Naturally, one reviewer's experience is
not necessarily that of another's, and there are an awful lot
of glowing reviews popping up on the Internet about Silent
Storm (note that some sound like they haven't even finished the game, yet
-- you'll know why I say that later in this
Let me give you some history on my expectations
for this game, and explain why ultimately Silent Storm
sucks. But if you want to skip the backstory and get straight
to the review, click here.
One of --
if not the -- best video games of all time has to be Jagged
Alliance 2. Let's
be clear: It fit a certain niche, as it was technically
a "turn-based, squad-based, isometric, tactical simulation/role-playing." In
it, you are a mercenary character who led a squad, or squads
or other mercenaries, fighting with the rebellion to overthrow
a brutal dictator of some fictitious third-world country.
The mercenaries you could choose were all unique and asserted
their character throughout the game
-- Magic, with his
geri-curl afro and parachute pants and silenced Mac-10 submachine
gun; Fox, with the sexy voice and ambidextrous shooting skills. Hell,
half the fun was the way the mercs would interact with each other
(for example, the prim Buns never got along with the sultry Fox
and they would cat fight constantly).
The selection of weapons was awesome
-- a huge range of
modern firearms, both NATO and Warsaw Pact, with appropriate
ammunitions and variations thereof (armor-piercing, solid shotgun
rounds, etc.). Even mortars entered the late game.
JA 2 was a great deal of fun, from start to finish, but... there
was some darkness tinging this silver cloud.
There were two very specific items about the game which annoyed
me, which were:
- The "Science Fiction"
you installed the game and started a fresh campaign, you would
be prompted to choose whether or not to turn ON the "Science
Fiction" elements. No real suggestion as to what
they were. If turned ON, then after quite a bit of
gameplay, you'd discover that they consisted of two things: (1)
giant bugs, living underground and swarming various towns to
kill civilians and troops, and (2) giant saber cats, doing the
same, only above ground.
You wouldn't be able to avoid them if the sci-fi elements were
turned on and you'd be forced to invest a LOT of effort in fighting
these things off. It was pretty fun, and you could
have chosen to not do it, but it sure wasn't very accurate or
relevant to the traditional "tactical simulation."
- The rocket guns. Oh, the fucking rocket
guns. Now, these should have been excluded
by choosing NO to the sci-fi elements, but no. The
rocket guns were magazine-fed rocket-firing rifles. Compared
to the various other weapons in the game (such as the G11 or
M1), they did about 100 percent more damage, had about 20-30
percent more range than the best automatic rifles, and actually
had a higher single-shot rate of fire than most rifles.
In other words, they were
the best gun in the game for about the last 20 percent of JA
2. And, unlike the giant bugs or saber cats, you couldn't
avoid them. Oh, you could choose not to use them,
but that sure didn't stop Deidrianna (the current dictator) from
arming her "elite troops" to the gills with rocket
guns and sending them after you!
It was pretty goddamn annoying, and most purists like myself
just said "fuck it," and left the damn rocket guns
on the ground and saved the day anyway, with normal gunpowder
and lead, like fucking men!
JA 2 was an almost perfect game for it's time and for fans of
the genre -- but it introduced elements which jarred the
experience and left a bit of a bad taste in one's mouth, much
like drinking a 40oz malt liquor, which usually doesn't taste
very good at all as you swallow the last mouthful.
In any event, so you know my position leading to a review of
Silent Storm: Gimme the real.
Silent Storm takes
place in Europe in 1943. You control a team of either
Axis or Allied Secret Forces operating throughout Europe. The
two campaigns are more than modestly different, obviously, but
they both narrow into the same events towards the end of the
Silent Storm is a fully 3D game, polygons and all. There's
only a few other 3D squad-based tactical games, most notably
Company: Left for Dead and Soldiers of Anarchy. Like Soldiers
of Anarchy, the field of play is dynamic, but in SoA you were
limited to destroying buildings and walls --
the destruction in Silent Storm is much more granular. Glass
can be broken, tables can be shot up, walls can have holes punched
in them (or be flattened), and entire buildings can be reduced
SoA focused on vehicular combat; Silent Storm
(or S2 as the developers dubbed it) is much smaller in focus,
but much richer in detail. The maps are as simple
a setting as a grove of trees -- and as complex as a walled factory
with multiple buildings, peaked roofs, basements, offices, catwalks
and five levels. And all of these elements can have
holes punched through them, or be destroyed outright.
The strategic import of truly destructible terrain cannot be
overemphasized -- for example, three
members of my squad (a scout armed with a submachine gun and
two heavy machine gunners, dripping with explosives) had entered
a room in a suite of office above a factory main floor. We
could "hear" the footsteps of someone in the other
room, and surmised that they were the enemy. Rather than trying
to rush through the door to the room, I decided to make use of
my firepower. One machine gunner opened up on full
auto and blasted a huge hole in the wall, damaging the enemy
hiding behind it -- the other hurled
grenades through the hole, and the explosions ripped out the
rest of the wall, and blew out most of the floor, dropping the
bleeding bad guys onto the next floor. My scout ran
up to the hole and neatly plugged the bad guys and put them out
of their misery.
Of course, it was now impossible to enter
the room and get to the staircase it contained, but hey, bloodshed
The animations of the characters are superb: Whether crouched
and creeping, or unslinging a bazooka, they look realistic and
switch positions with smooth transitions --
they never jerk abruptly from running to shooting. In
fact, the only time you'll see them abruptly move about is when
they're lifted by a burst of machine gun fire and pinned against
a wall by bullets.
The graphical effects are pretty awesome. Lighting
is also dynamic, shadows are drawn in real-time, and even muzzle
flashes act as specular lighting sources.
Nival has also done one thing particularly
right -- they leave bodies and
debris where they lies. Nothing makes a victory feel
more complete than being able to survey the carnage you've wrought,
and seeing the bloodied corpses of the enemy is critical to maintaining
the illusion that is immersion.
Now, those of you who can even remember
the beginning of this review might be wondering, "Hey King
Mongo, if you love the game so much, why the fucking caveat at
the beginning of this long-ass article? When do you
start reaming this bitch?"
Answer: Right now.
Okay, I've linked the front page of the Nival.com portal for Silent Storm, and you
can see the blurb there. Notice anything missing? Not
your fault -- after all I'm a professional fucking game reviewer
and I missed it, too. For the life of me, I couldn't
find a single reference to Giant Swiss-built Robots with Guns
Now, I did see "Equip your squad with
over 75 authentic WWII weapons ranging from commando daggers
to hand-held rocket launchers, including experimental and rare
models." I'm not World War II historian, but
I'm *pretty darn certain* that nobody had any Armored Robotic
Power Suits in World War II, not the Germans, not the Swiss...
So, imagine my surprise when, after about
12 hours of gameplay, my squad of WWII Axis soldiers were given
four freakin' Giant Swiss-built Robots with Guns for Arms
as a reward for defending a Nazi facility from attack.
I was a bit non-plussed, I'll admit -- after days of playing one of the best squad-based
tactical games I'd ever seen, with truly "authentic WWII"
weaponry, the sudden leap out of "authentic WWII" weapons
and into the far-flung future was like being told "you just don't understand the Matrix, man."
Just as in Jagged Alliance 2, suddenly the game balance had completely
changed. I attempted a mission without using the Giant
Swiss-built Robots with Guns for Arms, but of course the enemy
forces were using them, leaving me with little option.
Nival Interactive also deliberately choose
to balance the the game in such a way that the Giant Swiss-built
Robots with Guns for Arms were virtually immune to small-arms
fire, as well as heavy explosives. I spent two hours
of REAL TIME with three of my squad running circles around an
enemy robot suit. My team fired Panzerschrek rockets,
heavy incendiary grenades, TNT, .50 caliber bullets, and even
DROPPED A BUILDING on it, and dealt it almost NO DAMAGE WHATSOEVER. And
there were FIVE MORE ROBOTS to handle afterward.
So I bit the bullet, at first. I equipped and used
the Giant Swiss-built Robots with Guns for Arms for a couple
of missions. The game's dynamic was completely different,
unfortunately. My squad in Power Suits (called "Panzerkleins"
in the game) moved at a snail's pace compared to unencumbered. In
a turn-based game, slow movement is a fun-killer. The
Panzerkleins are deus ex machina, absolutely impervious
to "authentic WWII weapons," so using them in a mission
takes all the fun out of it.
Much of these complaints could simply be issues of preference. The
Nival.com Silent Storm forums are full of
the general argument that either (a) the Panzerkleins were a
pleasant surprise and was a fun departure from stodgy WWII-based
gameplay, as opposed to (b) the Panzerkleins don't have any place
in a game that purports to be a WWII-based game and detract from
the WWII experience. These are both valid arguments,
and truly can boil down to taste. They tasted quite foul in my
mouth, but hey, I'm just a FUCKING PROFESSIONAL GAME REVIEWER,
WHAT THE FUCK DO I KNOW?
In addition, some forum participants have
pointed out that interviews with the developers and the forums
themselves would have revealed that the Panzerkleins were in
the game, and some extracurricular research on the part of a
game purchaser would have revealed that there were, in fact,
Giant Swiss-built Robots with Guns for Arms in the game, contrary
to what history might have to say about it. Of course,
that's a flawed premise, simply because game-developer interviews
and previews and such are hardly widely read.
There are two primary irrefutable problems caused by the presence
of the Panzerkleins. Firstly, they slow down the gameplay
enormously, in what is already a slow-paced game, even for being
An example: A typical squad
member has 60 movement points. If he is running, each step after
the first costs two movement points. So, he can take
29 steps. The same squad-member wearing a Panzerklein
has 60 movement points, but, each step costs seven movement
points, so he can take only eight steps.
In turn-based mode, that means instead
of your squad needing three turns to, say, reach a particular
wall from across a courtyard, you'll need 11. And
you'll need to move each squad member individually, you'll have
to wait for the animation as your Panzerklein-wearing squad slowly
tromps through their turn, and then you have to wait for the
enemy to make his moves. On a big map, with 30 enemies
or more, this can take an eternity --
a single turn can take 20 minutes to complete, and the map can
take three or more hours, and much of the time is simply
watching a progress meter tick down.
there is one major bug in the game (other than a few crashes
to the desktop and one distressingly corrupted saved game). Here's
the problem: Silent Storm features a destructible
environment, as I have already said. Walls can have
holes poked in them, windows shot out, entire buildings flattened
(with enough firepower and diligence). However, this
has a cost -- anytime the environment
is deformed, you can't move your squad members. Any
attempt to move results in a scrolling error message "Valid
Path Not Found." This will continue for about
10 seconds, after which the squad can be moved again.
Nival had a perfectly logical (although not entirely acceptable)
rationale for this. They claim that because the environment
has been deformed, the game's engine is regenerating movement
paths. I was willing to accept this explanation until
I discovered that if I had a squad member who was in the middle
of moving when the terrain was deformed, I could continue his
movement immediately after the terrain deformation
-- there was never the "path generation"
delay that Nival claimed was mandatory.
So, it's pretty clear that they were covering
up a bug with a logical -- but inaccurate
-- explanation. Or, it could be
that they're telling the truth, and the bug is simply that the
game engine doesn't complete the path generation process in an
This makes using the Panzerkleins annoying in the extreme because
they're all equipped with cannons and heavy machine guns and
laser beams (don't ask) which invariably poke holes in walls
or floors. And the enemy also either uses Panzerkleins,
or has troops equipped with laser-beam bazookas (again, don't ask) and rockets and heavy machine guns
which also poke holes in walls and
So, this bug is constantly manifesting,
and this Pro Game Reviewer found himself waiting for interminably
long enemy turns to complete, waiting for agonizingly slow Giant
Swiss-built Robots with Guns for Arms to finish tromping around,
waiting for stupid pathing bugs to run their course, and generally
not doing so much game playing as staring at the screen, or mashing
my keyboard and mouse in frustration.
Silent Storm has, in the end, an awesome game engine. Full
3D, dynamic lighting, a largely free camera, fantastic lighting
effects, skeletal-models with physics, deformable terrain
-- all that is fantastic.
Sadly, the game itself is flawed -- an
abrupt and disappointing switch in the gameplay dynamic, and
bugs which become problematic due to the change in that dynamic.
This is the saddest I've felt delivering
a negative game review. It's agonizing try a new game
with an open mind, slowly fall in love with it, and then have
it lift up its dress and show you its cock.
I feel like I've been Crying Gamed.