Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (Nintendo DS) Review

You all know the song so all together, War. Huh. Yea-ah. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!....well except for the arms trade, Games Workshop and keeping most games companies profitable. I must admit to being a bit of a Warhammer fan, both the fantasy and future settings. I know that there is better games out there but none of them compare to the rich background that has been weaved for these two mighty titans of the table-top gaming industry so I'm always eager to play any of the computer game offerings, not due in any part to the fact that I can find this game for less than a single squad of Chaos Terminators. Damn, it's an expensive hobby.

So on to the game review. You control a squad of Space marines from the Ultramarines chapter as you try to defeat the tide of chaos filth and Word Bearer traitor marines that are in opposition to you. Does the description sound basic? Games Workshop sum it up quite aptly: "In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war." Yep, there is only war, no substantial plot, no character development, just war, pure unadulterated war. Luckily for THQ, they've got the war part on target.

If anybody remembers playing such classic games as the X-Com series (UFO: Enemy Unknown, X-COM Terror From the Deep and X-Com Apocalypse) or Squad Command's predecessor Chaos Gate then you'll feel right at home with the game mechanics. For those poor souls who haven't, you control a selection of units who all have a set amount of action points that can be spent on moving and shooting and are fully replenished at the beginning of your turn. Its a simple concept that offers a bit more variety than the rigid nature of games such as Fire Emblem and Advance Wars with their set movement spaces and one attack per turn antics. With more freedom comes a greater range of tactics and options, though it can also lead to a great deal of complexity, Games Workshop only have to look back to Rogue Trader and the Second Generation rulebook to understand that predicament. With this in mind developers RedLynx have simplified things somewhat, you're units are predetermined before each encounter and comes with a fixed main weapon and a choice of additional weapon. This is a double edged power-sword; on the one hand it makes the game more accessible and easy to get to grip with, but on the other hand your previously given freedoms are being curtailed and the most important choices, your weaponry, have to be selected without prior knowledge of what you are facing, you only have five men to choose from and a wide selection of enemies to face from light to heavy infantry and then onto daemons and warmachines. A balanced approach isn't always the best option as a combat shotgun is barely useful against power armoured Chaos marines and completely useless against Terminators and Predators while the Lascannon's limited ammo is overkill and wasted on the cultists with all the endurance of a wet paper bag, so if you don't face on particular type of unit it completely nullifies a weapon choice.

Outside of those choice problems the actual game itself plays very well, apart from the tripwire effect, enemies will only react when you get within a certain proximity of them which is normally slightly outside of your sight range, and their ability to track you down the map even though they are outside of your "hearing" range (the range at which you can see where someone is on your mini map without having a clear line of sight) and thus you should be out of theirs. Other than that the game is fair and you can feel satisfied that any problems you encounter are purely down to your own mistakes and not because of any cheating by the computer. The freedom of the movement system, the simplicity of the equipment and fully destructible environments allows for a very expansive playing field. Is the enemy well entrenched with a clear field in front of the only entrance making any advance from you a massacre? Then take your Lascannon run around the side using the available cover and blow a hole in the wall making an impromptu portal for your men to swarm in and take the enemy by surprise. Compare this to the inflexibility of games like Fire Emblem where it's more like solving a puzzle and finding the right way to win the battle and WH40K Squad Command's your squad, your choices, your way attitude towards gameplay is a stunningly fresh breeze in the stifling summer heat.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Sadly it's not all plain sailing for WH40K Squad Command, while the missions are very close to the nature of Games Workshop's table top gaming everything outside of it is a pitiful excuse, spit in the eye and a slap across the face to everything that makes WH40K and Warhammer more than just a game. The story to the game is so generic it barely registers as Games Workshop. Remove the logo, replace the character models and names with any other franchise and there is nothing left. Warhammer 40,000 Squad ceases to exist and in its place is Squad Command, a well executed and completely lifeless game. Considering the richness of the Games Workshop universe surely they could have done better than Word Bearers attack Ultramarines, Ultramarines counter attack and drive back Wordbearers through generic tactical missions?

This complete lack of interest in the source material permeates every part of the game. Your soldiers are simply Space Marine, Scout, Predator, etc, the enemy also have suitably boring names, there's no personality at any point within this game. There is no form of character progression or reward, dead units are replaced, squad members aren't ranked, your choices expand as missions are completed, there're no side missions or bonuses for completing certain tasks and in all there is a complete lack of sense of achievement.

This train of thought is evidenced throughout the game, the graphics are suitably detailed and solid, the sound is crisp, clear and functional but that's it. The character models are flat and lifeless, there's only music in the cutscenes and aren't as cinematic as the back of the box suggests. The game is essentially a set of skirmishes strung together with a weak plot to attempt to classify it as a campaign, luckily this fits in with the multiplayer aspect where its single and multi-card modes are perfectly suited to the quick fix action that this game excels at and ignores the blandness of everything else.

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Screenshot for Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command on Nintendo DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

It's extremely solid, lacks the spark to make it excellent, but good fun never the less.

Graphics

Like a designer kitchen it's functional and good looking but feels empty.

Sound

The explosions and sound bites are good but where's the music?

Value

Outside of the multi-player aspect it's not going to last you long, the campaign is too linear with no reason to play again.

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Mediocre

About this score

This is a difficult one, the missions look and play extremely well so this should score highly, but due to the sheer lack of substance outside of those missions means you'll struggle to build an emotional attachment to the game and without a solid scenarios to drive you onto the next level you'll put it down as quickly as you pick it up. I've had the game for three months and it's taken me this long to write the review purely because I couldn't be bothered to play the game for any substantial length of time. Pick it up cheap or not at all.

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05.03.2008

3

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Developer

RedLynx

Publisher

THQ

Genre

Strategy

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Shame about this - I was very interested, but just knew it wouldn't quite turn out right...

Nice review Matt.


By the way, I love how it says "No one wants this game" in the recently wanted section. Smilie

C3 Moderator

The game itself is good but its like downloading a map pack and just playing Starcraft in skirmish mode. I'm having a much btter time playing FFXII Revenant Wings and I'm not even an hour into it.

Matthew Evans < Writer :: Moderator :: King of Impartiality :: Lord of the 15min Thread > As the wind blows the sand to cover the camel's tracks so does time move to cover the Lord's.
Rejoice for the Lord will taketh his quarter and give much back to his followers.

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