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   PlanetDreamcast | Features | Previews | Conflict Zone

Conflict Zone
MASA makes one for all the armchair generals out there. - by reojojo

In the not too distant future, all the great super-powers form an alliance called the ICP (International Corps for Peace). Much like the modern-day United Nations, they are dedicated to keeping the world safe for your average Joe. The only difference is instead of sitting in a room debating about deforestation in Zambia, they're out there kicking ass and taking names with all the latest military hardware. Yet who poses such a threat to world peace? Why your friendly neighborhood dictator.

Ubi Soft has decided to put all you strategy junkies in command of the ICP, and I'm not complaining. The game is being developed by a French company called Mathematiques Appliquees S. A. Never heard of them? No surprise there, they're actually professional AI developers, creating complicated AI programs for industries and networking. As you can probably guess from the last sentence, AI will be one of the strong points of Conflict Zone. Unlike the standard AI units who have difficulty walking from point A to point B and don't really grasp the concept of returning enemy fire, these guys are geniuses. You can either give them specific orders like "Attack these co-ordinates" or more general ones like "Defend the base." In fact, you can even set the units to "freelance" mode, where the units make their own decisions, positioning themselves where they're most needed.

MASA Group puts that "It's thinking" tag to good use with its advanced AI.

Imagine a smarter playing, Dreamcast version of Command & Conquer.

The game also includes a set of "commanders," essentially AI scripts that you can assign to groups of units to command them things get too hectic to handle. Each commander has his own personality and skill level, so while some commanders are revered by their troops, others are shunned. These guys also learn from experience, developing their own tactics and style. While a commander just out of the academy may be suited to command a platoon, you probably don't want him in charge of Army Group A.

The units are much like those in Command & Conquer: infantry, tanks, APCs and choppers, with the occasional new idea thrown into the mix. There will be two campaigns, one played on the side of the ICP, and the other as a power-hungry dictator. Each campaign features eight missions, and while this may seem relatively small, the battlegrounds can span more than 20km by 20km. Since everything is built to scale some missions can take days of solid play to complete, even in real-time.

Luckily for the more diplomatic among us, duking it out isn't the only way to win at Conflict Zone. Players will find it helpful, if not necessary to manipulate the media to rally support. You can record the enemy's defeats or atrocities they commit with a camera crew to lower his support rating, but remember that they can do the same to you. This means you'll have to keep a close eye on the support bar at the top of the screen, and when it reaches the right point, the enemy (or you) will be forced to give up, either by forced resignation or assassination.

Marv Albert gives a report on the current situation.

Look at the detail! You can even see the camels far off in the distance.

The graphics are another high point. The unit models are very detailed, down to the faces on the soldiers and the vents on APCs. Terrain graphics are very realistic, with beautiful curves and variety, as well as plenty of flora and fauna. The interface seems quite polished and easy to use, which the developer deserves serious kudos for since it does use the standard controller. Anybody remember Starcraft 64? Or maybe Red Alert for PlayStation? Since this isn't a port, no PC control scheme must be followed, so the controls will responsive and easy to use.

Even if stunning graphics, perfect AI, epic battles, and political manipulation aren't good enough for you, Conflict Zone will include 4-player on-line support. Having read of the deep diplomatic model in the single-player game, think of the alliances and trickery possible with 4 gamers going head to head. Broadband support isn't confirmed, but we can keep our fingers crossed.

After a number of tentative delays, a new publisher, and a name change (it debuted under the name Peace Keepers), Conflict Zone will finally come out this July. Don't be surprised if it takes a little longer, though, especially given the game's and recent Dreamcast history. Hey, making games is a lot harder than playing them, but Red Storm's reputation has shown us that its games are worth waiting for.

Essential Links:

  • Red Storm Entertainment, Inc. - Red Storm is publishing Conflict Zone after its purchase by Ubi Soft. The only related information here is an old December press release.
  • Mathematiques Appliquees S. A. - MASA Group, an AI research and development firm based in Paris, is the one responsible for making Conflict Zone. Unfortunately, there is no information of use here since the company is currently rebuilding its site.
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