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First Impression - Civil War: Secret Missions

by: Ben Berry -
More On: Blog
I am an unabashed "fan" of the US Civil War. Fan is the wrong word, but I have never figured out what the right word is for being fond of a particular war. To be a fan of war in general is really just wrong, and that's not me. But I figure being interested in one war is ok. So what does that make me? A civil war afficianado? A civil war devotee? It's not so much the history of the war as much as the underlying mentality that would allow two halves of the same country to go after each other like pitbulls in Michael Vicks back yard. Anywho, back to the game I'm supposed to be talking about here. Civil War: Secret Missions is a History Channel game developed by Cauldron and released by Activision. Ok, that is WAY too much bold for one sentence. Now that I've gotten the part that studies have shown 97.24% of readers don't care about out of the way, I can get into my early impressions.

Civil War: Secret Missions is kinda like a trip to your local museum of science and industry; It's mostly about boring old stuff, but they manage to make it fun by turning it into games and experiments. In CW: SM, you play the role of a solider (for the north or south, depending on the mission), working with a small unit of AI soldiers causing mayhem behind enemy lines. The learning part of the game comes in the form of animations and text describing real Civil War battles, and the actions of the soldiers and commanders who carry out the exact raids you'll be mimicing in the game. Many of the missions revolve around technologies that were developed during the war, such as the Gattling gun, and the technologies are often required to finish the missions.

Unfortunately, that's where the wheels come off the cart a bit. Because these missions are designed to be somewhat historically based, the missions are fairly structured and have some tight limitations on where you can go. Especially in missions that occur on woodland trails it feels very much "on rails". That being said, the action in these scenes is fun. The combat feels probably somewhat like it did back then. Weapons have severe limitations and are inaccurate. The AI isn't particularly smart, and opposition actions are predictable. You can often time when the enemy will pop up next from behind an obstacle. But combat is rewarding and even fairly difficult at times, even on just a moderate difficulty.

I've only gotten through the first couple of missions, and haven't even been able to work for the eventual winning side in the conflict yet. The missions are longish, even without a failure the first one took me about half an hour. There does seem to be a lot of gameplay for the money on this title.[MORE]