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Real-time Strategy






Eugen Systems



T (Teen)



March 2005



- Ships on a single DVD

- Great cinematic presentation

- Resource gathering is streamlined and strategic

- Three sides

- Good multiplayer options



- Great cinematic presentation marred a little by rapid-fire editing

- No tutorial

- Camera is good but can't be pulled back far enough



Review: Axis & Allies (PC)

Review: Red Alert 2 (PC)

Review: Perimeter (PC)

Review: Rome - Total War (PC)



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Act of War: Direct Action

Score: 8.2 / 10


Thereís no doubt in my mind that Act of War is on its way to becoming a franchise.  That is, it will become a franchise if it sells well.  Whatever praise it may receive from game reviewers, thereís never a guarantee that it will sell enough copies to warrant a sequel or even an expansion.  Not to worry though, this will still be a review rather than a drawn-out plug for the game.


act of war direct action review          act of war direct action review


Act of War: Direct Action ships on a single DVD-ROM and during the painless, if somewhat lengthy installation, a full-motion video plays.  Itís a point/counter-point mock TV program that hints at the plot of the game (hint: it's about the control and price of oil), which is played out somewhat in-game but more dramatically between missions with rapidly-paced full-motion video (FMV) sequences.  Itís reminiscent of the Red Alert games but Act of War takes things much more seriously and uses the interludes to punch up the tension rather than a break for some comedy.  The acting is often a little too earnest and mock-serious for my liking but itís better than most TV Iíve watched lately.


The tension carries over to the gameplay.  Even during ďidleĒ moments when I was consolidating and trying to create a few more units there was always the feeling something extremely bad was about to happen.


The mechanics of I all should be very easy for real-time strategy fans to acclimatize to with the constant camera shifts, jumping to hot spots, grouping units, queuing units, setting waypoints and unit behavior, etc.  But even with some past experience under your belt Act of War will test your strategic abilities, not only with the base-building missions but also with maneuvering small squads through cramped quarters.  There's no in-depth tutorial either so you'll have to crack open the manual to figure out what the various action icons actually do.


Resource gathering comes down to collecting cash.  Thereís the more typical method of building an oil derrick close to an oil deposit; the more unusual and difficult way of acquiring funds it by capturing prisoners of war (POWs).  This really encourages small squad tactics since a massive combat force will wipe out an opposing force with no chance of capturing survivors.  POWs can only be captured if they are critically low on health, rendering them unable to move or fight.  The same goes for your troops so youíll really start to care about each infantry unit, particularly during multiplayer games.  (And thereís no cheating by killing your own units so they canít be captured Ė itís allowed by you receive a monetary penalty.)  Infantry units also gain experience so thereís another reason to pay attention and use tactics and stealth when required (and always have a medical back-up to heal near-death units).





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Thereís plenty of opportunity to drop the hammer on the opposition with massive demonstrations of firepower.  The 3D engine powering Act of War renders big and small explosions with equal aplomb and there was only once instance of graphical stuttering to the action. (Granted I had turned the settings down a bit.)  The camera can get pretty close to the action but when the camera is pulled back, it doesnít feel pulled back enough so thereís a lot 


of scrolling or clicking on the mini-map to get where you want to and during some of the large scale battles or during multiplayer my patience was pushed a little too hard trying to stay on top of what was going on.


Unit variety is good.  There are "common" units to the three factions, but each has their specialties in the air and on the ground.  Often the units are rooted in real-world technology but just as often fantastical technology is thrown in.  While not as outlandish as Red Alert 2 the units are still interesting to watch as they dish out destruction.


act of war direct action review          act of war direct action review


The actual strategic element with Act of War is good, but you'll encounter some path-finding "quirks" that can send units on strange routes around the map.  That should be qualified though.  Strategy works with the single-player game but sheer numbers still outweighs tactical or strategic elements while battling online, at least that was my experience.


While a lot of games these days feature movie tie-ins, Act of War features a book tie-in.  Dale Brown is credited as a story and technical consultant on the project so I'll have to assume it ties in well with the book.  I'm at a disadvantage somewhat because the book hasn't been released yet (it's slated for June) but based on my contact with professional writers (and one or two editors) in the past it's probably safe to say he didn't bend much when it came to content and pacing of the story.  Atari and Dale Brown's publisher had the chance to make the Act of War a little more special by including a chapter or two from the novel for a preview.


All real-time strategy fans want to know is if Act of War: Direct Action is worth a purchase.  My opinion may not mount to much, but I'd say, "Yes."  The strategic elements are in place for the most part, it has an interesting take on resource collecting, and the 3D engine makes the explosions nice to watch.


- Omni

(April 4, 2005)


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