PC Game -- Joint Task Force

It's a sign of the times that the near-future storyline in Joint Task Force (JTF) revolves around the efforts of the newly established, multinational Joint Task Force to maintain some kind of (new world) order. In a nice twist - and a nod to modern sensibilities - resource accumulation revolves around money, the gathering of which depends heavily on how the media represents your actions to the world. So if you like to clear combat zones by carpet bombing the civilian population first, the resulting bad press will cause your funds to dry up.

The story itself takes you to five different theatres of operations (including Somalia, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf) and mission structure is dynamic, with objectives popping up during play. The AI can be pretty unforgiving and if you're tactically inept or forgetful of what units are where, it'll all be over pretty quickly. You can upgrade weapons on the fly, create and disband squads, repair or replace equipment, use civilian vehicles for fast transport or even infiltration, heal wounded soldiers, call in armour and air support... it all makes for a fluid and suitably lethal battlefield. The game's hardware has been exactingly modelled (with help from a number of the manufacturers) and the whole show looks fantastic. JTF also makes use of AEGIA physics, so just about everything is destructible, including the buildings (which look great as they collapse dynamically under fire).

You'll also find yourself dealing with the weather. It looks great, but more importantly, it actually affects the gameplay. Fighting in the midst of a raging sandstorm is tough; not only is visibility decreased, but so is weapon accuracy. Driving rain hinders movement (as does snow on the ground) and you'll also have to deal with the day/night cycle (don't forget your night-vision goggles).

At the end of each mission, you have the opportunity to promote surviving troops. This gives them a name and allows you to choose various upgrades for them. These are class-based, so you can have a sniper specialist with skills like 'headshot', or say, a commando with added 'toughness' and so on. Keeping a favourite soldier alive through the campaign as you constantly add new skills is great fun, despite all the mission restarts it'll inevitably cause.

You'll notice that your troops have a few path finding problems such as vehicles driving through civilian houses when all you really want them to do is follow a road, which can be irritating.

The storyline is "ripped from tomorrow's headlines", as they say, and the action is as gritty and realistic as it gets.

Click here to view screenshot 1, and click here to view screenshot 2.

Verdict: Joint Task Force is the very model of a modern RTS. Resource gathering is done away with, combat is detailed and realistic, and the near-future storyline is dramatic and plausible.
Score: 3 out of 5
Publisher: Vivendi
URL: www.jointtaskforce.com
Price: $89.95

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