Review by Sb27441X

Reviewed: 01/12/07

Leave this one behind at your local gaming store

In 2006, RTS gamers were blessed with a number of great titles. The faithful were rewarded with a face full of tanks, infantry, and aircraft, with the promise of more to come in 2007. The leader of the faith, Alex Garden, and his disciples at Relic Entertainment had loved gamers so much that he gave them his only World War II RTS game, Company of Heroes, to serve as proof of his undying devotion. And it was good.

Of course, penitence is a crucial part of any faith, and the wages of sin is Left Behind: Eternal Forces. Capitalizing on the recent popularity of Jesus, this game places armchair commanders in a missionary-like role of showing the true light to sinners. Unlike most RTS games, the true light is not an orbital ion-cannon delivered directly from an overhead satellite. The player is tasked with converting the armies of an entity that has evolved from the United Nations, along with numerous other evildoers such as rappers, into born-again Christians. The plot is essentially Command & Conquer with the morality of the sides reversed and a heavy dose of evangelism. The politically and religiously-charged gameplay is rife with references to today's culture in a distinct effort to appeal to evangelism in today's culture. It has been noted that the rhetoric has diminished somewhat in comparison to that of other elements of the Left Behind series, such as a series of novels produced by Tim LaHaye. So, will today's RTS gamers be content with ditching their stars and bars for the cleric's vestments?

In a word, no. While Left Behind: Eternal Forces is an intriguing concept, it's a mediocre game from numerous standpoints. In Judeo-Christian theology, the Sixth Commandment states that "Thou shalt not murder", and this philosophy is a crucial element of the gameplay. The player is prohibited from killing enemy units, with each death reducing a unit's morale, or "spirit". When the spirit bar is depleted, the unit may flee or join opposing forces. As a result, the player is obligated to attempt to convert enemy units or neutral civilians via propaganda or music with varying amounts of success. The concept is inherently corny, but a quality title could still result with proper execution. Any hope for redemption is lost in this category, with mediocre gameplay dooming the title to eternal mediocrity. Unit pathfinding is uniformly terrible, with your average True Believer letting simple obstacles such as lampposts and comrades get in the way of their faith. Often times, controlling multiple units will result in a Puritanical pile-up that the player must resolve by manually selecting each unit and clicking on the intended target multiple times. In-game advertising is quite prevalent, with frequent reminders to shop at EB Games when you're not capping homies for yo' boy J.C. Unit variety is quite dull, with typical military units for the forces of the Antichrist and even more mundane churchgoers for the righteous. Most aspects of the game seem highly uninspired.

From a technical standpoint, the game is similarly disappointing, shunning the generic green and tan battlefields of most RTS games (anyone recall the bright purple crystalline warzones of Total Annihilation, or the candy-coated killing fields of M.A.X?) in favor of an equally generic city landscape of gray boxes intended to represent buildings. The shadows of units and in-game objects are quite well-done, but overall, the graphics are quite dull and unimpressive, especially in comparison to a quality title such as Company of Heroes. Unit sounds are quite average, with the occasional inspired quip from a battle-hardened musician fighting for Christ, but most explosions and weaponry seem to be the same uninspired pops endemic to many titles of the budget genre. While we're on the topic of uninspired pop, much of the in-game music has been selected from contemporary Christian rock, which may only heighten one's resolve to avoid this title.

There are Christians, there are gamers, and there are actively Christian gamers. These individuals have a number of quality titles to play and actively do so, establishing clans, servers, and other events. They do not reaffirm their faith through video games, and this title is another testament to that.


Rating:   1.5 - Bad

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