 41FPS and an average of 17. Most of the settings are on high with the exception of the level of detail reflected on water. Having played 95% of the game through, FPS speed was never an issue.
Finally, this game does not use PunkBuster, and I had no problems playing multiplayer with the iZ3D stereo driver solution.
NVIDIA’s stereo driver offering was an interesting mix. First, the driver is able to run World in Conflict with all settings on full. This includes post processing, bloom, DirectX 10 – everything. On paper, this is a feat. In fact, this is the first game I have tried that I’ve been able to run with all the eye candy set on full using the NVIDIA stereo drivers, so this is very promising.
I can’t say I noticed a visual improvement between the DX9 and DX10 graphics, but I was impressed that the post processing worked without shutting down the stereo effects each time – this is a first for NVIDIA, so there is some real potential here. I also didn’t find anomaly problems with the sky or water which is a good indicator that the iZ3D solution should be able to resolve that problem too.
From a performance point of view, I am at a big disadvantage with the NVIDIA drivers. Zalman sent me an 8600GT for game testing, but this is too underpowered to play anything in proper S-3D. Out of fairness to NVIDIA, I have contacted them with hopes that they can supply a more modern GPU for a better measure of performance. The anomaly tests are still accurate, though.
The biggest drawback I had with the NVIDIA drivers were the movie clips. As I mentioned before, I think it is important to get a mix of pop-out and depth, and this causes the movie clips to get heavily distorted beyond recognition with the NVIDIA drivers.
There is “front screen depth” functionality via CTRL-F9 and CTRL-F10 that is best used to prevent your interface from doubling. It doesn’t help with the movie clip problem because when you adjust it, your characters in the front become flat, while the characters immediately behind get heavily distorted.
If you want the best of both worlds, you will need to settle for a depth only environment – and I think that robs the fun from the game. I think your best bet is to disable stereoscopic viewing during the movie clip playback with the stereo hotkey, and enjoy the rest of the game in impressive S-3D.
In conclusion, whether you are playing with iZ3D drivers or a modern NVIDIA solution, World in Conflict should be very high on your list of purchases for your stereoscopic 3D gaming library.
In our gallery review section, you will find additional stereoscopic 3D image samples and an anaglyph (red/blue glasses required) stereoscopic 3D movie that you can download to get a sense of the 3D effect in Word in Conflict. Please remember that anaglyph is not reflective of modern full color solutions, and is for sample purposes only.
EDIT: If you want to try WIC in stereoscopic 3D without making a big investment, get a pair of anaglyph glasses (red/blue) and download the iZ3D drivers from our downloads section. In the configuration file found in the iZ3D directory, change NSMODE to a value of “2”, and you will be able to play this game in S-3D. Anaglyph is a poor solution compared to what is available on the market, but it will give you a taste of what stereoscopic 3D has to offer.
Post your thoughts on this game and review HERE.
How Memorable Is This Game
Stereoscopic Effectiveness iZ3D
Stereoscopic Effectiveness NVIDIA
iZ3D Overall Rating:
NVIDIA Overall Rating