"The second level (that starts where the first ends, but under the cover of night, suggesting you stood in the same spot for several hours until the sun went down) has you running around putting fires within the base out. Tiny little blazes that the narrative sells like they're about to engulf the Earth in napalm destruction but are no bigger than your average camp fire. If a programmer for this game strolled into your every-day back-yard barbeque situation, they'd declare Armageddon was upon us and promptly dive into the kiddy pool."
I donít know what the USA did wrong in Patriots: Nation Under Fire, but something foul took place. Maybe the populace forgot their freedom fries and reverted to the French variation, didnít salute their flag every morning or recite the pledge of allegiance with enough conviction. Regardless of whatever crime they committed, the terrorists have won! The U.S is a scorch-marked war zone, laid to waste by a series of cunningly-laid bombs placed in strategic locations (actual bombs without the help of ATHF and Time-Warner this time around). The military is scattered and the National Guard has been called into service -- thatís where you come in.
Ordered to your HQís armoury to arm yourself against the new threat, you start the game at the depotís front door. You stroll through the building, walk past your pre-armed comrades and into the storeroom. From within you obtain a hammer (Patriotís answer to Half-Lifeís always-versatile crowbar), a well-stocked pistol and a shotgun with a whopping four shells. As soon as you grab your weaponry, an alarm sounds, and dirty terrorists attack en mass.
One such terrorist warped into the room I was in, spawning right next to me -- you can tell theyíre terrorists because they have beards and call you infidels, by the way Ė then proceeded to kneel defensively and shoot the hell out of the wall to my left. I would have used my pistol to shoot him in the head if not for two things:
1/ The game can freeze and stutter whenever more than a handful of people are on screen. The terrorists only ever attack in huge numbers, and you always have AI controlled soldiers watching your back (and ignoring cover), so the on-screen body count is always that high.
2/ Ammo is rare, and any the terrorists drop quickly vanishes if not collected IMMEDIATELY.
So I bashed his head in with the hammer. Lethargically. While the rest of the terrorists I was fighting took defensive positions to shoot the crap out of an empty door, effectively turning their backs on me and my suicidal troop chums. With the irksome lag stopping me from getting a clear lock on the bearded meanies, I found it easier to just hide behind a handy jeep and let the troops at my back Ė who know how to shoot, just not how to employ cover -- wipe the threat out instead. With the first wave down, youíre free to venture outside where enemies some forty feet away can blow the crap out of you with pin-point accuracy. I hid in a nearby shed and let the respawning AI troops take them out again.
The second level (that starts where the first ends, but under the cover of night, suggesting you stood in the same spot for several hours until the sun went down) has you running around putting fires within the base out. Tiny little blazes that the narrative sells like they're about to engulf the Earth in napalm destruction yet are no bigger than your average camp fire. If a programmer for this game strolled into your everyday backyard barbeque situation, they'd declare Armageddon and promptly dive into the kiddy pool.
Each new mission levels at you new and increasingly clichť objectives like the obligatory Ďrescuing hostagesí stages. Instead of leading them to a secure, safe location, you lead them to a white box on the ground that they disappear from when they reach it. A HOSTAGE HAS BEEN RESCUED, the game tells you via a generic and emotionless audio-clip. And thatís assuming they donít get wiped out with mortars. As soon as you hear their distinctive whistling noise, the area where you were last standing explodes in a pixilated mess. These are annoyingly accurate for a famously inaccurate weapon, and while they're easy for you to avoid, they always kill off a large chunk of your team-mates and hostages who arenít smart to enough to get the hell out of the way.
Which is annoying.
Almost as annoying as the lack of manual reload that ensures you have to empty your gun then dry-fire it to prompt your guardsman avatar to restock his bullets. Almost as annoying as the instant death-promising suicide bombers that need to be taken out from afar but spawn just inside open doorways as you are about to stroll through, serving you up with a cheap and messy death. Almost as annoying as the dated graphics, the mediocre audio, the constantly bitching reserve troops and the never constant enemy AI which sees them fluctuate between cunning marksmen using the provided cover advantageously to brain-dead simpletons with firearms that stand in the open and blast the scenery rather than you. But the most annoying aspect by far is the spark of promise this game has buried beneath the problems.
Sometimes the game is cheap (like the aforementioned suicide bomber that hides just within doorways), but some of the enemy placements are downright evil and manically inspired. Itís been a while since a game has thrown so many foes at you at once (foes that can serve as a threat, anyway), and, in between teeth-gnashingly bad lag, the action can get frantic. Your back-up troops may be neutered and oneĖdimensional, but theyíre an attempt at something a little bit different. Iíve not been very kind to Patriots, but I get the sense itís not a badly designed game; itís just not a complete one. With a bit more testing, a bit more work and a bit more time, could the flaws have been righted? Is Patriots' biggest drawback that itís a rushed budget title?
The ultimate answer to this question is no. Gamers need look no further than the awesome Serious Sam series to see that a budget FPS does not have to be a poor FPS, and as it stands, thatís the unrespectable moniker that must be bestowed upon A Nation Under Fire. Everything good has to be dug out from beneath a mountain of bugs, glitches and irksome quirks that can only be bypassed by purchasing a more complete title. Spare a thought for 4D rulers; you can tell that they tried to do their best with a limited pallet (and have proven that they can in the past with cult-hit, Gore) but their efforts fall short here.
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