Video Game: World in Conflict
World in Conflict
The war is coming home.
is a 2007 Real Time Tactics
game by Massive Entertainment
. Set during the closing days of the Cold War
, the game explores what might have happened had the Warsaw Pact countries decided to start World War III
instead of allowing the gradual collapse of its constituent governments. Best described as Red Dawn (1984) meets Ground Control
, the game eschews traditional RTS elements in favour of a more tactical approach: no base building occurs, units are air-dropped, and individual armies rarely number more than a dozen units.
The single-player campaign takes place in 1989. The Soviet Union, bankrupt and desperate, launches a surprise attack across its European borders, surprising the rest of the world. The conquest is at first a success, but as the months go by NATO rallies, and it becomes clear that the Soviets are overstretched and out of momentum, causing the conflict to settle into a stalemate. In a massive gamble, the Soviet Union smuggles several battalions into Seattle harbour on freight ships, counting on the fact that most U.S. troops are tied up overseas. The story is told through the eyes of a subordinate
to the legendary Colonel Sawyer, Lieutenant Parker
, as Sawyer's battalion fights a desperate war to contain the red menace
.World in Conflict
is lauded for its multiplayer, which has the player assume a specific role in combat, commanding only a small, specialized force on the battlefield and working together with the other players to win. The matches are fast-paced and map types are strongly influenced by FPS games, with modes such as Dominationnote
. Since there are no resources to gather
, the game is instead based around strategical control points that need to be captured.
An Expansion Pack
was released in 2009, titled Soviet Assault
. The expansion added six new missions interwoven into the existing campaign that covered the Soviet side of the story, as well as four multiplayer maps which were later released for free. The expansion pack was not well-received, as it did not have any new gameplay features at all.
The game was well-received both by critics and by consumers, with common praise being the then-impressive graphics, the compelling gameplay, the entertaining team-based multiplayer modes and a strong single-player campaign and narrative. Since the sale of Massive Entertainment to Ubisoft
by then-publisher Activision
the only thing to come out of the series has been the delayed and poorly-received Soviet Assault
, and since Massive has since moved on to other projects, it is probably that World in Conflict
has become an Orphaned Series
This game features examples of the following tropes:
- Achievement System: In multiplayer, you gain medals and badges for various scoring points or winning matches, among other things. Medals and badges are tiered bronze, silver, and gold; the screen that displays them also explains (via tooltips) the requirements for unlocking them. You can also view players' medals in their public online profiles on the Massgate service website.
- The Alliance: NATO (duh).
- Alternate History: What if the Communist states of the 1980s tried to prevent their collapse by attacking the West?
- Anachronic Order: The single-player campaign is told middle first, then beginning, then end. The Soviet missions are similarly paced, as they are interwoven into the vanilla campaign.
- Arbitrary Headcount Limit: The player is given a fixed amount of points to buy units with, which limits the size of any given army. The points refill after a unit is lost or is disbanded, over time. In multiplayer, the most a player can command at once is 20 units (not counting the infantry squads consisting out of 4 soldiers), but generally no more than about 6 units will be deployed at the same time. Additional units can be deployed with air-drop Tactical Aids that don't count towards this limit.
- Big Damn Heroes: In the Soviet campaign, the Colonel arrives seconds before American civilians are about to be executed in one of the cutscenes.
- Bilingual Bonus: Many unit barks are made in a language appropriate to their nationality. This is most noticeable with the NATO faction, which does not include two different unit types from the same country. German, French, Danish, Russian, English, Norwegian are but some of the languages spoken in the game, and most are recorded using native speakers.
- Bittersweet Ending: Despite your resounding victory over the Soviet invaders and the lightheartedness of the final scene, much of Seattle and Washington State are in ruins and World War III still rages in Europe and now in Asia, leaving the future uncertain.
- Bolivian Army Ending: At the end of Soviet Assault, Malashenko decides not to return to Russia and instead makes his way to Seattle to defend it against the inevitable American counterattack. Players who have already completed the first game know that it won't end well for the Soviets.
- Book Ends: The original game begins and ends in Seattle. And the expansion pack begins and ends in Lebedjev's limosine.
- Brits with Battleships: When calling in airstrikes during the missions in Europe, the pilots have British accents.
- Camera Abuse: Explosions and nuclear fallout will display static and other effects on the screen if they happen too close to the camera. In the campaign, after the tactical nuke is detonated halfway through the story, the entire next chronological mission is played with the static effect turned on.
- Colonel Badass: Sawyer and his Soviet counterpart Orlovsky. Neither one is anything less than highly competent at what they do — albeit Orlovsky finds out all too quickly that the invasion is nowhere near as easy as he was told.
- Common Tactical Gameplay Elements: WiC implements a lot of common Real-Time Strategy elements: Fog of War (with a caveat that you can see most of the terrain from the start — but not what's happening on it), Scouting (the Infantry role's hat, with their insane viewing range), Movement Modifiers (moving downhill is faster than up), High Ground (firing down increases the tanks' range), Unit Specialization, Attack Range, Flanking (relevant when fighting tanks: they are much more vulnerable from the sides and back than from the front), Friendly Fire (as heavy choppers and artillery, but particularly with Tactical Aids), Taking Cover (infantry hiding the woods and buildings is harder to hit), Indirect Fire (artillery), Blind Firing (via Bombard command), Target Spotting (infantry/paratroopers in combination with any heavier ground unit), Concealment (infantry is invisible in the woods if not attacking or seen by enemy infantry), Smoke Screen (most heavy ground units can protect themselves with smoke, while heavy artillery can deploy a much larger screen at a distance).
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: The multiplayer AI, despite being well programmed, still cheats quite a bit. Enemy artillery can fire without needing to reload, can track your units extremely accurately, and the enemy will zero in on your drop zone eventually. This is particularly bad against the Soviets, as they have some very strong artillery. The AI doesn't respect the point system, either, and will replenish losses with the exact same units almost immediately.
- Cosmetically Different Sides: All the factions have the same units with the same abilities. While the American heavy tank is the M1 Abrams and the Soviet counterpart is the T-80, they are statistically identical, and ditto for most of the other units. There are a few units that differ here and there, but this is mostly with units that don't see much use on the battlefield.
- Cosmetic Award: Singleplayer gives you a variety of medals, awards and promotions for completing every objective. Online has a achievement system with the same goals, but there are multiple medals for each category (bronze, silver and gold). Medals are awarded for things like reaching certain scores in one match, being the best player in a match or best of role, total points per role and total, winning matches and launching nukes. A medal system is also in place for clans. None of these awards actually do anything, although reaching a certain rank may be required for some servers or clans.
- Covers Always Lie:
- The cover prominently features the Statue of Liberty under attack. While there is a mission in New York centered around a surprise attack on Liberty Island, most of the game takes place in Washington State.
- The cover art for Soviet Assault shows New York City getting nuked, even though the only nuclear weapons seen on-screen during the story of either game is a single, relatively small scale tactical nuke.
- Critical Existence Failure: While most infantry units are composed of Squads that may lose individual members, this applies in full force to any other unit on the field. Buildings' Hit Points also do not effect its integrity and protection for infantry until they run out.
- Crippling Overspecialization: All of the multiplayer roles are highly specialized in order to encourage team play:
- Infantry are liable to die pretty much whenever they are out of cover to anything firing at them while being the slowest units in the game, though are enormously effective against what enemy the individual unit is made for fighting while they are dug in and the role is provided vehicle transports — though the transports are soft-skinned and easily destroyed, with whatever was being transported being destroyed as well.
- Armor has the slowest vehicles and is extremely vulnerable to air units, but firepower and hardiness gives it ground superiority.
- Support is deficient at direct close-combat, but it provides the crucial anti-air units that prevent the rest of the team from being slaughtered by helicopters. Support also has repair tanks and artillery, with the latter's usefulness being highly situational.
- Air is highly mobile and destructive, but the role is very vulnerable to anti-air, and air units can't capture control points.
- Deadly Gas: One of the Tactical Aid abilities is the Chemical Strike, which calls in a plane to drop gas bombs on a target. The effects aren't particularly graphic (infantry take damage over time), and it only affects infantry.
- Death from Above: Not all Tactical Aids spew death, but they all come from the air. They are all quite spectacular, however.
- Death of a Thousand Cuts: Averted; attacking an armoured vehicle with weapons that should be incapable of hurting it will do nothing. Most units have a way of hurting armour anyway, but the basic machine guns won't work.
- Despair Gambit: The Soviet Union, bankrupt and on the verge of collapse, invades Europe and the United States in a desperate bid to save itself.
- Destructive Saviour: Faithful to real life warfare, saving areas is a messy endeavour. When Webb comments on the state of Seattle, Sawyer admits that the U.S. Army caused as least as much damage as the Soviets. There are some objectives based around avoiding this trope for notable buildings, but the Nuke on Cascade Falls is this in full force. At least most buildings are implied to be deserted by civilians. Most missions end with "Victory!" being plastered over a scene of a town reduced to ruins.
- Difficult but Awesome: The Infantry multiplayer role. They have the slowest and squishiest units in the game, unless they've gotten to a good position providing cover — which they likely need to use a fragile transport to reach — at which point their cover fixes the squishiest part while it holds and the squad easily takes out anything nearby.
- Divided We Fall: In multiplayer matches teamwork is everything, as every game mode is team based.
- Easy Logistics: While reinforcements take some time to be air-dropped in (and there is another delay until the plane returns to the off-map base, during which the player can't order any more units) and Tactical Aids take a while to occur, fielded units have unlimited ammo, fuel and other supplies. Infantry units can replace losses in a short amount of time. Reinforcements never run out aside from a few scripted instances in the campaign.
- Enemy Exchange Program: The player can repair and take over vehicles left behind by the other side in certain missions; they apparently do not require crews. One mission features Soviet special forces using a ridiculously large amount of captured U.S. vehicles. Captain Vance, an Army Ranger CO helping out in that mission, actually lampshades this, saying that the local base was undermanned and over-supplied. Another mission has the player take over a lot of left-behind vehicles starting with nothing but 3 vehicles. Where the crews come from is a complete mystery.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Orlovsky, the superior officer in the Soviet campaign, orders his men not to kill American civilians. Malashenko disobeys and attempts to execute some civilians, but is stopped in time by Orlovsky, who then scolds him as a result.
- A Father to His Men: Orlovsky is well-respected by his men, and cares deeply for them. Malashenko has these tendencies too, but they are also the catalyst for his Start of Darkness.
- Feelies: The collector's edition included a small, authentic piece of the Berlin Wall.
- Fog of War: As with Ground Control, and unlike most other games in the RTS genre, this game doesn't use visible fog of war, although it is still functionally there. In addition, units are not automatically revealed when they open fire if the enemy can't see them; in particular, artillery units need to have their shots traced by sight to determine the position of the units.
- Fore Shadowing: Sebatier's lover dreamt that he was killed, which is what happened in the next mission.
- Fragile Speedster: The Air role's units are fast and do good damage - however, they are incapable of taking points and die quickly when targeted. Similarly, the Infantry role's transports are also fragile, although somewhat slower in comparison.
- Garrisonable Structures: Riflemen and Anti-Tank squads become formidable against vehicles when garrisoned, but do keep an eye on the structural integrity of the building.
- Gatling Good: The Americans have two units which use gatling-like weaponry: the M163 Vulcan, which is used primarily for Anti-Airnote , and the A-10 Warthog, which is called in as an Anti-Tank Tactical Aid.
- Gauls with Grenades: Southern France gets invaded following a successful Soviet naval offensive in the Mediterranean. The First two of the flashback missions that show the fighting in Europe involve working alongside the French to repel this invasion. In fact you get to command them.
- General Failure: Captain Bannon, through a combination of cowardice, glory-hounding and incompetence.
- Glass Cannon: The Infantry role's units. Their weapons are as effective as any vehicle's against their intended targets, but without trees or buildings for cover, they tend to die when enemies look at them funny.
- Heroic Mime: Player characters Parker and (in Soviet Assault) Romanov are never heard to speak in-game; Parker has a bodily presence in certain cutscenes but we never see his face, and Romanov is never seen at all. They are, respectively, white American and Slavic, though. The intro to the final mission to retake Seattle reveals that the narrator of the U.S. missions (voiced by Alec Baldwin) is, in fact, Parker, though at that point it should be pretty obvious. By the same token, it is implied that the 2nd narrator of the Soviet missions — the one talking about the realities of the war — is Romanov.
- Heroic Sacrifice: At the climax of the first arc of the story, the foolish and cowardly Captain Bannon redeems himself by volunteering for a holding action against an overwhelming Soviet force so that the tactical nuke intended for them can take proper effect.
- Hold the Line: A frequent mission objective in the campaigns. Often, the player will be tasked with taking a particular set of strategic points and holding them for a few minutes; after the timer is up, AI-controlled reinforcements will usually shift drop zones to cover the newly captured area, and bunkers will be set up. Storywise, during the Invasion of Seattle, a panicked Private is heard on the radio screaming about how the Soviets won't get one inch further. Whether he succeeded or not is left open.
- Impressive Pyrotechnics: The game includes fire support options ranging from mortar bombardment through napalm drops and carpet bombing by B-52s all the way to tactical nuclear strikes, all depicted with massive amounts of sound and fury.
- Invaded States of America: The basic premise of the story; the game starts when Soviet troops manage to launch a surprise attack by using freight ships to get close to Seattle harbour without arousing suspicion until it is too late, and then start to make their way inland. This invasion occurs to the backdrop of World War III; the setting is explored later in the campaign.
- Instant-Win Condition: Since there are no bases, campaign missions usually have you fighting endlessly respawning enemy troops with your own army of respawning forces. After a while of not screwing this up, the game declares that you win, although the fight rages on behind the victory screen.
- It's Raining Men: Infantry unit creations and reinforcements parachute down to the field. In fact, all land units are air-dropped in, included the heaviest tanks.
- The purview of the Infantry role, whose unique infantry units are capable of fighting off all the other roles... as long as they can get to cover first. The role also includes the Troop Transport unit, which is one of the few units that can repair vehicles.
- The Infantry squad is incredibly versatile, as the combined arms of the individual soldiers make the squad capable of attacking every unit in the game, as long as the soldier carrying that particular piece of equipment isn't killed.
- The Armored Transport of the Armor role is capable of damaging every unit in the game.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Played with. NATO units are almost all from a different country, and this is reflected in their speech. Most responses to commands are given in a heavily exaggerated accent, likely to allow quick identification of units, but unit chatter is made in that unit's native language, and the voice actors are clearly native speakers. This applies to the Russian units as well; American units mostly have similar accents, however.
- Kill It with Fire: There are numerous incendiary weapons in the game. In particular, using napalm and fire-bombs to burn down forest cover is important to countering infantry; one of the Soviet missions has you field testing a particularly strong such bomb.
- Kinda Busy Here: Infantry units respond with this if you select them while they're engaged in combat.
- Knight Templar: Capt. Malashenko in the Expansion Pack. He does have a convincing reason, though: his wife and baby daughter are killed during Sawyer's surprise raid near Murmansk.
- Mauve Shirt: A CGI scene shows many American soldiers in transport helicopters gearing up and readying themselves to fight. A bunch of those choppers then get shredded by anti-air guns.
- The Medic: The Repair Tank, being one of the few units capable of repairing but is completely unarmed. However, it is still in the body of a tank and is fairly hardy. The Humvee also counts.
- Mercy Invincibility: Your units get several seconds of invincibility when they first spawn. Most noticeable if you get hit by a nuke the moment your units arrive and they all miraculously survive.
- Mission Control: You always have a commanding officer who pops in to give you mission updates and assign new objectives. Usually it's Colonels Sawyer or Orlovsky, but Captains Bannon and Malashenko and Majors Lebedjev and Webb also do so on occasion.
- Monumental Damage: The various multiplayer and single player maps feature numerous recognizable landmarks; all of them can be destroyed in the former, but only some in the latter, due to the way each mission is scripted:
- Subverted in Seattle — the Soviets destroy the Kingdome, a sports stadium that is only really recognizable by Seattleites, and was demolished seven years before the game was released.
- The Statue of Liberty is endangered in one mission. If the player fails to save it, there is a special cutscene before the Game Over.
- More Dakka: There's plenty of dakka to go around on both sides, but the true firepower comes from the Tactical Aids you can call onto the map. The Americans, for instance, can call an air to ground strafing run in a straight line wherever on the map they like, and an A-10 Warthog will happily oblige.
- Multinational Team: The NATO faction is an amalgam of units from different Western European countries. Their heavy tank and artillery units are German, medium and light tanks and artillery units are British, infantry are French, attack helicopters are Italian and transports are Danish.
- Multiplayer Difficulty Spike: Zig-Zagged; by pitting teams of players against each other, it both gives them access to all the destructive potential only glimpsed in the campaign, and enforces Crippling Overspecialization mostly absent from the single-player.
- My Country, Right or Wrong: Subverted in Soviet Assault; Orlovsky doesn't seem to like invading the United States. Played straight in the vanilla campaign with Colonel Sawyer, who will make any sacrifice — including American lives and infrastructure — to achieve victory for the United States.
- My God, What Have I Done?: It's clear that when Bannon kills a bunch of surrendering soldiers — or possibly civilians — accidentally, he does not take it well.
- My Greatest Failure: Arguably what prompts the above sentiment for Colonel Sawyer, and unlike other examples it's not part of the backstory, but part of the plot. He sees having to use the tactical nuclear weapon at Cascade Falls to be his own horrific failure (over the objections of Captain Webb—see the Mission 12 introduction movie) and will do anything—even sacrifice American lives in high-casualty, head-on attacks—to stop another nuke from being used.
- Noodle Incident: The game hints at a black mark on Sawyer's military career prior to the cutscene showing him being re-activated to command forces in Europe.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: In the original single-player campaign, the Soviets are non-playable. In Soviet Assault, however, they get 6 missions, interwoven into the 14-mission NATO and U.S. campaign.
- No OSHA Compliance: Subverted. The opening cinematic when Soviet armoured vehicles are shown being directed off their transports by safety-conscious personnel, wearing professional-looking ear protectors.
- Norwegians With No Ammo: Well, actually they have TONS of ammo!! And they know how to use it. They show up in the final two flashback missions showing the fight in Europe. They team up with the Americans to launch a raid on the Soviet coastline. And just like the French example above you're able to command them.
- In the Soviet expansion they appear as enemies when the Russians launch their own raid against Norway, completely unaware that NATO is doing the exact same thing to them.
- Poirot Speak: When playing as NATO or USSR, units will often speak a single phrase in their native lauguage before delivering the rest of their statement in English.
- Police Are Useless: Justified, since the police forces of Seattle and Washington State are not meant to engage professional soldiers, armoured vehicles and attack helicopters. Debatably even averted, as they still manage to do their part, and are seen building and defending barricades with revolvers and otherwise helping during the evacuation.
Port Authority Officer: [Dodging a gunship's minigun with his car] 11-99! [note] Officer needs Help. Extreme Emergency. [/note] Repeat, 11-99 emergency! They have gunships! I repeat, gunships! We need help immediately, America is under attack!
- The Political Officer: KGB Major Lebedjev in Soviet Assault. He comments on the deep faith Captain Malashenko has in the Soviet system.
- Rated M for Manly: The opening cinematic. 30 seconds of gunfire, charges and armored vehicles.
- Reds with Rockets: The plot revolves around a Soviet Union that choose to start a war rather than face collapse. They even use rockets.
- Redemption Equals Death: Bannon chooses stay behind at Cascade Falls to lure the Russians into the blast radius of the nuke.
- Revenge Before Reason: Subverted with the already angry Malashenko, who, when he learns his wife was killed by NATO back home, swallows his considerable anger and continues. Double Subverted later as he orders his men to defend Seattle against the American counterattack when it is clear the very notion is completely hopeless, especially as the American missions attest this by ending it with you succeeding in this counterattack.
- Right Man in the Wrong Place: At least for the Soviets. Parker and Bannon were in Seattle, either visiting family or getting reassigned for just being in the area when the Soviets attack.
- RPG Elements: Units gain experience and may rank up 4 times. Promoted units have faster cooldowns for their weapons and special abilities, as well as increased sight and accuracy. However, defense isn't affected in any way.
- Running Gag: Mike's has a state-of-the-art portable CD player (it's 1989), but can't find any batteries for it.
- Separate, But Identical: While each faction uses vehicles that they used during the Cold War in real life, they pretty much function identically to their counterparts on the other side. One notable exception is the Heavy Artillery unit. The U.S. and NATO use MLRS, while the Soviets use cannon artillery firing just a single powerful shell (yet it has a faster reload time than the Western counterparts).
- The Heavy Artillery differences are significant however, as following the smoke trails of the MLRS tips you off to its general location, whereas the cannon artillery is not nearly as vulnerable. In addition, there are minor differences between the various units depending on the faction: for the most part, the U.S. units are more heavily armored than the Soviet units, while the Soviet units are faster. The NATO units also have a slight benefit in speed. Functionally however, two heavy tanks against two heavy tanks will result in a Pyrrhic victory for whoever wins, so it doesn't really matter that much.
- Shared Life Meter: An infantry unit has a single life bar, but the health of each individual soldier is tracked separately. This is clearly demonstrated by 100% accurate attacks with no splash damage only killing one soldier at a time (such as a sniper or a heavy tank's HEAT shells). Medics can heal only living infantry, and replacements can be airdropped in to replace casualties.
- Short-Range Long-Range Weapon: Partly averted with tanks which have an impressive range (for an RTS unit, anyway) provided a forward scout, but artillery units have a drastically shortened range compared to their real life counterparts, However, this is only true for on-map artillery pieces - artillery strikes ordered through the tactical aid menu can hit anywhere on the map.
- Shout-Out: One of the multiplayer maps is set around the Mekong river. The map's name? "Apocalypse".
- Captain Bannon is named after the rather more stable and competent protagonist of Team Yankee.
- Shown Their Work: For a developer based in Sweden, Massive Entertainment did a hell of a job depicting downtown Seattle circa 1989.
- Slap-on-the-Wrist Nuke: The nuke in multiplayer deals heavy damage and can be used for zone control thanks to the radiation, but it affects a relatively small area, and its huge cost makes it a highly situational tool.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: In Soviet Assault, Malashenko is the idealist, believing in most, if not all, of his country's propaganda, while Lebedjev is the cynical one. Incidentally, their wives are on the same ends of the scale as them.
- Stuff Blowing Up: There are a lot of explosions in the game. Most of the support powers involve explosions of some kind, and it is not uncommon for the battlefield to be turned into a carpet of flashes and smoke when things heat up.
- Supporting Protagonist: Lieutenants Parker and Romanov may be keys to the military victories of their respective armies, but the story of the game ultimately revolves around the fall and redemption of Colonel Sawyer and Captains Bannon and Malashenko.