Hands on with Field Commander on PSP
Desert your toy soldiers, it's time for some armour-plated wargaming
In a world of lies, damn lies and press releases it's always sensible to get your information from the top, so we were glad to have a chat at E3 with one of the producers of Field Commander, the strategy game that's been labelled the PSP's answer to the DS' Advance Wars.
Personally, I wasn't entirely sure as to how valid the comparison was. But how wrong can a man be?
For according to our man on the inside, Field Commander is nothing less than Advance Wars on steroids.
While Nintendo's game plays on a cute art style (not to mention some excellent pacing (check out our review of its most recent outing, Advance Wars: Duel Strike), the goal in creating Field Commander was to take the smooth gameplay of Advance Wars and make full use of the PSP's brilliant screen and 3D graphics, as well as adding masses of war-like customisation options.
One interesting example of how the resultant game apes (or rather doesn't) its rival is in the use of what's known as Commanding Officers. There are 22 of these leaders (11 for each side) in Field Commander you either protect the world as the Allied Nations or turn bad playing the terrorist Shadow Nation) but they merely act as talking heads, driving forward the plot that intersperses the meat of battle.
In Advance Wars, in contrast, each Commanding Officer has their own abilities and skills, so selecting the right ones for each battle is crucial.
In Field Commander their role is replaced by direct power army divisions. There are 15 of these per side, each of which has its own major and minor specialities. These divisions are unlocked throughout the game, and enable you to craft your attack to play on your strengths, whether you want to go for an all-out assault using battle tanks, or sneak around with stealth units first.
As for how the game plays, you'll definitely need a strategic mind to succeed. Like many war sims, each side takes turns to set out their battleplans, with the choice of moving units and firing at the enemy the basic options (you'll have to keep track of each units' fuel and ammo too).
What's really impressive about Field Commander though is its cool cinematic camera, which swoops around so you get to see everything that's happening on the battlefield. The quality of the graphics is great, with detailed vehicles and troops and high octane explosions dominating the action.
But it's not all just eye-candy. The gamemakers have thought about longevity too, offering 30 single-player missions plus loads of multiplayer options.
One neat example of the latter is the Hotswap mode, where you play a friend using one PSP and swapping between turns.
Another is the Transmission mode, which is more like chess-by-mail. You make your move and then the game emails it to a central server. Your opponent can then download your move and get to work on their response. Perhaps a strange step in the world of broadband, but it will appeal to some no doubt.
A final note on collaboration - you can also create your own single-player missions and upload them to the server for other wannabe generals to try.
If all that's sparked your field marshall fantasies, look out for our review. We'll give you the definitive report on whether Field Commander smashes through Nintendo's lines when it marches into stores at the end of June.