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Beyond the Law: Third Wave

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  Reviewed by Andy Grieser
April 29, 2004
Real-Time Strategy
Magnum Games
Pan Vision
Itís fascinating to me that critics are held as a breed apart from fans. Itís a step beyond that, really Ė fans hold critics in contempt, refusing to acknowledge the overlap between the groups. Are there critics who donít know what theyíre doing, or who really do have it out for what theyíre critiquing? Rarely. No, the biggest difference between critics and fans is that the former are published on a regular basis.

This is all a long way of saying I love the gaming industry. I love to see companies take risks. I am also protective of the industry, and hate to say companies release titles that hurt my fellow fans.

Oh, yeah, this isnít gonna be a good review.

No, I take that back. This is going to be a disappointed review. I think Magnum Games had a really good concept when they developed Beyond the Law: The Third Wave. Heck, fans love RTS games, and fans love sneaky games like Splinter Cell. Just look at the success of titles like Commandos. Throw in the threat of global terrorism, and youíve got a winner, right?

No, because somewhere along the way someoneís ideas got seriously skewed.

Thereís not much introduction to the game. Basically, you control an independent security force that somehow has been given leeway to operate outside the law (hence the title). A series of missions unveils a plot to commit some pretty horrific acts, and itís up to your team to stop them. Vague yet overused plot? Sure, but itís relevant right now, and when done right is a fun play.

In fact, the first mission - sneaking a GPS tracker onto a crate, and then sneaking your team onto a cargo ship - was difficult but seemed to bode well. Yeah, team selection was limited. You can hire specialists but canít equip them. (Each comes with a preset weapon.) That seemed sloppy. But the end of that mission made me realize it was just bad.

See, before heading to the next level you get graded based on your performance. Each of five factors is awarded a star for successful completion; a certain number of stars can be exchanged for a gold star. Imagine my surprise to find my team penalized for killing the guards around the ship. Just killing one guard, even, would have resulted in a penalty. Plus, there was a strict time limit that I failed to meet and a penalty for saving during a level.

What am I, playing Super Nintendo? The fact that I saved during a level should not be an in-game penalty. There goes immersion in the game world.

Worst of all, not a single one of these factors is communicated before a level. They change, of course. Some levels have different time limits; others require you to kill every single guard. Oh, and about the non-killing thing? There was not one single mercenary available who specialized in non-lethal neutralization of enemies.

This annoys me as a critic. This offends me as a fan. You want to set your own rules as a game dev? Fine. But for Vishnuís sake, tell me before I play, okay? I tried other difficulty settings; no dice. Itís just the devs saying, ďYou think you won the level? Screw you. Play it again, but this time you get to glimpse our rules first.Ē So much for narrative cohesion. I may as well have been playing Ms. Pac-Man.

Everything is weighted against the player. Even on the Easy difficulty level, I took the save penalty and had to take multiple attempts to get through even the opening levels. I try and finish every game I review, but the fan in me dug in his heels and pointed out the much more superior ways I could be spending my time. I wonít be sticking around The Third Wave to see whether the good guys win. Itís obvious the fans of good gameplay wonít.

(Click to Enlarge)

Minimum Requirements...
Windows 98/ME/2000/XP; Pentium III 800Mhz; 128MB Memory; 500 MB Hard Disk Space
Power Macintosh G3 or better; 128 MB RAM; 800 x 600 pixels (16-bit color minimum); Mac OS X 10.1 or later


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