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Alexander PC CD-ROM

Published by Ubisoft
Developed by GSC Game World
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

We've been seeing a fair amount of games based on movies just lately and here's another one. Alexander is a RTS based on the Oliver Stone movie of the same name. Whilst movie based games are usually of low quality there have been a few exceptions this year with The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay being an absolute classic. With the game having been developed by GSC Game World, whose past work includes Cossacks and American Conquest, the signs are that this could be another movie tie-in that actually works well. It's a bit of a surprise then that the game is quite a big disappointment.

Alexander gives you the chance to play through 4 campaigns, attempt stand alone missions and take part in skirmish battles. You can also play the game over a LAN or the Internet if you want to take part in multiplayer battles. Those of you who have played Cossacks will feel familiar with how Alexander plays as it retains the basic framework from that game. You'll have to play the Alexander campaign first and after this is done you can then access the Persia, India and Egypt campaigns. Some of the campaigns in Cossacks were fantastic but for the most part they are mundane in Alexander. I honestly couldn't say whether they are historically accurate but I seriously doubt it. If you want some real action you'll be better off with the stand alone missions or skirmish battles.

As an RTS experience it's pretty much run of the mill stuff but there are some problems that spoil any chance of the game being a success. Occasionally you'll find that military units just don't seem to respond to orders at all. Sometimes you'll find it necessary to steer them away from a conflict and they just go straight into it rather than avoiding it (yes this is even with their behaviour set to defensive). As a result of this looking after your hero units can be troublesome and at times annoying. It's as if your military units have a mind of their own and are determined to ignore you. Coming from the developers who bought you Cossacks you would expect some large scale battles in Alexander and from those screenshots on the right you can see for yourself that huge battles are indeed a possibility. The trouble is though because you have units who seem to ignore your orders from time to time, it makes co-ordinating the battles very difficult indeed. It's also possible for units to get stuck and not move. In one of the earlier missions I had Alexander stuck on an enemy barracks and he wouldn't move until I had destroyed the barracks. Such a glitch is unfortunate and makes for an irritating experience. You can't make your military units patrol an area and should your units come under attack on another section of the map you're not warned about it (not even audibly). The edge of your hero icon will flash if he's under attack but otherwise you'll have to keep your eyes on the mini-map to make sure no enemy units are attacking your base, which is very poor.

Graphically Alexander looks OK but it does look dated. Had the game appeared 2-3 years ago it wouldn't have looked so bad but over the last 18 months or so RTS games have started to look very nice indeed and the graphics in Alexander don't stand up at all well when compared to other recent titles in the genre. Don't misunderstand me though I'm not saying the game looks ugly and for the most part it's OK but when you zoom in, the whole thing looks pixelated and a little blurry which is something RTS games haven't done for a while. This year has seen the release of Rome Total War, amongst other RTS games, and that really raised the standard of the level of detail and animation that we expect to see in a RTS. One area where GSC still shine though is the naval battle. There's been a few strategy games recently that have avoided featuring naval battles for fear of them not being up to scratch. GSC had great naval battles in Cossacks and they look good in Alexander too with some impressive water effects to boot. With the game being based on the movie it's no surprise to see movie clips used in the game and whilst these look OK, it's a shame that original sequences hadn't been used as this would have given the game a more polished feel.

Alexander is fine for deaf gamers. The cutscenes are subtitled and the conversations that occur during a mission are subtitled too. Your objectives are constantly shown on the left hand side of the screen and this allows you to stay focused and keep your mind on exactly what needs to be done. You'll also find some general hints that will help you should you run into difficulty (you need to click to reveal these hints though so you don't have to see them if you don't want to). Pressing the F8 key will allow you to recall all dialogues you've received during that mission which is a great feature, especially if you haven't played the game in a while and are resuming a saved game in the middle of a mission. The game comes with an assortment of extras and only the movie trailer isn't subtitled.

Alexander could and probably should have been a great RTS. Graphically it looks behind the times though (although the naval battles do look good) and with some of the great looking RTS titles we've seen this year it's disappointing that a game based on a big movie doesn't look as good as it could. There also seems to be a problem with military units having a mind of their own at times regardless of their behaviour setting and this makes carrying out a strategy more of a challenge than it should be. It's not all bad news though the worker units are intelligent and won't just remain idle if there's work to be done. The game is quite lengthy with 4 campaigns, stand alone missions and a skirmish mode with pre-designed maps as well as a random map generator. Those who were expecting a game that's moved on and improved since Cossacks will be disappointed because, thanks to the numerous problems, Alexander isn't half that game that Cossacks was.

Overall Game Rating: 5.0/10
Probably the most disappointing RTS of 2004. Alexander does so many basic things wrong it completely wipes out the potential the game had to be great. Surely this can't have been the same development team that bought us Cossacks?

Deaf Gamers comment:
The game caters very nicely for deaf gamers.