Field Commander PSP

Published by Ubisoft
Developed by Sony Online Entertainment
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

Field Commander, an introduction.

It was no surprise that Advance Wars proved to be a success on the Game Boy Advance, given the game's heritage on earlier Nintendo consoles, but what was a surprise was the level of success the game enjoyed. In short the game enjoyed sensational success. The level of popularity enjoyed by its sequel and the GBA Fire Emblem games proved that tactical turn-based games could enjoy great sales figures in the increasingly popular handheld gaming market. In fact the real surprise is that we haven't seen more games in the same vein given the success of Advance Wars. The PSP has certainly been crying out for such a game and that's exactly what we have in Field Commander.

What's the game about?

Field Commander, as we've already hinted at, is a grid-based, turn-based military strategy game that offers both a satisfying single-player experience as well as an impressive assortment of multiplayer options. The game puts you in the shoes of a field commander for ATLAS (Advanced Tactical Legion for Allied Security), an organisation made up of over 50 nations to defend against terrorists and other evil organisations. Field Commander includes 15 Army divisions and 11 different commanders who all have their own advantages and disadvantages. The game offers three tutorials to introduce you to the game, a Campaign (that you should get at least 15 or so hours from), a Quick Battle mode, a Versus mode and a Mission Creator that allows you to create your own battle maps. The Versus mode offers one-off battles using Hot Swap, Ad Hoc, Infrastructure or Transmission Mode (which kind of works like a Play By E-Mail game where you take a turn and then send it off to the server for your opponent to download and in return, upload their turn for you to download and so forth). In short there's a multiplayer option to suit everyone.

What's good about the game?

If you enjoyed Advance Wars on the GBA (or DS) and now own a PSP, then Field Commander is definitely a game you will want to get your hands on. In fact if you're a fan of Advance Wars you'll feel instantly at home with Field Commander. During a battle you'll control land, sea and air units. You'll have a HQ and you'll need to capture cities to generate income so that you can create extra units in factories, seaports and airports etc. As a commander you'll have access to both minor and major division powers that give slight temporary advantages to your units during a turn. You have a division power meter that's split into two halves. Once the first half of the meter fills up you'll have access to the minor power or you can choose to let the second half fill up which will then give you access to the major power. There are some differences to the Advance Wars games though. You can fire at and damage the terrain. Air units can occupy the same grid as land based units, which is something you couldn't do in Advance Wars but if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.  Missions you create with the Mission Creator can be uploaded and those that others have created can be downloaded too, and in effect this means you'll get a great amount of replay value from the game. The online options that we mentioned earlier are also something worthy of praise.

What's not so good about the game?

Personally I feel Field Commander could have been better, graphically speaking. The units in particular could have been more detailed. One of the niggles I have with the game is that you get these little pauses whilst the UMD is accessed. These pauses can occur when a battle is triggered or when you scroll around the map. These pauses don't cause any problems and are a minor complaint at best . In fact it's more a side-effect of the PSP using a disk as opposed to a card/cartridge as its form of media, rather than an issue with the game itself. The AI could also be more intelligent in choosing which units to build. More often than not, it will churn out weaker units and leave itself vulnerable to a human opponent that builds units in a more intelligent fashion.

How does it look?

Whilst Field Commander is obviously going to be compared to Advance Wars on so many levels, the one aspect of the game that is very different to Advance Wars is the game's graphics. Advance Wars chose the 2D, top-down approach and given the limited capabilities of the GBA this approach worked extremely well. Given that the PSP is comparable to a PlayStation 2 in terms of its graphical prowess, it's no surprise that the developers decided to make Field Commander in full 3D. Whilst the game certainly looks OK, it certainly could have looked better. The various units in the game aren't that detailed and the maps can, generally speaking, look quite bland. There are a few frame rate issues during battles but as this is a turn-based game these frame rate dips don't cause any problems. The 3D view isn't as clear as the 2D view found in the Advance Wars games but thankfully you can hold down the R button to obtain a 2D view that allows you to see much more at a glance, which is useful when formulating strategies.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

The developers have done a great job of making Field Commander deaf gamer friendly. Almost all of the dialogue in the game is subtitled. Cutscenes are subtitled. Mission briefings and objectives etc. are shown in text and can be recalled at any time during a mission. All tutorial messages are shown in text and all three of the games tutorials are fully subtitled. In fact the only speech that isn't subtitled are the few words that your troops give out when you select them and this omission is hardly a problem.

Final thoughts.

Some are going to see Field Commander as an Advance Wars clone which is a little unfair. Even though the game does have many similarities to Advance Wars, it's a very good game in its own right. The game doesn't have the personality of the Advance Wars games and the AI isn't as challenging but in every other respect Field Commander impresses and it immediately becomes the strategy game of choice on the PSP for travelling virtual generals.

Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10

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Field Commander is the first great strategy game for the PSP and all things considered is one of the best PSP games we've seen so far. In many ways it's similar to Advance Wars but it definitely has unique qualities that help give the game a personality of its own.