Sunday, October 02, 2005

Warhammer 40k: Winter Assault review

So, We, the Staff (TM) have finished playing through the single-player campaigns of Warhammer 40k: Winter Assault (WA), the aforementioned expansion to the RTS Warhammer 40k: Dawn of War (DoW).
Overall, it was a more developed single-player experience from a mission design point of view, with each mission having differing objectives and multiple options available for how to achieve them. The campaigns allowed you to take the perspective of all sides in the conflict, something which DoW lacked.

The story was pretty decent, centering around a derelict Imperial-class Titan war machine that was abandoned on the ice planet of Lorn V. This piece of technology is capable of defending (or destroying) entire planets and star systems. It was abandoned by the Imperial Guard when they retreated from Lorn V after suffering defeat at the hands of the Forces of Chaos. Imperial Guard's campaign follows the Cadian 412th regiment's attempts to recover the Titan, while the Chaos forces' attempt to capture and use it for themselves. The Orks, meanwhile, vie to destroy it in their bloodlust, while the Eldar see past the other races petty squabbling to a far greater threat.

An intriguing feature about the two campaigns, Order and Disorder (Order involved Imperials and Eldar, Disorder had Chaos and Orks), was how you were able to choose which race would be the victor, thus changing how the final mission would play out. This made for a bit of replayability (though not much, it was only a couple of hours more game time to play through as all races), and gave you resolution for each race.

As We mentioned in our
impressions post, a sorely lacking aspect of this expansion was in audio production. Sound effects were all well and good, but the music and voice acting took a nose dive in comparison to DoW. The Imperial Hero, General Sturnn, is voiced with an overacted Patton-esque American accent, whereas every single other voice in the Warhammer 40k games to this point has been British. While the voice did suit the character model (see right), it stuck out like a sore thumb amongst all the other characters. Also, the Chaos Hero, Lord Crull, while sounding villainous enough, was to cartoonish. He sounded like an over-the-top, campy Saturday morning cartoon villain who always bellowed everything he said. His predecessor in the DoW campaign, conversely, had a voice which simply seethed with twisted villainy and conveyed extreme malice, only *without* screaming at the top of his lungs all the time!

The rest of the new voice acting lines, in general, just didn't measure up to DoW's. It was almost as if the folks who were responsible for the original's direction had nothing to do with these recordings. That's how different it felt.

Sadly, the same can be said for the music. They had some dude by the name of Inon Zur score WA, who apparently has a decent résumé of work, including Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and Starcraft: Ghost cinematics, as well as trailers for Fantastic Four and The New World. Unfortunately, they evidently couldn't afford anything more than a lame-ass MIDI system using an archaic 4.86 system! There are two types of MIDI-based music: good MIDI and bad MIDI. This was bad MIDI. Whereas DoW had stirring, well-produced themes (one in particular that we liked involved the use of a Gregorian chant), We just can't get over the low production values of WA's music.

These audio woes are unfortunate, as graphically the game is still very impressive (only minor environmental graphics changes were added, such as weather and battle scarring effects). Story-wise the game is an improvement over DoW, but unfortunately the aforementioned audio woes prevented us from getting into these campaigns as much as We should have been able to.

The Staff's overall score for WA (single player only): 7.5/10.

-The Staff

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