History Channel - Civil War

Xbox 360

Review by Matt Paprocki



Graphics: 6

Sound: 8

Gameplay: 4

Overall: 4


Given the weapons, History Channel - Civil War would almost seem like a parody against the stagnant glut of World War II first-person shooters. The musket is hardly a weapon that seems suited to a fast paced action game, though with proper mechanics behind it, there is the possibility for tension. Civil War isn't the right game to create the conflict as it needs to be, and the gameplay feels out of place in the setting.

civilwar1_360.jpg (159544 bytes)If anything, Civil War is playable. Its fast paced action works. The controls respond swiftly, aiming down the barrel of a gun feels great, animation is effective and the graphics provide a solid if unspectacular backdrop to the action.

The problems begin with a lack of focus. A first-person shooter based on this conflict needs to go in one of two directions: slow paced, methodical seek and destroy or all out battle against thousands of enemy soldiers. This one sits right in the middle.

In fact, it seems as if someone took the Call of Duty series and slapped on a new graphics engine. The action loses intensity when you're forced to reload a musket at an agonizingly slow speed only to fire one round and repeat the process. It's of course historically accurate, and to be truthful, it is the fastest anyone has probably ever reloaded one of these guns.

However, there's no interaction as this happens. Standing on a battlefield against an enemy as you both struggle to be the first to get off the next round could have been a superb mechanic. As it is, you back up, dodge, or simply wait for the nearly brain dead AI to do something stupid.

Other weapons provide more ammo, faster reload times, and better accuracy of course. Even then, the battlefields are so barren it's hard to get involved. You can hear other struggles occurring the backgrounds as you run through a forest encountering a dozen or so men on your way to the next objective. The cinematics deeply retell the stories of the war, putting the casualties in the hundreds of thousands. Playing through all of Civil War (in all of a few hours as the North and South in separate campaigns) will barely break a 1,000 kill count total

There's a severe lack of production values at work here as well, odd given the History Channel's openness to video games in the past having used the medium to portray historic events on cable. There's a sameness to each level, especially those that take place in forested areas. Night or day, it looks no different as you run through the strict linear paths. Music is completely absent during gameplay, all of it saved for cinematics.

The Teen rating doesn't help matters. While not a necessary part of most games, the educational videos talk of horrific injuries and body counts. Like the number of soldiers on the field, the actual gameplay is a direct counter to what you're being told. Not an ounce of blood is spilled.

Missions are the final gripe, cutting themselves off just as you think you're heading into a major battle. One concludes just as a general says you're storming the key enemy base. You'll see NPC soldiers running out of view as the screen goes black to take you back to the menu.

With some multi-player options, Civil War may have something to offer in replay value. Aside from playing through on multiple difficulties, there's no reason to come back. Unless you're looking for a challenge (this one gets brutal on its hardest setting even with the option to save anytime), you'll be sorely disappointed.

Civil War has some redeeming values, and just barely misses the mark of average. Until the intensity can be bumped up, which many of the strategy Civil War PC titles can do, this is a conflict best left for something other than a FPS. The History Channel shouldn't be ashamed, though if they want to strengthen their brand, they should do the right thing and pay to do so.


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Last updated: Friday, December 08, 2006 09:37 PM