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Sky Biff

Like almost everyone I know I've spent too many hours capturing large red or white circles in the World In Conflict Beta. There's something particularly compulsive about trying to hold a small area on your own, while the rest of your team mills about across the battlefield, attacking the enemy without rhyme or reason. I particularly like playing as infantry and fortifying a position as best I can, fending off tank attacks and napalm deluges with my tiny soldiers. Initially I thought that playing as infantry was the very worst option, but now I understand completely that in fact it is helicopters that are actually the least interesting option. If you want to challenge your tactical self, then you need to be support or infantry.

What I think WiC does, aside from create a palpable “battlefield” atmosphere, is allow you to feel like you can influence the battle outside of your direct area of control. Even if you can't get units to an area that's in trouble, the tactical support allows you to call in artillery or airstrikes to help out. I've used snipers effectively several times by placing them in a spotter position and hitting enemy groups with a well-timed artillery barrage. It's enormously satisfying.

There are a couple of things, however, that make me feel a bit sad about World In Conflict. The first that the success of this game will probably mean the end for the Ground Control series. The resource-free, air-dropped reinforcement system in World In Conflict is taken directly from Massive's first RTS, Ground Control. The joy of artillery, the infantry spotters, the dangerously exposed aircraft, the reliance of the special weapons of individual units - these were all first seen in that early science fiction masterpiece. From talking to Massive it seems clear that they felt that the Ground Control games were not well-received, at least in part, because of their setting. So sounds the death knell of that series.

Ground Control 2 was a little disappointing, granted, but I had always hoped to see a third part of the series – a maturation of the ideas found in each game. But it seems that the first game will remain as the finest sci-fi RTS, unqualified by its sequels. Och, maybe I'm just a sucker for science fiction, and for dropships plunging into alien landscapes.

The final part of what upsets me about World In Conflict – and this isn't really a criticism as much as a personal exasperation – is that it really brings out my competitive nature. I've almost had enough of the drop-in games now, instead I want organised duels, team-co-ordination and intricate planning. Without joining a team, getting on voice-comms, and dedicated hours and hours to the mastery of battlefield tactics I'm almost certainly never going to have that. I've already ploughed years in Quake III and then Eve Online to play at that sort of competitive level, and now another game has come along that offers me the same kind of thrill, with a completely new set of tactical challenges.

I love you World In Conflict, I must kill uninstall you.

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