City-Interactive’s SAS Secure Tomorrow is another entry in the nearly endless stream of titles in the “Budget Shooter” genre, and as such should benefit from the low expectations one brings to such a game. It seems unfair to compare one of these games with top-shelf titles like Call of Duty, Crysis, and the like. The again, it also seems unfair to grade a second tier game at the same level as a state-of-the-art, high budget shooter that only costs $20 more. I suffer this dilemma whenever I am faced with reviewing a budget game, and SAS was no different.
The plot of SAS, such as it is, centers around a terrorist group attaining control over a nuclear weapon/plant/insert applicable device here. This plot is, of course, as old and tired as a 1st generation iPod. That said, there aren’t any mutants involved and that’s always worth at least one point in my book. I hate mutants. In SAS, you will be working your way through a prison riot, an office complex, the icy geography of Greenland, and ultimately a nuclear reactor facility. You will be accompanied in your quest by two fellow squad members. So far, so… routine.
With a bland, ubiquitous plot to carry the game, one would hope for innovative game play, graphics, or sounds to distinguish the game from the hundreds of similar games available today. Unfortunately, SAS mostly fails to deliver on those as well. Game play suffers primarily from the horrible enemy AI. To describe them as dumber than a box of rocks is to unfairly malign the intelligence of both rocks and boxes. If you manage to get “killed” by an AI enemy, you probably ought not be playing shooters at all. In fact, something a little slower paced (Mahjongg comes to mind) would be more in keeping with your skill level.
You don’t have to look very far to find an entity with even lower capabilities than your enemy – they’re right next to you acting as your squad mates. If they’re not in your way blocking a shot at the bovine enemy, they’re either lost somewhere behind you waiting for you to reach a trigger point or way in front of you waiting by a door. The best bet for your success would be to find a way to frag them, but they are unfortunately invincible. And the funny thing is, they trash talk you as the N00B! Arrogant and stupid – that’s no way to go through life.
The graphics are nothing special, nor are they horrible. Think 2006.
The sounds are one of the two small bright spots in the game. By ‘sounds’ I’m referring to the voice acting. It’s pretty good, although my opinion is probably biased in favor of the western European British/Irish accents. The language can be on the rough side (I’ve never understood that as a design decision – does the ‘M’ rating increase sales??) so you won’t be picking this one up for your eight year old. Or at least I HOPE you won’t.
The second nice feature is in the game play. Every now and then, and for no discernable reason, your squad will decide to enter a room first rather than insisting that you act as the meat shield. When you have to enter a room first, you have to go in shooting. When they go first, they lob a flash bang grenade into the room before trying to enter. That works in a kind of Matrix-like bullet-time: everything slows to a crawl while you ooze into the room firing at the nearly immobile enemies inside. It’s the one redeeming feature of your cohorts, but unfortunately you have no control over when they will decide to use that tactic.
Neither of these aspects is compelling enough to justify buying this game, though. If you see this one in the bargain bin and have two or three hours to kill with a run & gun shooter, you might consider it. Otherwise, keep looking.
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