Xbox 360 Review: Raven Squad

ravensquad

While up for debate, Raven Squad may contain the worst voice acting from this generation of consoles. The actors read their lines with a monotone style that makes the subtitles carry more tension, variables, feeling, and emphasis. At the least the written words understand what an exclamation point is for.

Xian, a woman caught behind enemy lines helping the player’s mercenary squad find their goal carries a robotic accent. Her voice is important, and stumbling over instructions in the script rendering them unintelligible is unforgivable. Subtitles default to “off,” and that’s something you can hold against Raven Squad.

Even the writing is terrible, with a new video game classic, “Find yourself a nice bush guys,” that could take the Internet by storm if anyone chooses to play through this deplorable 360 title.

This is developer Atomic Motion’s first game. Based in Budapest, it is apparent they are unaware of American military tactics. The character personalities seem to be based on clichés from Michael Bay movies, including the lead who is determined to make it to Las Vegas, because that’s what all Americans want.

Raven Squad is billed as a mixture of first-person shooter and real-time strategy game, although the latter term is being tossed around liberally by the marketing team to find something unique about this title. The “strategy” element resembles Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter’s map screen, with the sole exception being you can control most of the action from this view. There is no need to mine for resources, or anything you cannot do when in first-person. It exists for tactical purposes only.

There are times in the story where this mode becomes unavailable, odd considering the game’s entire point was to mix these two genres. Consider the AI partners inability to aim, shoot, move, or think for themselves, and how much of the brief campaign is spent babysitting a group of grown mercenaries who don’t have a clue.

Two squads remain in player control for the duration, and unless you’re playing in co-op (online or local via system link), you need to regularly tell the non-controlled squad to follow. There is no command to make them automatically tag along. They need to be manually ordered every step of the way, easy to forget amidst the bland, sloppy shoot-outs.

Raven Squad begins with a mission to retrieve corporate data, and at some weird turning point, apparently turns into a war over coffee (?). The offending army, guarding the coffee fields with their lives (Juan Valdez must be rolling in his grave), can take countless bullets. That, or the collision is terrible, guns are inaccurate, or a combination of all the above.

Anyway you look at it, it leaves the combat feeling flat. Each squad member carries a specific weapon, all of which are equally difficult to use with these mechanics. The default settings are painfully sluggish in terms of aiming, so the terribly stupid enemies who care more about looking at a wall than shooting at you can be seen as a weird, confusing positive. A miserable lighting engine makes it difficult to tell who are enemies or friendlies as you rip the forest apart with bullets. Everything blends in the same shades of dirt brown, drab green, and flat gray.

To briefly demonstrate how hackneyed the RTS aspects of the game are, you need to look at the tutorial. The squad arrives at an impasse, when one of them spots a weak wall. You’re forced to exit the first-person view, select the proper squad, select the wall, and the grenadier throws a explosive to take it down. Imagine that same situation during a combat scenario.

Isn’t it easier to select the grenade and press the trigger?

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