Beyond the Law

Beyond the Law

Written by Tyler Sager on 5/25/2004 for PC  

Beyond the Law: The Third Wave is just not a good game. I tend to give benefit of the doubt to the smaller developers, overlooking minor flaws and quirkiness when evaluating their games. Unfortunately, The Third Wave’s Minor Flaws are numerous, and are further eclipsed by its Major Flaws and some truly glaring Lack of Fun.

Here’s the setup: While the US is busy fighting terrorists around the globe, he Mafia has decided to take advantage of the lack of attention directed its way. So the Mob decides to start its own wave of terror, including an attempt at blowing up the Nation’s capitol. Who knew the Mafia would get its hands on nuclear weapons? Well, all of the government’s Armed Forces are apparently stymied by the awesome firepower of Organized Crime, so it’s up to a band of paramilitary “experts” to take care of this threat to Life, Liberty, and Whatnot. And so the game begins.

The Third Wave is a real-time, squad-based strategy game detailing the exploits of this paramilitary organization. The first order of business is to assemble a team of operatives. There are a handful of units to choose from, most of the difference being the sort of weapon they carry and how quickly they can accomplish certain tasks, such as disarming security systems. There are All-Arounds, the generic soldier type, Tactical Male/Female, a sneaky, knife-wielding back-stabbing type, Technicals, which are the wimpy-but-good-with-electronics type, the Bodyguard, lumbering brutes with guns, and Snipers, which carry sniper rifles. The type of weapon carried is important, because the unit can never change from that. If your Bodyguard starts off a mission with a pistol, that’s all he’ll ever be able to carry. Apparently the training for these guys is so intensive and specialized that they’ve become one with their weapon of choice, making them unable to ever even try something else. As the game progresses, there is more money available to hire the better operatives (which are really just people with better guns).

Once a team is assembled, it’s time to hit the mission. Each mission consists of a series of objectives and a bunch of guards standing in the way. The guards are an interesting lot. They are nearly blind as a bat and deaf as a post. Reminiscent of the Metal Gear games, the guards have a cone of vision, and can see nothing beyond that. Amusingly, this cone of vision is about 15 feet. So you can have an operative standing 16 feet away, under a bright lamp, and the guard does nothing. This is only amusing until you discover that no gun except the sniper rifle has a range of…you guessed it…greater than the guards’ cones of vision. Which means you can’t shoot the enemy unless you’re less than 15 feet away. I guess they just don’t make bullets like they used to. Sniper rifles allow units to attack from an amazing 20 feet or so (but that’s it). However one plans to take out the guards, it has to be done carefully. Once alerted to your presence (and within their firing range), the guards are Bringers of Death. They never miss, fire at an alarming rate, and can kill any operative in just a few shots. Due to the terribly clunky interface, if you’re ever up against more than 2 guards at once, it’s time for a reload. Once a guard has been eliminated, the problems are not over. Other guards will notice a body lying on the ground, and will try to investigate. Well, investigate is a strong word. They’ll run up to the body, and start looking around, allowing clever players to sneak up behind and finish off the next guard. I’ve used this oh-so-clever trap to pile up as many as 8 guard corpses in one place. Kill one guard, wait for another to run to it (staying just outside that magic 15 foot line), sneak in and kill that one, rinse and repeat. If, for whatever reason you want to hide the body to keep from alerting guards, the operatives have been equipped with the latest in stealth technology—a green tarp. Yep, hiding a body means dropping a green tarp over it, and from then on no other guards will even care about the appearance of a green covering with a distinctly-corpse-shaped lump underneath. Not even the guard dogs notice anything amiss.

With all the amazing firepower these guards bring to bear, it would seem that, after a few guards are down, the characters could be walking arsenals. Unfortunately, that’s just not to be. There is no looting of bodies for equipment of any type. As said before, no character can use anything other than his or her starting weapon, even if that weapon is nothing more than a knife. Worse yet, these “crack elite” characters will only carry a very limited amount of bullets. The lowest-cost sniper carries with him 3 bullets. Three. After that, he’s completely useless for anything other than opening doors and turning off cameras.

Character AI is almost nonexistent. The operatives will do nothing without direct command from you. Each round fired from a gun requires a separate click. Characters won’t defend themselves, either by running or shooting back, when attacked by guards. There is no way I could have 2 characters attack at once, since they both require about 3 clicks to get in range and fire a single round. By the time the first character is in position and firing, the target is either dead or mowing down my entire team with frightening efficiency.

Not only does the game suffer from poor controls and even worse AI, the graphics and sound are well below par. Stuck at 800x600 resolution, the game appears very dated. I’m willing to overlook this if the rest of the game is high quality, but this is just dreadful icing on a very bad cake. The character dialogue is painful, and there is no option to turn off the character responses. They vocally respond to each and every command, every time. After the 50th time of hearing “Faster than you can say ‘Organized Crime’”, a small part of my soul shriveled up.

I just cannot recommend Beyond the Law: The Third Wave in any way. Poor AI, extremely clunky interface, lack of character upgradeability or customizability, and lackluster presentation all combine to make a truly disappointing game, even for the bargain price. Best to avoid this one.
A poorly executed squad based strategy game that is not even worthy of the bargain bin.

Rating: 4.5 Heavily Flawed

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

I'm an old-school gamer, and have been at it ever since the days of the Atari 2600. I took a hiatus from the console world to focus on PC games after that, but I've come back into the fold with the PS2. I'm an RPG and strategy fan, and could probably live my gaming life off a diet of nothing else. I also have soft spot for those off-the-wall, independent-developer games, so I get to see more than my share of innovative (and often strange) titles.

Away from the computer, I'm an avid boardgamer, thoroughly enjoying the sound of dice clattering across a table. I also enjoy birdwatching and just mucking around in the Great Outdoors.
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