Greetings from land of Russia! Today we bring yourselves mighty game-time to win back African country from evil dictator man who rules with iron pansy fist! To do so we brings you reviews of games best left in out of bargain bin!
Ok, before you go getting confused, I haven't gone insane, I've just been playing Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge for so long now that its awful script and English translations are becoming second nature to me.
It says a lot about a game when the first thing that hits you is the terrible dialogue, naff voice acting and worst spelling I've ever seen in a videogame, and if the developers and publishers couldn't be bothered to spend a few quid to hire a decent translator, what does that say about the rest of the game? If you said "It'll be a let down from the off", you're right.
Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge is the spiritual successor to the games of the Jagged Alliance series- a series with a decent pedigree stretching back to 1994. The game centres on the adventures of a bunch of mercenaries as they attempt to make their fortune by killing/stealing/destroying things for cold, hard cash. And that's about it- no really- that's it.
The plot, explained through badly-voiced cutscenes which look like they were ripped from a game ten years ago, has something to do with these mercenaries being sent to a little African nation to help return some leader to the throne or something- honestly, it's never really explained.
To do this the player has to assemble a bend of mercs, buy armour and weapons, organise assaults on enemy positions and gradually liberate/dominate the populace- if you can stand it for that long.
The gameplay itself is clunky and pointless. Like the rest of the Jagged Alliance games it is an isometric turn-based shooter with a bunch of characters running around, gunning people down within the restraints of their various Action Points (AP) before letting the enemy have their turn- simple yes? No.
The controls are just weird and the in-game interface is so difficult to use that I would often find myself turning to the manual to figure out how to make my mercenaries throw a grenade in the right direction. The characters also suffer from a severe case of AP-itis, constantly running out of AP at critical moments and leaving the mercs in the open and under fire.
Another irritation is the 'breath' bar- or stamina, as anyone who had any kind of sense would have called it. This controls how far the mercs can run without collapsing on the ground desperate to recover their breath, the problem is the mercs seem to have lungs the size of walnuts and it is not unusual to see a bunch of mercs running across the savannah pausing to slump on the ground every 30 seconds.
The difficulty level is also punishing, even from the first battle. While I was still trying to assemble a team and outfit them properly, the enemy guerrillas had the best weapons and armour and killed my entire team every time- it was only until I relied entirely on grenades that the game even got started.
The 'hub' parts of the game- where you can hire mercs, buy ammo, accept contracts and plan attacks- are even more confusing than the main game itself. There is a complicated e-mail system in-game, which even features some funny spam e-mail, but the real laughing point is the grammar and spelling in the e-mails themselves- it seems the developers couldn't be bothered to hire a translator and just guessed at the correct English words, reducing each sentence to a guessing game. There is also a strange 'psychological test' option to customise your character, with even more ridiculous English.
The mercenaries that can be hired from the hub are a diverse bunch- ranging from snipers to demolition experts. Most come with their own equipment, so upgrading them from the meagre stack of items accrued after each mission or bought off the black market isn't essential straight away- though buying ammo is, as the mercs use way too many rounds in every single firefight.
There is very little character advancement for the mercs however- they come across as little more than armed cannon fodder, which is what they are really so it's no major loss. Luckily each mission earns a fair amount of cash- good thing too, as the better equipment costs an absolute bomb.
Graphically the game is nothing stellar. Apart from the afore-mentioned terrible cutscenes, the environments of the African nation range between wide deserts and flooded valleys and are rendered in a decent style for the restrictions of the camera angle. The camera controls themselves are sharp and easy to use (thank goodness), and can be zoomed in to catch the action up close.
The sound is a very mixed bag. The musical score is a decent mix of African drumbeats and cyber-punk hymns, while the guns and grenades go off with the correct bang for your buck. The characters themselves, however, suffer from the bad English curse and often respond to orders with little more than grunts and odd orgasmic noises when you click on them, apart from the Australian, French and Japanese mercenaries- who all come with a stereotypical comment: 'G'day mate', for example; cringe-worthy.
Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge is a half-hearted attempt to resurrect a turn-based shooter series which should have stayed in the rose-tinted gaming sections of peoples' memories. Confusing controls, no plot and terrible English translations turn what could have been an enjoyable shooter into a mess of bad design and crushing difficulty- one for the bargain bin.
Score: 2 out of 10
- Decent graphics
- Decent weapon sounds
- Tons of equipment customisation
Not so good stuff
- Awful English translation
- Confusing interface
- Really, really difficult