Sunday, December 23, 2007

Wage war online and offline with "Battalion Wars 2"

If only enlisting in the armed forces were this fun ...

"Battalion Wars 2," developed by Kuju and published by Nintendo, is the sequel to the Game Cube game, "Battalion Wars."

The new installment, "BWII," offers military strategy in a very, very playful (yet somewhat serious) backdrop.

The story starts with players assuming the role of a field marshal of sorts - they will eventually have access to several armies - who is trying to save his empire from utter ruin.

You start out small, just you and progress through the first few stages with units that feature flamethrowers, antiaircraft units and grunts. You can lead the fight or send the troops in. Just point your remote in the direction you want them to go in, press a Nunchuk button and there's a small "Charge" bugle blown and your unit heads into harm's way.

The game allows players to control a variety of units.

The infantry units include rifle grunts, flame veterans, bazooka veterans, assault veterans, anti-air veterans and mortar veteran soldiers.

The ground vehicles are anti-air, recon, light tank, heavy tank, artillery and battlestation vehicles.

Air units include bombers, gunships, fighters, strato destroyers and air transports.

The naval units include battleships, frigates, submarines, dreadnoughts and naval transports.

Arguably the coolest feature in this game is being able to control aircraft and subs. Yes, shooting down bombers and fighters with an anti-air tank rocks, but running silent, running deep and firing torpedoes is sick.

Need more forces? Invade POW camps and helipads for reinforcements.

After successfully completing a mission, your commanding officer will assess your performance. You will earn medals based on power (enemies destroyed, secondary objectives destroyed), speed of the mission and technique.

The Wii controls add an interesting twist. They do take some getting used to with "BWII."

The Wii remote is for aiming, selecting units, firing weapons and directing your squads. The Nunchuk is used for locking onto targets, changing camera modes and moving your character. The Nunchuk and remote work together, allowing you to look in one direction and lock onto targets.

If you are still getting used to the Wii controls, it can be rather difficult.

When I started playing the game, I went online to test out the multiplayer mode. More on the multiplayer mode later. Anyhow, without first playing the tutorial mode on the single-player campaign, I was chewed up like Design Editor Wendi Wilkerson's dog Duff's plaything. Pwnd? No doubt.

A very cool feature is when a player you control dies, your control shifts to another player. That is also standard in the single-player mode. However, not having the proper grasp of the controls made my deployment online a very short one.

The graphics are pretty good, considering it looks very cartoony. However, it's rather cool here, and even though it's not "Mass Effect" or "Call of Duty 4" in the graphics department, it's still eye-popping visually and feels perfect for this game.

The single-player campaign has several features, and you have no choice in playing or not playing the tutorial missions.

If you put the game down for a few days and come back to it, please consider replaying the early missions.

The enemy AI is clueless, and your units aren't ready to deploy either, but they look to you for leadership. Don't think you can just sit back and send your troops to destroy anti-air units or bazooka veterans. You can lock the enemy units up, but you'll have to finish the fight as well.

The game works well on the Wii, though. It combines the adventure of "Battlefield 2" with aspects of "Ratchet and Clank" (PS3) for one really interesting video game. The controls aren't flawless, but after a few missions, you'll get used to them.

The multiplayer mode is rather easy to navigate and works pretty good over a wifi connection. You'll have to set up an online profile and then, you can jump into the fray.

The online modes include MP Assault, a fast-and-furious mode that has gamers focusing on completing or defending a series of objectives, MP Skirmish, a deathmatch mode with every player for themselves or MP Co-op, where gamers can team to complete Gold and Silver objectives.

This is one of the best 3rd-person shooters on the Wii, and playing online makes this a good holiday gift.

Why should I care: "BWII" is a 3rd-person shooter that allows Wii gamers to blast other Miis. No, seriously, it's a fun 3rd-person shooter on the Wii that is a blast to play.

The good: Cool graphics, online multiplayer, control several military units and fly/control various military vehicles (subs, jets, bombers, tanks), engaging storyline

The bad: The controls really, really taking some getting used to

The ugly:
Trying to go online for a MP Skirmish and getting creamed like the Boy Scouts vs. Navy SEALS.

Overall: 8 (out of 10):
"Battalion Wars 2" is a really fun game to play. Being an old-skool gamer, I am still trying to fully master the Wii Remote and Nunchuk to be a whiz at games. With "BWII," there's so much that's happening onscreen and so much to remember, it can overwhelm some gamers. However, it's still a refreshing spin on a really tired genre. Enlist today and deploy with "BWII." Over and out!

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