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Jeremy Jastrzab
11 Jan, 2008

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command Review

PSP Review | Hammers might be involved.
While gaming has for a while now been breaking the shackles of its niche image, there are some things out there that are never likely to do that. Warhammer 40,000 has a very dedicated following for a science-fiction fantasy game, but with its dense rule set and demand for persistence, it’s something that is never likely to catch on with the ‘casual’ crowd. Still, the franchise has seen a couple of video games come under its name. They’ve mainly been PC RTS titles, but you’re not going to hear us complain, as they’ve been pretty good. Console appearances have less frequent and not as well received.

If there’s one thing that the Warhammer 40,000 can’t be faulted for, it’s the depth in the lore that it has created. Over time, it has become ridiculously deep and involved so that any game based on it would only really be scratching the surface of the story. Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command puts players into the shoes of the Imperium’s Ultramarine forces as they do battle to fend off the Word-Bearers of Chaos. While there is nothing in the story that isn’t out of the ordinary, it is very well presented and driven.

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command has been recently released on the PSP and the DS. Both games are essentially identical, apart from the obvious advantages that each platform brings. Each game is real-time tactics game that has you taking command of a squad (if it wasn’t already obvious) and taking turns with the opponent, as each look to eliminate each other or reach a particular goal.

You're running a bit low there.

You're running a bit low there.
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There's one major difference from Squad Command's tactics counterparts though. Unlike most tactics games that have been released on consoles or handhelds, Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command doesn’t feel the need to confine the player to a grid. Within the rules and limits, you’ve essentially got the freedom of the field. In a way, the game is something of a cross between a tactics game and the free-action title Killzone: Liberation, though with the added need to take care of your squad.

The single player consists of fifteen missions that vary in their primary goal. These goals may be to get to a point, eliminate all the enemies or destroy a particular item/location. As you play, you’ll unlock a set of weapons that can be picked for each individual squad member, though you’ll have no control over exactly who will make up your squad of six. It’s a rather simple set up, and there isn’t much that needs to be done for you to get into the game quickly.

As mentioned, you essentially have entire discretion over your movements while you view from an isometric perspective. That is, as much movements as your Action Points (AP) allow you to take. If you want, you can spend all of them by moving, but if you do, you won’t have anything to attack with until the next turn. On the PSP, the controls aren’t exactly ideal when it comes to squad movement. Moving individual members is fine, and you can cycle through them easily enough, but selection numerous squad members became cumbersome. This was heavily compounded by some rather awful path-finding whenever you had more then on squad member selected.

That wall was getting annoying.

That wall was getting annoying.
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When you or the enemy treads across the line of sight of an opponent (the line of sight is indicated by a red cone on the ground), there will be an automatic attack from the defense. Otherwise, combat and engagement is up to you. Again, when attacking, you need to decide the number of AP that goes towards an attack. The more AP you use, the more accurate the attack will be, but at the same time, you need to consider what weapon you have and/or whether you want to attack again or move. Unfortunately, as far as strategy goes, that’s about all that you’ll need to consider.

We don’t know whether taking out the grid has compromised the design, but even with the free movement, it doesn’t do a lot to help the game. The main reason for this is that the strategy in the game is very one-note and not particularly deep. Once you’ve got a handle on exactly how the game is played, it’s fairly simple. However, if you do make a mistake it can cost you dearly at times. Mistakes can also sometimes be made when you’re fiddling with the less-then-intuitive interface. In fact, the interface is the thing that’s most likely to put off PSP players.

Two other aspects of the game don’t come through as well as we would have liked. The environment doesn’t have too much of an affect on the actual gameplay - that is, you’re not going to need to drastically rethink or reform your strategy if a fixture or two near you is knocked out. The other one is the rather cumbersome camera, which only allows you to observe your immediate surroundings. It gets rather annoying when you can’t get a full grip of the surroundings that you’re meant to be using to your strategic advantage. Strangely, this is a problem that a lot of PSP strategy games have been plagued by.

So they ARE ferocious Space Marines.

So they ARE ferocious Space Marines.
Close
The AI in the single player isn’t the most demanding around, and the fifteen missions don’t take that long to wipe through, but thankfully, there’s a multiplayer mode that is also available. Up to eight players can join in any one game and there are nine maps to play on. There is also a game sharing option. You got a couple of options of how to set up the game, but they're all just variations of Imperium vs Chaos, though you can have Imperium vs Imperium and Chaos vs Chaos. Unfortunately, there seems to be an issue for anyone that wants play over infrastructure, which we assume stems from the fact that there aren’t many people playing.

If you’ve read our DS review of the game, then you will know by now that game is not the best looking on the system. Neither is it the best looking game on the PSP but it never gets to a point where the looks are detrimental to the gameplay. The detail within the game and running speed certainly benefit from the extra power that the PSP packs and the presentation is much nicer on the wide screen. There really isn’t much to say about the sound other then it works and it gets the job done. You’ll probably need it on, though it’s not bad enough to warrant turning it off.

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command had a few neat ideas going for it, but it is heavily let down in the execution. The idea of having freeform movement in a tactical strategy game is indeed one that ought to be explored more. However, when the interface and camera are as cumbersome as they are, it makes the title difficult to recommend, even for the most hardened Warhammer 40,000 enthusiast. Given that the DS touch screen controls don’t work as we would have liked, it’s the audio/visual presentation that allows the PSP version to receive a slightly higher recommendation. Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command is definitely a decent game, though you’ll only want to look at the PSP game if the several other fantasy tactics games aren’t your thing and you want something, well, with a few more guns and no need to strive for level 1000.
The Score
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command on the PSP just pips the DS version but regardless of some solid ideas and implementations, it's still a missed opportunity. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command Content

Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command Review
07 Jan, 2008 Screaming shoulderpads of death.
THQ announces new Warhammer 40K game for handhelds
19 Jun, 2007 Heading to the PSP and NDS later this year.
Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War - Winter Assault Review
30 Oct, 2005 Bigger, better, and a hell lot more brutal.
1 Comment
6 years ago
Damn another opportunity of a good WH40k gone. Though I reckon a WH40k rip off of GoW would work quite well icon_cool.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  29/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $69.95 AU
Publisher:
  THQ
Genre:
  Strategy
Year Made:
  2007
Players:
  8

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