When we first heard about the hybrid RTS/FPS game called Raven Squad we were, needless to say, stoked. The possibilities of a game combining the two genres could have led to an amazing gameplay experience that we do not normally get to see these days. Unfortunately, Atomic Games has really managed to foul the concept up by releasing a very clunky and unappealing experience.
The game follows the story of a mercenary group getting caught up in a South American civil war. The player controls two squads of three men each, and allows at-will switching not only between the squads but also individuals within each unit. One team focuses on assault and the other team focuses on infiltration and other stealthy aims. Seems good so far? Sure. Let’s continue…
Unfortunately, that is where the goodness ends and the experiment in pain begins. When first dropped into the Amazon jungle we were not impressed with the visuals. They look at least a couple years old save for a few modern-day tricks they added in an attempt to ‘freshen’ them up. These effects include a heavy-use of depth of field blurring as well as grainy lens flares. Truth be told, the graphics would be acceptable enough if the rest of the game were not so bad.
The game’s audio is where it will really stick it to you first. For starters, the voice over work is plain awful. There is no excuse for this part – bad inflections, bad accents, bad all over. This bad work not only can be heard in gameplay but also throughout the cutscenes which attempt to weave this mess together. I have heard better voice work in 70’s exploitation flicks. The music is fair, however, but nothing we haven’t heard before in other action titles.
Gameplay just wreaks of clunk. Even moving your characters around has that bad console port feel to it – sluggish and easily tangled up on invisible obstructions which must be jutting up from the jungle floor. Actually, that is funny because if you just went by this game you would think the Amazon was a series of linear trenches in which you walk about in with a series of strategically-placed logs strewn about to hide behind. The level design in Raven Squad is way too linear and scripted to even think about including the RTS element of the game they are trying so hard to hype up.
The RTS element of which I speak occurs when you hit the space bar. The camera actually does this really cool-looking ‘whoosh’ up from your first-person view to one high overhead, looking down on the map. From here you can switch between you two squads and send them to various points on the linear maps. Unfortunately, the RTS element to Raven Squad is not just clunky, but also completely unnecessary. There are no areas in the game where the system is needed, except where they force you to use it, further encouraging your inner geek rage. The game’s difficulty level just does not warrant it. Successfully navigating about the RTS view is difficult as there are no outer-edge markers to tell you the general direction of a target or landmark. Losing sight of your squad, instead of a visual cue as to where they are off-screen you have to press ‘x’ to re-center the camera on them.
Getting back to the difficulty level of the game for a moment, I must say that in my experience of playing Raven Squad that I did not encounter as many ‘dumb’ enemies as some reviewers have reported. Most had the sense to at least shoot at me and many even tried to take cover and retreat to better positions. There were still a few, however, that would just stand there seemingly blind to my incoming hail of bullets. Perhaps they were frozen with fear of my team’s bad voice acting?
The one bright spot to Raven Squad is that it actually had no crash bugs on any of my play sessions with it. The game seemed bug-fixed enough to be very stable – even with my running it at a very wide 3048×1024 resolution spanned across three LCD screens!
Overall, Raven Squad is not worth your valuable time unless you absolutely have nothing else to play and don’t feel like going to the dentist for a cleaning. I had expected and hoped for more but was really letdown by this title.