Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command Review (PSP)

Written by Jake (aka Geofortean)+

I’ve never really been a fan of Warhammer. I’ll say that now, so it’s out of the way. The closest I have been to the Warhammer universe is when I accidentally stumbled into a Games Workshop in Leeds and was pounced upon by a large man with a beard, who then proceeded to show me various plastic tanks, which he pushed around on a green-topped table. So, when I first picked up the game I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t “get it”. It turns out that I was wrong. And now I’m thinking about growing a beard.

So, on to the game. As the name suggests, it’s a squad-based strategy game. This is where it first started to appeal to me; I love these sort of games. And this game type lends itself really well to the PSP. By the nature of the game, the controls are not overly complex (move your unit, shoot, swap unit) but the rotate camera function on the control stick is pretty much useless as there seems to be very little movement. Having said that, though, I haven’t found any need to rotate the camera at all – the structures on the landscape will turn slightly transparent if they obscure a unit.

The levels are quite vast, and while pressing Select will give you the map of the area you will only know where the enemy units are located if you’ve moved close enough to detect them. You’ll soon learn that you want to try and finish a turn with all your characters taking cover behind the various structures dotted around the map. Not long after that you’ll learn that not all structures are safe to hide behind – pipes will explode if shot, for example, doing quite a lot of damage to any squad members within the blast radius. Of course, this fact can also be used to your advantage – just make sure that your team isn’t caught in the blast!

There is a story running through the single player campaign – basically you’re out to destroy the Chaos Army, a story illustrated by neat little cut scenes between levels – but the missions are a little samey, but not in a bad way. Some missions require you to kill all the enemy units on the map, some require you to destroy a specific target building or kill a specific enemy, and some are a combination of the two. Completing a mission earns you access to new units and different weapons, and it’s this element, I think, which stops the game from becoming too repetitive.

Strategy is everything in this game. Each team member has a set number of action points, which are used to move and shoot. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? And in the first level, it is. At the start of the second level you have access to a shotgun for your soldiers – if you take it with you, you have less action points to spend but you can do more damage to the enemy. Decisions, decisions. And that’s just the second level – wait until you have access to sniper rifles, rocket launchers and chainswords!

But that’s not all. You control the accuracy of your attacks by adding action points to the standard shot – but then, do you take a shot that you know will definitely hit but leaves you no escape or a shot that might miss but you can run and hide afterwards.

Each level gives you a score based on how well you’ve done – and this seems to be related to the strategy you use as well. When you’re first given a tank, you may be tempted to use this to blow away everything on the map (people, walls etc) but you’ll find you score very lowly with this tactic, creep about a bit with the rest of your squad and a fantastic score awaits.

There are plenty of single player campaign missions to get through, so there’s plenty of longevity to be had. There’s a multiplayer mode in there as well, but I haven’t had a chance to try that as my PSP is refusing to connect to anything at the moment!

This is definitely a worthy investment, and not a game just for Warhammer nuts. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know your space marine from your elbow. You don’t need to live in the universe to get enjoyment from the game. It’s a very good strategy game, and one that I have enjoyed immensely from start to the bit that I keep dying on (damn you, poorly thought out strategy!). And even the fact that I keep dying is not putting me off; I merely reload the level and try again, just tweaking my formation slightly. And that’s the beauty. There are some games where dying really grates, but with this one you learn from your mistakes – admittedly, you get a rough idea where the enemy are when you’re blasted to pieces but it doesn’t make the next attempt any easier.

It’s a great game. I love my PSP again. All is well with the world!

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