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For You, Yankee, Ze Vor Is Ovah! by FullAuto Written on 27th December 2005

Format: Xbox (version reviewed)/PS2/PC.
Developer: Rebellion.
Publisher: Ubisoft.
Release date: October 7th, 2005.
Display: Standard.
Audio: Dolby Digital.

You lay, soaking wet, in a small hollow in the corner of a ruined building. Rubble digs into your chest and stomach and thighs, corners of brick and chunks of mortar poking like stone fingers. Your camouflage battledress uniform is soaked through, and it clings to you unpleasantly like a cold, dead skin. The only part of you that is dry are your hands, holding your G43 semiautomatic rifle, with the exception of the forefinger of your right hand. That is curled around the trigger. The constant chatter of small-arms fire is all around you, backed by the harsh shriek of Katyusha rockets and the hard crump of artillery in the distance. Bombers drone over head, flying in V-formation now the Luftwaffe is just a memory. You can smell sweat and sewage, oil and earth. You look down the shelled street through the four-power scope, and you forget you're lying in cold rainwater, that you are hungry and tired. You forget everything except putting your crosshairs on some unlucky Ruskie's face and squeezing the trigger back.

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The European grant failed to improve Scunthorpe.
Around you, Berlin is falling, gripped in the iron fist of the advancing Soviet army, but that is not your concern. You're here to stop the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, who are there to do one thing and one thing only. Capture the Nazi's nuclear secrets by any means possible. Because you are not German. You are an American, a member of the OSS, sent here to fight for Mom, apple pie and all that good stuff that puts the spunk in Yanks everywhere. Without Uncle Sam, Europe will fall under the shadow of those dastardly Commies, nukes in one hand and vodka in the other, ruling previously capitalist nations with hammer and sickle.

Apart from the paranoid plot (I think America is the only place in the world where 'communist' is an insult) which is probably all too close to the truth, I found myself liking this game from the off. If, when playing most shooting games, you find yourself enjoying the sniping weapons more than the others, this is the game for you. If you run around, spraying everything down with a hail of bullets, you will die. You need to sneak, crawling and staying low, keeping in cover as you pass through the streets, taking up good positions in bombed-out buildings, under collapsed barricades, in shell craters. Your camouflage level is a good indicator of how visible you are, but no matter how high the percentage is, it's not a guarantee. The sniper maxim 'One shot, one kill' holds true here. Because when you shoot, you have to take into account a few factors, unlike most games where the bullet goes exactly where you place the crosshairs.

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"Ve may haff a shmall problem."
First is stance. Lying down offers you the best stability and concealment, but not much of a vantage point. If you're at the same height as your target, you have to move out from behind cover to shoot at them. Kneeling is a little less stable, but probably the most useful stance. You can crouch behind walls and shoot over them, keeping mostly in cover. Standing means the most wobble, but can be useful. Say you're going for a head shot on an enemy crouched behind a wall. Kneeling, you can't see much. Standing, you can just glimpse the top of his head. And blow it off.

Breathing and heart rate are also important. You can hold your breath, removing all but the smallest tremors for several seconds. Obviously, after this period has elapsed you need to breathe deeply and so can't use it again for another few seconds. Most shots can be made successfully without using this, but when shooting at small targets or situations where a one-shot-kill is critical, this comes in very handy. If you've just ran down a street, you can't use this until you get your breath back, and your aim is a little more unsteady as you gasp for breath.

Wind and gravity also enter into the equation. You have to correct for drop (because a bullet's trajectory is not perfectly flat) and for crosswinds. This is easily done by the scope, because the crosshairs have little notches on them. So if the windage meter reads two and the indicator is to the right, you have to aim two notches to the left, so the centre of your scope is actually to the left of where you want the bullet to hit. Gravity is done a similar way. You estimate how far away the target is, then merely lift your aim however many notches needed to compensate and squeeze one off. A shot, that is. This is unnerving at first, because at longer ranges the centre of your crosshair is not even on your target, but you quickly become accustomed to it. At shorter ranges, not compensating for wind or gravity just means you'll hit your target in the stomach instead of the face, or in the leg instead of the heart. At longer ranges, it can result in a total miss and you getting a faceful of incoming.

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One way or the other, McCarthy was going to nail all the Commies.
Special mention to the Points of Fame system. Whenever you make a record kill, be it longest head shot, longest moving target, whatever, the camera follows the bullet in slow motion and you get to see your little brass baby drill home into the unfortunate's body, complete with entry wound and spraying blood. Great stuff. Slightly sick, maybe, but I can't get enough of it. The POF system also rates your performance each mission, giving you points for silent kills, remotely detonating explosives, long range head shots and so on, as well as staying unharmed.

It's the best and most realistic sniping system I've ever come across in a game. You can reduce or eliminate the various factors by altering the difficulty setting, but what's the point of playing a sniping game if you're not going to snipe? The damage is fairly realistic too. The only way to guarantee a one-shot-kill is a hit to the head or throat. This can be pretty difficult to achieve, but very satisfying when you've spent a while lining it up and it blasts home from several hundred metres out. A hit to the leg will slow an enemy, making them limp enthusiastically for the nearest bit of cover. Arm hits have them clutching the wounded limb and generally put a stop to their shooting. A hit in the guts will fold them up like a poor poker player, leaving them writhing on the ground. This sometimes lures out other enemies, as they run to their comrade's aid.

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The Nazi honey reserves were well hidden.
The enemy AI is respectable. If you miss, they return fire or run for cover. Sometimes both. They'll gladly use grenades if you stay in cover. When going up against a group, you need to shoot and then move to another position quickly, or you'll find yourself being flanked by some pissed off submachine gun-wielding Ivans. Soviet snipers are very aware, shooting accurately as befits their role. Machine gunners believe in giving you a serious hammering, and woe betide your arse if you wander into their field of fire. The dull colour of their uniform blends into the ruined environment, and you'll need to make extensive use of the binoculars to avoid bumping into them. Enemies move well, constantly displacing and advancing, and they don't come at you one at a time like gentlemen, either. Tanks and other vehicles often gleefully roar round corners, giving you a lovely surprise. Trucks aren't problematic, pop a tyre or the driver and it's problem solved. Tanks are a little more difficult, usually meaning some careful application of TNT and a hasty retreat.

Close range combat is a messy affair, but if you're getting into gunfights often you're doing it all wrong. You get a suppressed pistol for close work, but it's a severe mismatch against a rifle or submachine gun. Handy for silent kills, but in a straight fight you'll need to have scavenged a weapon from somewhere. Your rifle is meant for sniping, not close range. Weapons and other items can be taken from the bodies of dead enemies. In your favour you have grenades and plenty of healing items, as well as any guns you can nick. Tripwire grenades are useful for covering your flanks and rear, as well as laying traps. You can also pick up stones and throw them, to distract sentries. Kerlassic.

The graphics are fine, if a little dreary. It suits the game though, and makes the environment more realistic. Textures are competent, nothing special. There is some clipping, but not lots of it. Character models are good, even with the uniforms making them all look similar. Movement is smooth, from a soldier running, to your character sliding the rifle off his back. There's some nice shine on the sunlight effects, and clouds of dust and smoke are quality, dissipating and thickening as they drift. There's some gorgeous reflections in even the lightest sheen of rainwater, too. Explosions are a little basic, but are realistic, large and abrupt. A shell blowing a hole in the middle of the street close by makes you jump, and happens more than occasionally.

The HUD is nice and uncomplicated, so the third-person view of the action is clear and uncluttered by extraneous shite. Weapon and ammo display in the bottom right, compass and camouflage level in the bottom left. Also on the compass is your health display, clock and directions of objectives, as well as where any return fire is coming from. Moving into first-person scope view only adds your hearbeat monitor. The camera, neglected by so many games, is manoeuvrable and sticks with you throughout the rugged terrain, giving you a great view. You can move it freely and I have yet to have a problem with it, even in tight interiors.

Audio is nicely done, explosions and gunshots are quite crisp and sharp, with ricochets screaming by and misses thudding into stonework. Foreign speech, as far as I can tell, is authentic and seems to be quite varied. That could just be my tinnitus-damaged lugholes, though. Small bursts of music serve well, and usually the ambient noise of a major war zone completes the atmosphere just fine. The voice acting can be quite poor at times, but mostly it's average stuff.

Controls are customisable, but the defaults are a pretty good set up as is. I had to get used to the character not being able to do things instantly, and stop jabbing buttons in my impatience. For example, you need to get your binoculars out to scout ahead. Your character, Karl Faffenheimenbrunnersturm (should have just went all the way and called him Joseph McCarthy) or whatever the fuck his name is, must first sling his rifle, then take out his binocs, then you get to look through them. The reverse if you need to then put them away and use your rifle. You can change this in the options, but the game's supposed to be realistic, so I stuck with it and found it only added to the general aura of preparation and caution you need to be good at this game.

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Bullet needed a drink, and soon.
Patience is a virtue, we are often told loftily, but in war it is a necessity. You have to scout, plan and watch carefully. You have to move slowly, getting into place and taking your time, waiting for the right moment. Play it like other shooters and you end up dead in short order. When it's time for action, you have to move swiftly and unerringly, carrying out your plan and still being ready to adapt should a sodding great tank bust through a wall next to you. Enemies have to be engaged and killed quickly, or they bury you under a wave of bullets. Their advantage is numbers, in both bodies and lead. Yours is surgical accuracy and surprise. They outnumber and outgun you, so you need to be circumspect, picking your ground carefully.

It takes some getting used to, and is totally different in pace and feel to almost every other shooter I've ever played. However, it's still a beautiful game. There are nine levels in the single player mode, and they're pretty considerable, with four or five objectives per level. There's a two-player co-op mode which, if you have a partner (I mean gaming partner, not the person you're fucking) who can stand the pace, elevates the game into fucking excellent. With the bonus that while you're scouting ahead, they can fuck off and make a cup of tea. There's also an online multiplayer mode, which will probably be good as I can't imagine many dickheads have the patience or brains for this game, and you can play without getting called names or getting death threats from an American boy whose balls haven't dropped.

Kill all Commie pinkos!


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