Review: WarMen Tactics (WiiWare)

Shockin' awful

Here at Nintendo Life we pride ourselves on reviewing every downloadable game and application released for the Wii and DSi. As a reviewer this may mean reviewing games in genres you might not regularly play, and there's also the risk of playing a bad game; sometimes a really bad game. WarMen Tactics is one of the latter, a game that might well cause one to question whether we should be providing 100% coverage of all downloads. After all, there is the old marketing adage that "there's no such thing as bad press," and without this review it's quite likely that you'd never know WarMen Tactics even existed. Of course if we didn't provide this review then you might be tempted to buy it, because what limited advertising has been put in place is quite misleading and we'd hate for anyone to waste money on this absolute stinker of a game.

We make a point of reading the Operations Manual before actually playing WiiWare games for review: it can provide information you might not get in the game itself such as goals and features, but it also provides some insight into the developer's intent. The manual for WarMen Tactics reads much like a promo piece, with two pages of text and four screenshots. If you were to use this as the basis of making your purchasing decision you might well think you were in for a real treat, as the second page boasts that you will "become blown away by an engine that pushes Wii capabilities to the edge" providing "5 levels of pure unrefined fun." Well, after seeing the poorly compressed intro and playing through those five levels we certainly think you'll be blown away - by how bad this game looks compared to pretty much every other 3D action game published to-date on any platform. If this is an example of "unrefined fun," then clearly a fun refinery needs to get built stat: we failed to find the fun in the entire 25 minutes required to play through the game on the normal "Guerrilla Warfare" difficulty setting.

WarMen Tactics started out life on the iPhone as "WarMen," a game you can purchase for £1.59 in the UK Apps Store. Considering the higher WiiWare price of 800 Points, you might well expect an expanded game tailored for the Wii, but you'd be expecting a lot. As stated the intro is badly compressed; of course if you played this on the smaller screen of an iPhone it would look pretty decent, but considering the title screen for this WiiWare release refers to the game by its iPhone name, WarMen, it seems a safe bet that this is simply a straight port of the iPhone version with no improvements made to the visuals at all. In fact the only change that appears to have been made is to adapt the iPhone's motion and touchscreen control to the pointer on the Wii Remote.

At first glance this is a third-person shooter, with the camera being placed behind your character. Controls are entirely Remote-based with an option to use buttons on the Remote, or point-and-click at virtual buttons at the bottom edge of the screen (much like the iPhone version, perhaps?) Nowhere are the controls spelled-out in the game or the Operations Guide - you'll have to view them in the Home screen. You can use Up or Down on the (DPAD) to stand or crouch, whilst Left and Right or pointer movement towards the edges of the screen will pan the camera about 90 degrees in either direction. Other button presses include (1) to reload your weapon, (2) to swap weapons (you have a choice of an Uzi machine pistol or a Stinger rocket launcher) and (B) to fire your weapon. If you press + to pause the "action" you'll see an option for "Control Mode 2," but given the lack of documentation we have no idea what that's supposed to change and couldn't see any difference in play when it was enabled. Movement is controlled with the (A) button: press to move forward one increment (usually to a place of cover) and enjoy the lovely high-speed stuttering gait of your character - straight out of the end credit sequence of an episode of Benny Hill.

The rest of the visuals are equally fantastic. We expect that if you showed this game to your friends 20 years ago they'd be impressed by the fact that it's 3D and has realistic movements featured in the lengthy reload sequences (especially your character's pointy hair swaying.) In fact, playing this game is something of a retro gaming experience of days gone by, when the increasing availability of 3D programming tools meant that PC gamers had their pick of an endless stream of crappy, low-poly-count shooters of various flavours. In addition to the jerky animation noted above there's still more retro treats on offer: moving your camera about results in some nice image jittering and there's so much clipping going on you'd think you were at an NHL cup match. Helicopters freely fly right through buildings and even better is the sequence of your character's death: as the camera pans around he flips backwards, his head disappearing into the ground whilst blood - literally composed of a stream of squares with red "blood" textures on it (definitely justifying the "T" rating) - spurts out "in slow motion." The icing on the cake is when you shoot one of the "scramble stations" you're assigned to destroy with a Stinger missile, resulting in the spinning radar bit simply disappearing without so much as a puff of smoke.

Of course we're not all about graphics on the Wii and thankfully the gameplay equals the visuals. As noted you press (A) to move from cover to cover. After the camera shifts about (presumably trying to figure out where the enemies are coming from) you wait until the dastardly army of "The New World Order" comes around the corner and blithely walks in your direction. WarMen Tactics really is a paranoid's fantasy: not only has the UN actually created an armed force to take over the world, but it's composed of complete idiots wearing papier-maché body armour that can easily be destroyed by one guy with a machine pistol. Although your cover gives you complete protection from the baddies - who can be stood so close to the crates you're hiding behind that they'd be able to spit on your head in real life - you can pick them off from five miles away, despite them hiding behind the very same crates that protect you from rocket fire. Of course you don't really need much cover because they generally just sit there, even if you stand up to leisurely plug them in the groin.

In fact the only reason you're likely to get yourself killed is because you moved from cover before shooting all the baddies in the "wave" of two or three. The enemy comes in a variety of different coloured armour, but they all seem to die with one or two shots so it's not clear if they're supposed to be more challenging or the developers got bored. Later on giant "insect-human hybrids" come burrowing up out of the ground who can take up to three hits and breathe fire, which really ups the challenge. In fact the only really difficult part is the end of level five where you face a wave of bugs, taking cover only to be unable to hit anything or move, waiting until a giant bug breathes fire on you and kills you. Eventually you'll figure out that you need to use a Stinger to kill the last one - of course it looks the same as the others so we don't understand what the distinction is, but given the state of the rest of the game it's not terribly relevant.

After the last level our hero does his trademark fist-pumping whilst "Mission Complete" is displayed on the screen, followed by a droning announcement that our hero got away and the public started questioning why they let the UN take over the world, blah blah blah.

Giving more space to what is wrong with WarMen Tactics is giving it more print than is justified. We will say that the game ending after only five levels feels like a reward; that it takes less than 30 minutes is a bonus. There's two other difficulty levels: "Trainee" is much like "Guerrilla", except that there are fewer enemies who return fire less often (if that's possible) and the hardest difficulty setting "Men of War" is the same as the other two except that there are more enemies and they sometimes hide behind shields. Suffering through the hardest difficulty setting might give you a code to input in the "Secret Code" section of the options menu, but unless that unlocks a completely different game we cannot say we regret passing up that replay opportunity.

Conclusion

WarMen Tactics wouldn't have been accepted in the early days of 3D gaming, much less today. We're flabbergasted that a developer would try foisting this kind of product upon the Wii-buying public, boasting that they "wanted to reflect the realism of urban warfare," along with their other outrageous claims - any one of which would be justification for a false advertising complaint.

It's even more amazing is that Nintendo approved this game for release - especially at the median price point. As much as some developers are calling for greater promotion of WiiWare generally, we think that exercising more quality control over what is published on WiiWare would be an even bigger help to developers actually trying to release a decent game on the service.

We considered the possibility this game might be a gag with the kind of crappy 3D glitches you'd have seen on an old PlayStation or PC game, but if that's the case we didn't find it terribly amusing. Calaris were right not to attempt any promotion of this turd, but we would have preferred that they simply hadn't bothered releasing it and spared us having to review it.