Desert Rats Vs Afrika Korps PC CD-ROM

Published by Digital Jesters
Developed by Monte Cristo
Released – Out Now
Price : £29.99

Desert Rats Vs Afrika Korps is another addition to the ever increasing range of real time strategy (RTS) games available at the moment. With the usual suspects such as Command and Conquer, and Warcraft leading the way, it takes something special from any new RTS game to get gamer’s attention. Desert Rats sets out to do just that with some nice touches and a proper story mode to the game, but does it succeed?

DRvAK is set in World War 2, during the battles in North Africa, and as usual in an RTS game, you get to see the game’s story from both points of view; from the Axis, and the Allies. Where this game differs from pretty much every other RTS game though, is how the story is told. Playing the game through Story mode (as opposed to Campaign, more on that later), you find out the story between the commanding officers of both sides, and how they are actually friends, knowing each other from the Olympic Games only a few years previous. When you play the story mode, instead of picking a side, you actually play as both, starting out as the Germans, and later changing over to the Allies. This is a rather novel twist to the story telling of other RTS games (especially war-themed), which often link together missions with missions briefings and not a true story. Giving the game a true story like this, will actually give many gamers a reason to carry on through the game to see where the story goes, and in my opinion, this is never a bad thing.

But what of the game itself? There’s no point having the world’s best story if the gameplay is akin to pulling your own teeth out. Thankfully, we’re treated to a very good gameplay experience as well. Desert Rats treats us to missions of varying types and challenges, keeping things fresh throughout. You may find yourself providing an escort one mission, then providing support in another, then rescuing stranded units in another. There’s definitely a nice variety of missions here, much better than continually having to kill everything that’s not part of your army.

There are plenty of different units for you to use throughout these missions too, from your usual units such as scouts and riflemen, to flamethrower units and tanks, and air support as well. All are incorporated well into the game. The vehicles are more than just offensive as well, providing transport for troops, and separate artillery can also be connected, so that you can move them around the map much quicker. You can customise your units before the missions, but the game will also give you a recommended line up of troops, which I found to be more than adequate for the missions, especially when you don’t always know what you’ll be facing in the next mission.

There are plenty of neat touches in this game which really should become standard fare in a game like this. You can use any building to hide in and shoot from, as long as you’ve taken out any enemies that may be residing in there of course. You can use the territory to your advantage, using hills to give your infantry an advantage over the enemies (standard stuff, but always useful). You can also take over enemy vehicles and use them for your own purpose. As every vehicle requires a unit to drive it, if you can take out the unit, you can put your own men inside and use it against them. You can also target certain parts of vehicles too, so you could, for example, destroy the caterpillar tracks on a tank, rendering it almost until it is either repaired, or destroyed.

You also have the ability to turn the game into a kind of hybrid turn-based game. Desert Rats gives you the ability to pause the game and queue up 3 actions for your units. This means that you can take your time and strategise more instead of just charging in hoping to overwhelm the enemy. In a game where you only have limited resources per level, I found this to be a very useful feature, one that I’d like to see implemented in more games like this.

The game isn’t without it’s problems though. Your units often suffer from pathfinding issues, and you can spend more time than you really need to get them where they should be. The AI suffers from a few glitches now and then as well, whereby you can attack a few semi-isolated soldiers without triggering a response from other units who really should see what you’re up to. The Campaign mode as well is a bit of a puzzle. If you pick the Campaign mode, you can play through basically the same missions as in the story mode, but without the story. This would be fine in itself, but when you consider the story is one of the main parts of the game, I’m a bit baffled by it’s inclusion. Also, the manual recommends (and I agree) that you play the story mode, as it starts you off on the German missions, which are quite a way easier than the Allied missions.

Graphically though, the game is excellent, if a little taxing on even the best system. Pretty much everything you see can be destroyed by weapons fire, or ran over with your column of tanks. The units are all well detailed, though it can get harder to distinguish between them all with the camera zoomed all the way out. Explosions are all excellent, and there are plenty of little touches, like sand blowing up, or the tracks left behind the tanks, that make this an excellent looking game.

If you’re a fan of RTS games then you could definitely do worse than give Desert Rats a look. With plenty of variety in the missions, a good challenge, and a good story, it will add up to a game that pretty much everyone should be able to enjoy, especially as what problems there are are not completely debilitating (though can be annoying). A game I’d certainly recommend.

Overall Game Rating: 8.1/10
A quality game which is only let down at times by poor AI and pathfinding issues. The variety in missions and units more than make up for this though.

Deaf Gamers comment:
A few omissions, but perfectly playable for deaf gamers, as all stories and missions are given through text.

Reviewed by David Pitchforth