JAGGED ALLIANCE: FLASHBACK

PrintE-mail Written by Tom Acton

GAME REVIEW: JAGGED ALLIANCE: FLASHBACK / DEVELOPER: FULL CONTROL / PLATFORM: PC, MAC, LINUX / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

Jagged Alliance is a name that leaves some people staring wistfully to their pasts, and Jagged Alliance: Flashback will have those people excited, throwing their wallets at the computer monitors - but is it worth funding this merc-driven coup?

The game is set in the small island nation of San Hermanos. The island is under the iron rule of  'The Prince' a cruel despot, and a rebellion is underway. However, as the rebel leader is captured, the insurgents quickly dissolve. Hope arrives in the form of your ragtag group of mercenaries, with the goal of freeing the island, and giving the islanders a free life.

The game features a full island, so as you can imagine, there’s a lot to explore, or rather, hide behind. It’s very expansive, with each square of land being fairly large, so you’re going to go a while before running out of things to do.

The map screen really reveals the surprisingly large size of this game. Five squares, take up a tiny island off the coast of the mainland. Once you get to the mainland, you’re greeted with 43 more tiles. There’s a lot to it, and you’ll be on San Hermanos for some time.

The map system itself is well set out. Further in the game, you can command multiple squads at once which is pretty kick-ass, and it also seems like it’d make for a fun multiplayer game (hopefully this is something the developers - or extremely talented modders - will consider.)

Flashback features pages of unique characters, each with their own backstories and voices. Our personal favourite is Sidney Nettleson, your stereotypical English Gent who still finds time to spout a load of posh nonsense even when bullets are ripping his torso apart… “I’ve been in better predicaments!” Sidney says as he’s peppered with red hot lead. It’s simply amazing, and there are lots of these characters to choose from. The effort put into creating these mercenaries oozes from the screen, which makes it all the more poignant when they are inevitably killed.

However, Jagged Alliance: Flashback isn’t all rose petals and happiness.

The graphics featured here aren’t the best, but in a game of this genre, you’re not exactly looking for blockbuster level high definition, so it’s quite easy to forget about that. The characters themselves repeat lines extremely often. It won’t be long before you’ve memorised all of the uproarious lines of Sidney Nettleson, as he proudly states “God Save The Queen” every time you select him. This is, again a common feature of the genre, but if you’re new, it can become quickly irritating.

A major problem is that the game isn’t very user-friendly. The inventory screens and such are all quite complicated and overwhelming to a new player and the tutorial doesn’t do an impressive job of explaining much. You’ll get the basic walk/run tools down quickly, but when it comes to more advanced stuff, you’ll be left scratching your head, not knowing what’s what.

One example, is during the actual tutorial, when you’ve saved someone, the game tells you that you need to bandage them. This reviewer spent fifteen minutes trying to figure out what to do, dragging the bandages to every box and button in the inventory, but to no avail. It’s all well and good telling you to do something, but if it’s not explained to you, it’s not going to go too well. It’s worth noting that it was figured out how to apply bandages a while later, but this was out of sheer luck. If you asked us how to do it now, we’d be unable to help.

As well as this, you’ll often get a straight, unobstructed shot on an enemy, but find yourself with only a 58% chance of hitting them. Considering the mercenaries hired are supposed to be experts, a straight shot should rarely be such a gamble.

Jagged Alliance: Flashback shows real potential. It’s got a great map system, amazing characters and good voice acting, and central concept of controlling these mercenaries and shifting the outcome of a revolution all sounds very fun. However, the game is difficult to get the hang of, with a steep learning curve - it feels like you’ve been dropped into the San Hermanos wilderness and told to go and kill a pig with a plastic spoon. Fortunately, you have Sidney Nettleson to keep you company, so it could be worse.


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