Civil War: Secret Missions Review
World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Gulf War, Gulf War Part Deux: George W's Electric Boogaloo...all of those periods of time have seen their fair share of videogames. The one era that isn't anywhere near as popular as the aforementioned is the American Civil War of the late 1800s. A war fought between the United States and the Confederate States of America, one that fought to spread democracy and an equal world, with an opponent that fought to prevent the end of slavery, and was against a federal government. So here's Activision's second History Channel licensed Civil War game, and unfortunately, this Civil War entry in Activision's catalogue is one to avoid at all costs, and I mean that literally.
Well, truth be told, Civil War: Secret Missions is below not-so-great status, it's rather terrible, actually. You are given, what is essentially, the most barebones shooter this era of gaming has offered thus far. The story places you into the shoes of both the Confederate and Union (US) armies, so you go back and forth between controlling the teams that succeeded in their objectives. To be blunt, Secret Missions has virtually no redeemable qualities to it. You're tossed into the career mode and instead of a hair-raising and tense experience, you're taking part in a boring shootout against a dozen others from a destroyed Church.
The mission objectives require little to no reading in order to get through, as the game is extremely linear and doesn't require you to perform a task that is the least bit specific. It's a point A, point B, point C affair that simply requires you to move-shoot-move. To make matters worse, the controls are sloppy and unresponsive, which makes playing the game a chore. At that point I realized that a Civil War first person shooter could make for a nice online game. Now, don't get me wrong, I sure didn't expect that from this game, it was just a general idea.
But at that point, my thought made me realize something else...there is no multiplayer! Yes, a first person shooter that doesn't have any online or multiplayer modes to speak of. No online deathmatches, no offline versus matches - nothing! When I said this game was barebones, I meant it. In fact, apart from what I've already mentioned, there simply isn't anything else to talk about regarding this game. Even if the price has now dropped to $30, I still wouldn't go anywhere near this poor excuse of a game, because things get worse.
With a game engine such as Call of Duty 4's at their disposal, it makes no sense to me as to why Activision would have developer Cauldron use anything but that. Civil War: Secret Missions demonstrates nothing but the worst, boasting a game engine that is unable to maintain a remotely stable framerate no matter what the game is rendering. It's especially troublesome, because the visuals are nothing short of ugly, so to have this game engine struggle as much as it does shows the lack of prowess behind the developer. Just about the only good looking aspect of the graphics is the trees and their well textured bark. That's right...tree bark is the highlight of this game's visuals.
The audio is as bad as the visuals. Your partners repeat the same five lines over and over and over and over again, and the voice acting could use some serious work. To make matters worse, the voice acting is also glitchy, with words frequently being cut-off during the cut-scenes. Background noise is completely uninspired and your enemies are every bit as redundant and repetitive as your allies are. To add to that, gun shots and explosions sound dull and lifeless.
While I highly doubt any of you even considered purchasing a copy of Civil War: Secret Missions, you should still be well aware of just how bad the game is. If you happen to see it for a price below the $30 mark it retails for now, continue to avoid it. If you see it in a 99-cent bin somewhere...avoid it. If someone leaves it at your doorstep, call your local anti-terrorist organization and have forensics experts find out who would do such a heinous act. Yes, I'm being a bit harsh here, but so was Activision when they decided to create a game that offers absolutely no value, terrible gameplay, awful visuals, and poor audio and charge nearly full price for it. That's just not cool.
1/28/2009 Arnold Katayev