Players assume the role of a either a dictator of an independent nation or the role of the International Corps of Peace. Each role features 16 missions to be completed with world peace being the ultimate goal. While wars will be waged and won, political and ethnic clashes will need to be settled as well. Peace talks are an option but sometimes war will be inevitable. Pressuring players into the peace talks will be the constant media blitz covering the tense situations. If you skip the peace talks and just want war then the media, as well as the world, will view you negatively. Winning the popularity of the public is just as important as winning a war since it is the people who provide a large portion of your funding.
Conflict Zone (previously known as project Peacemakers) has been developed by the French MASA and published by Ubisoft. The game focuses on modern warfare - cruise missiles and media war. One could hardly imagine a modern war without heavy media support as the media play the most important role in providing support within the country. Conflict Zone is an interesting game as it touches some very delicate matters, but technically, it is not up to modern standards.
When you load the game, you will be given a choice between Multiplayer missions and two campaigns. The game has a detailed tutorial, but those of you who played any RTS game will feel comfortable with the controls. Multiplayer mode supports up to eight players on all conventional network protocols.
The campaign has been set into near future - 2010, but it might just as well be taking place right now. The United Nations decided to form the International Corps for Peace ("ICP"), an organization that fights terrorism and prevents large-scale conflicts. Being supported by all major countries, IPC always has a fresh influx of cash. On the other side, there is the secret terrorist organization called "Ghost", which tries to sell its services in all potential conflict zones and at times even control one of the sides in conflict. All in all - major bad guys.
As I already mentioned, news reporters and media are very important in this game. As there are no classical resources you could harvest with a bulldozer; both fractions receive financial aid in predetermined intervals, which they use to finance their military operations. This is where the media play their part - they will carefully watch your every move, maneuver or massacre. The amount of money you get will depend on how they presented your activities to your financiers. ICP is being financed by the friendly democratic governments and has to stick to the book and play fair. On the other hand, GHOST does not have to pay much heed to the media as it designs its own vision of what had transpired, which it presents to its followers. Their war is being financed from "sources unknown." In any case, you better stay clear of the reporters as they can thwart your campaign with bad propaganda. When you play ICP, there are various ways to win the media and hence get a lot of money for building up your forces. One of the best tricks is to build refugee camps. The more of those you build and the sooner you fill them, the happier the news reporters will be, as they will have good stories about humanitarian disasters. GHOST does not have to worry about that because it can simply convert most neutral people it gets hold of, and turn them into useful soldiers.
Another novelty is the total lack of Fog of War. There are no dark clouds to cover your vision; instead, the units have their LOS (Line Of Sight), which will prevent even you from seeing an enemy unit that is out of your units' LOS even if you as a player can see the terrain it is standing on. There are several special vehicles in the game used primarily for detecting enemy positions.
MASA's graphics engine is pretty good. Zooming isn't that smooth, but scrolling works like a charm. Both the terrain and the 3D units look very realistic. I especially liked the way the bodies start flying around when the going gets tough (It reminded me of South Park). The camera can be zoomed in until it seems you are standing in the middle of the battlefield, and zoomed out to above the clouds. OK, the engine is definitely not as good as in Black & White, but it's not at all too shabby. Though I had this feeling that something was missing from it. The units do not look as detailed as they did in Ground Control or Earth 2150. Their design is simply too rough.
On the other hand, their AI is literally brilliant. The units act in a completely realistic way. For instance, if you send a group of soldiers to attack a tank, and it fires a rocket at them, you can expect to have several dead soldiers, and the rest will probably be stunned with shock. Cute, isn't it? Some things in this game reminded me of Shogun; you control a great number of units, and each unit acts of its own accord. Mass battles are pretty messy and you will probably soon loose any control of your units (you can lead more than 200 soldiers, depending on the size of your base). AI will make all soldiers act according to their own whims, but you can also issue direct orders and set their level of aggression, which will make the task of controlling them easier. Each side features about sixty different units, ranging from recon jeeps, anti-tank choppers and carriers to AWAC's which will let you see the entire terrain. Your main cannon fodder comes in the shape of infantry armed with machine guns, grenades and bazookas. The ordinary units can gain experience and develop their status from rookie to veteran, which will also influence their performance. Apart from the ordinary units, you can also command up to four commanders. Every commander is an expert in a certain field and will give your units a bonus in his area of expertise. The commanders are very important in battle, as they are all good fighters.
The upper right-hand corner contains a digital map showing your units' moves and potential enemy locations. The satellites and other intelligence equipment provide this data. When you put the cursor over the map in zooms in on the action giving you a better overview. The terrain is varied: you will see all from green fields and deserts to rocky hills. The maps look good, and the graphics engine supports hardware T&L.
Beside all its novelties and features, Conflict Zone doesn't look as good as Ground Control. The units have a fairly rough design (and ridiculously large helmets) and frequently get stuck on the map (which we'll consider an AI glitch and not an overall design drawback). If only the developers put some more effort into it, we would really be looking at a great RTS.
People who downloaded Conflict Zone have also downloaded:
Conquest: Frontier Wars, Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines, Conflict: Vietnam, Cold War Conflicts, D-Day, Close Combat 5: Invasion Normandy, Combat Mission 3: Afrika Korps, Commandos 2: Men of Courage
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