Joint Task Force
We're up to the task of judging this hot RTS.
Most Wanted Entertainment
It is often said that there are seven basic plots underlying literature and all new narratives are thus simply re-hashes of existing works, re-told with new characters and new locations but still conforming to the same basic plot. If this holds true then one also has to wonder whether there is a similar principal at work for gaming. Perhaps all games can be distilled into several basic genres, such as platformer, RPG, shoot-em-up, and so on but are all new titles simply re-hashes of old ones?
It would be hard not to think so when playing the latest effort from Most Wanted Entertainment which not only falls splat into the war-time RTS genre but if one were to look for a spiritual predecessor they would find it in a mash-up between the ageing Cannon Fodder, the not-quite-so-old Advance Wars and the everlasting Command & Conquer. By itself, this is no bad thing but if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery can Joint Task Force (JTF) live up to and surpass the reputation of its ancestors or does it merely flatter to deceive?
Set in the near future, you assume command of the First Battalion under the guise of Major O'Connell, himself an officer on the battlefield. It is up to you and your crack team of infantry to return law and order to war torn regions of the world whilst staying on the right side of the media and therefore public opinion. It is this last part that adds an extra element to the proceedings, with regular in-game news reels popping-up to highlight current events. The initial series of missions takes place in Somalia with the aim of ousting a ruthless warlord in the region.
From there it's on to Bosnia, Afghanistan, Columbia and eventually Iraq, meting out justice and bringing stability to everywhere you go. As well as the usual RTS-type objectives such as destroying certain targets and reaching certain areas, there are various support missions and secondary objectives such as escorting hostages, capturing airports or ensuring that civilian casualties are minimised. These help make your overall task easier either through the bonus money acquired or through the additional benefits that such tasks bestow.
The game plot is played out though in-game dialogue between the Major and his superiors and also through the use of FMV with the aforementioned Major initially having his own demons to excise and reasons for wanting to return to Mogadishu. Soldiers earn experience points throughout each missions and once they reach a certain level they can be promoted to officer status. Once becoming an officer they gain their own unique name and can be levelled-up via a skill tree which varies depending on their individual speciality, such as marksman, medic or engineer.
Officers from your pool can also be selected for each mission and they then grant your team with all the advantages that their class provides. However you also run the risk of losing the officer and his hard-earned skills. Thus, like Cannon Fodder, an affinity with your soldiers is developed as they become more than just pixels on a battlefield.
In addition to the various infantry types on offer there are a variety of vehicles available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. From the speedy but susceptible Humvee to the slower and powerful Battle Tank, as well as various aircraft such as the AH-64 attack helicopter and the AV-8B fighter aircraft. Selecting which vehicles to use in situations often plays a key part when determining your strategy as there is no point using your slower heavy artillery if they are going to be picked off by mortar fire or grenade launchers on their way to attack their target. Similarly the faster vehicles might reach their target unharmed but they won't last long if they don't have the fire-power to destroy their targets and hold their ground.
However, another factor which inadvertently comes into play is the terrible pathfinding that leaves a lot to be desired and hinders your vehicles progress - oftentimes they will block each other from reaching their destination and so begins a seemingly comedy routine with tanks acting like bumper cars as they judder backwards and forwards into each other jostling for space. This pathfinding also inexcusably afflicts your soldiers as they can block each other especially on narrow paths and can't traverse seemingly accessible terrain. Wide turning circles are also a problem - pulling your troops back often results in your vehicles encroaching on the enemy and coming under further fire as they turn around. Whilst a reverse command does exist, in the heat of battle it is instinctive to simply click behind your troops, unfortunately with adverse effects.
Unlike most RTS there is no resource management to speak of. Other than your troops, money is the only real resource and can be used to order reinforcements, supplies and other specials such as radar sweeps of the enemy locations, or F-117A bombing runs. The initial few objectives can be completed via all out attacks but as the enemies become tougher, more varied and greater in number a higher level of planning and strategy is required and JTF is all the better for it as it becomes more involved and intricate.
The scenery is also to be commended due to it's level of detail, interactivity and destructibility, no doubt putting the PhysX engine to good use - almost all buildings and structures can be attacked and destroyed. However, there is also the odd graphical glitch which detracts from the experience as do the mission loading times which are intolerably long.
All-in-all, JTF is a fun and enjoyable military-RTS sim. Unfortunately it suffers from some strange AI decision making and whilst they can be overlooked there do hinder the experience. And so, to borrow a tagline, war - its never been so much fun. Well, almost.
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Joint Task Force
Gameplay (standard quality)
|2:40||40MB||DF, SD, 4:3