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The History Channel: Civil War (Xbox 360) artwork

The History Channel: Civil War (Xbox 360) review


"During the rare occasions when the History Channel isn't airing something related to Nazis, they will cover this dark chapter in our nation's formative years. The Civil War! A conflict waged by men able to fire muskets accurately from hundreds of yards away, reload in a flash, and single-handedly decimate companies of weaker soldiers with awesome skill. In other words, here's the most intense combat of the 1860s rendered with the Call of Duty engine. Yes, it's every bit as snooze-inducing..."



During the rare occasions when the History Channel isn't airing something related to Nazis, they will cover this dark chapter in our nation's formative years. The Civil War! A conflict waged by men able to fire muskets accurately from hundreds of yards away, reload in a flash, and single-handedly decimate companies of weaker soldiers with awesome skill. In other words, here's the most intense combat of the 1860s rendered with the Call of Duty engine. Yes, it's every bit as snooze-inducing as that would imply.

From the very start, this game tries its damndest to be reverent and epic. The title music from the film Glory plays over the menu screen where you opt for either the Rebs with their Stars N' Bars and fried chicken, or the Union with their Stars N' Stripes and the imposing top hat of Abe Lincoln. The campaign starts up. Archival footage and narration from the History Channel Voiceover Dude put you exactly in the time and place. The level loads up. You're reading your character's note home written on the eve of the battle. "The boys think it's gonna be a big push. Someone said they even seen General Grant drunk in the Command Tent, smellin' like whisky."

Then you hit Start and your preconcieved reality is shattered.

Gaudy colors assail your eyes while the constant sound of explosions and recycled "ambient" sound clips offend on various sonic frequencies. The human models are finely textured with their uniforms of gray and blue, their various weapons rendered with exacting care, yet their movements are hilariously exaggerated. Worse yet are their mouths and lip movements during the surprisingly frequent unskippable in-game "briefing" scenes. You must sit through a few of these before you're set free to follow the rest of your company into combat, pockets stuffed with ammo and armed with the latest in musket and repeating rifle technology.

Most of them get slaughtered by the inhumanly precise marksmanship of the AI, while of course they are useless as you are meant to be the only competent soldier in your entire company. Being a History Channel video game means that actual history is only a guideline of sorts with which to make your Call of Duty clone, it seems. The only historically accurate aspect of the entire game is the weapon set, down to the useless football-shaped grenades which only explode if they land a certain way. So this makes gameplay more frustrating and slow-paced. Not only must you retreat whenever you reload, you must reload after every 6 shots, at best. Most of your shitty muskets only house one round in their chambers, in fact.

Gameplay consists of hiding, reloading, and sniping. Occasionally you can use your sword to whack down enemies should you sneak up on them, but most of the time it's a fine opportunity to get bayoneted in the face. If you feel like getting sniped to death instead, you can try to move in close enough to use your six-shooter. Headshots are possible but unlikely unless you feel like mastering the art of shooting with a virtual shitty pistol. Which means playing this game a lot. Moving on.

In real life, battles take place for the most part in spacious outdoor environments. In the History Channel video game view of the universe, things are much more claustraphobic. Every level is a maze through either a forest or the occasional ruined log cabin or narrow trench, all linear as hell. Three levels into the Union campaign I was delighted to find a sniper rifle and an amazing panoramic view of the battlefield below. Shit yeah, this is it, finally something to show off the Xbox 360's power, I thought. While the draw distance is huge and the dozen or so Confederate sniper bitches can be seen dashing into view far before they can draw a bead on you, it just becomes apparent that this was designed for the last console generation and clumsily imposed upon the new one. I suppose these wheat fields, wooden structures and the occasional overturned Conestoga wagons are rendered adequately but they're just so boring and uninspired. At the very least, the sniper rifle is about as fun to use as the one in Gears of War.

It was fun picking off advancing Rebels with headshots while they helplessly charged on (most likely charged with S'mores Schnapps), but then some random explosions blew up some background scenery, someone told me to move, and all of a sudden I was back running behind my idiotic AI buddies through another linear path through the nearby woods. I think the game blew its load during a really dramatic part where I ran up to a powder keg and lit the fuse.

"You blew up the enemy's supply depot and forced their retreat! Congrats!" Oh, that was it. There are only a paltry 50 enemies in your average level, out of the mere five "battles" available to play for either side. There are also only about five character models, too, come to think of it. This is by far the worst shooter on the 360, possibly the worst game on that system period, and there is absolutely no reason anyone should play this when there are much better offerings on the Commodore 64. In terms of realism, The Oregon Trail bests this by a wide margin. You see much more combat and the gameplay is open-ended. This port should never have been attempted; seeing these butt-ugly graphics in HD is exquisitely painful, especially the flame effects and "explosions" which more resemble erratically animated swarms of bees. You just have to see it in motion.

I can't even recommend this to Civil War dorks because of its promise of re-enacting Gettysburg when in actuality you spend most of that level inside a farmhouse or some other unremarkable place.

How is this game not a complete waste of time? The only enjoyment I got was from being able to slice apart bearded hillbillies while they yelped in pain, and even then the T rating only meant that's as bad as it got for them.

History Channel: Please include Nazis in your next game.

Rating: 1/10

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Featured community review by johnny_cairo (May 16, 2007)

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