There’s no way this review could pass without the following, so let’s get it out of the way: this is a shameless, if occasionally pretty, 3D clone of Advance Wars. From the strengths and weaknesses of each unit, to the special ability every General has, it’s near identical to Nintendo’s cartoon take on war.
The tutorial takes around half an hour to finish and explains how to move and repair units, buy new arsenal, capture bases, load up copters and sea carriers with troops and the like, then it’s off to battle an evil terrorist organization known as Shadow Nation, turn-based style.
Every vehicle has a limited supply of fuel and ammo, and thus can’t be out in battle unendingly. Some special manoeuvres – such as making the submarines submerge – use a large proportion of the available fuel, so you really need to think tactically. Injured soldiers can be healed in any buildings that you’ve captured, while mountains provide cover and can block the paths of airborne transports if they’re tall enough. If an enemy has captured a building you can damage it so that it won’t earn them as much money to fund new weapons, and it’s also possible to destroy forests to form shorter paths. So there’s plenty to get to grips with and keep your eye on.
Being in 3D, the camera can be spun around 360 degrees, and there’s a handy overhead map – although if the mission you’re on is covered in fog then the enemy units won’t appear on it until discovered. Visually it’s quite tidy, with some nice explosions and effects like ripples in the water. The music and sound effects aren’t much to get excited by though; they should have copied the excellent music from the early Command and Conquer games.
Until you get to know which units are best against which, some battles can be awfully long winded – get two bog-standard rifle troops shooting at each other and it can be three, often four turns before one of them snuffs it. The CPU player takes a while to make their electronic mind up too – usually there’s a ten second ‘thinking’ period between their first and second move. You can’t skip their advancements either, meaning if they have fifteen or so units on the field you have to sit and watch each one move, one after the other. Still, battles can be very tense at times and until Codemasters’ Cannon Fodder arrives it’s your only choice for tactical war on your PSP.