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Video Game / Act of War

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Tomorrow's war has begun

The Act of War series is a Real-Time Strategy franchise developed by Eugen Studios (now better known for the Wargame series) and published by Atari, which is based on the works of Dale Brown and features modern warfare along with some 20 Minutes into the Future sci-fi technology, excellent 3D graphics, pre-rendered Cut Scene videos and its own music. The game was originally released as Act of War: Direct Action and has an Expansion Pack named Act of War: High Treason. There's also a Spin-Off Tower Defense game called Act of War: Urban Defense.

There are three factions in the game, United States Army, Task Force Talon and the Consortium.

The story centers around the efforts of Task Force Talon, an elite US counter-terrorism force led by Major Jason Richter, to fight back the actions of the Consortium, an extremely powerful international organization conspiring to manipulate the economic order of the world for their own gain. Task Force Talon must counter their operations across the world, including in America itself.

Another highlight of the game is the realism of the combat mechanics. Units have a limited range of sight, which can be further restricted by terrain and structures, and can be critically injured from taking too much damage, utterly disabling them. A unique feature is the Prisoner of War system, where critically injured enemy troops or non-combat personnel from destroyed vehicles and buildings can be captured and sent to specialized buildings where they produce additional income. Capturing enemy wounded and medivacing/healing your own is an important aspect of gameplay.

Weapons of mass destruction and air raids are available, the latter working with air control towers instead of the usual airfields. High Treason introduces the option to call for mercenaries, powerful specialist units which can fight for you in exchange for periodical payments. It also adds naval combat and amphibious operations.

As you may imagine there are many tropes applied to this game, so it's ordered in 5 folders, one for the game itself, three for the factions and one for the Mercenaries.

A Spiritual Successor, Act of Aggression, has been announced.


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    Act of War 
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: Humvees, BTR-80s, Strykers and more!
  • Batman Gambit: Played straight and zig-zagged. Zakharov orchestrates a series of failing terrorist attacks throughout Direct Action's story for the sole purpose of setting up the Invaded States of America. His main method of setting up the invasion is getting himself captured by Task Force Talon and the plan is mostly successful. Zhakarov's downfall however was not anticipating Task Force Talon tracking Chamberlain's GPS-laden watch which led to Zakharov's HQ being destroyed.
  • Broad Strokes: To the book of the same name. The general outline is there but details differ.
  • Civil Warcraft:
    • The last two missions in Direct Action have you going up against Consortium troops exclusively using US Army equipment and uniforms.
    • More prominent in High Treason, since the plot of the game is about a coup d'état of the US government. The final mission even features Consortium troops using Task Force Talon equipment for the first time.
  • Command & Conquer Economy: All three factions run on a single resource, Money, which can be acquired through oil derricks and POWs.
  • Cool Boat: The expansion introduces naval warfare, and of course most of the units are very cool.
  • Cool Plane: One of the highlights of the game is the amount of real-life cool planes and helicopters you find.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: A few units in each faction tend to be very good at one thing, but useless outside of that role. In addition, some units have multiple modes which are cripplingly overspecialized in different things.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Zig-Zagged. Infantry will lose speed when their health drops below half, and vehicles and ships can't shoot when badly damaged enough. Structures and aircraft, on the other hand, don't lose any of their capabilities as they take damage.
  • Dale Brown: The mind behind the plot of the game.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Jefferson is a lot more prominent in the first quarter of Direct Action than he is in the rest of it.
  • Death from Above: You may expect a lot of this from this game.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: President Baldwin, who was rather prominent in the original game, gets killed at the start of the expansion, triggering the plot.
  • Elite Mooks: The U.S. Army and Consortium have the Delta Force and Optical Camo Soldier, respectively. TFT's Task Force Commandos are elites as well, despite being their basic infantry unit. They can be made even more elite in the expansion, with the Future Force Warrior upgrade.
  • The Faceless: They tried to have Richter be this until San Francisco in the first game. Key word being tried. It's very easy to see his face in several of the cutscenes thanks to the poor lighting and camera angles.
  • Faction Calculus: United States Army (Powerhouse), Task Force Talon (Subversive), Consortium (Balanced).
  • Friendly Sniper: Oz from the expansion.
  • Full Motion Video: With some surprisingly high production values.
    • They did away with them in High Treason, though thanks to a few CGI cutscenes shot like FMVs, it can take a while before a player actually notices that. Make of what what you will.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Civilian structures can be occupied, with the counter options being snipers, sending infantry in, or just blowing it up. You can also place troops on top of them.
  • Glass Cannon: Infantry and aircraft in general, as well as some vehicles, can deal relatively large amounts of damage but can't survive too much enemy fire.
  • Godzilla Threshold: Two cases in Direct Action.
    • In the second San Francisco mission, S.H.I.E.L.D units are deployed to halt the Consortium's invasion despite Chamberlain's concerns over revealing them to the public.
    • In the final mission, President Baldwin authorizes the usage of "Wolverine" tactical nukes in Washington DC to bring down the uplinks directing the Falling Star WMD before it can destroy the White House.
  • Hero Must Survive: If either Jefferson or Oz show up in a mission, they have to survive or it's game over. Same goes for President Baldwin in the level where you must rescue him from the Marine One shootdown.
  • Hero Unit: Sergeant Major Ray Jefferson in Direct Action, as well as Sergeant Oz Jackson in High Treason.
  • Honest Corporate Executive: Not instantly apparent, but the oil CEO rescued in the first quarter of the game comes off as this when one realizes that he was resisting Consortium efforts to take over the newly discovered Egyptian oilfields (potent enough to turn around the current oil crisis) and paid a heavy price for it.
  • Human Resources: The resources aren't literally extracted from their bodies, but the player does receive money for every enemy infantry unit they capture, and every faction has a special structure which can generate money with the enemies being held in custody.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Zakharov manages to snipe the tail rotor of Marine One, causing it to crash not far from the White House. Luckily the President survives. Unluckily, so does Chamberlain who was the real target.
  • Invaded States of America: Zakharov ships in Consortium troops into American soil, and launches an invasion on Washington DC.
  • The Masquerade: A mundane version occurs in the second San Francisco mission in Direct Action, when Richter asks General Kelly to authorize the use of S.H.I.E.L.D units. Chamberlain rejects it on the grounds that there are reporters all over the city and the revelation of the US military having Powered Armor would be the icing on an already disastrous situation. Richter counters that the already bad situation will get even worse without them, and Chamberlain concedes.
  • Missing Backblast: Inverted, where the player can have infantry occupy buildings for added protection. Attempting this with rocket-armed troops will result in the death of the rocket guy, some or all of any other infantry in the building, and considerable damage to the building itself the instant something hostile comes within range of the garrisoned building and those rocket guys open fire on it.
  • Monumental Damage: In Direct Action, the Golden Gate bridge gets badly damaged during the campaign, and the last two missions have several Washington DC monuments that can be destroyed, though this causes mission failure for a couple of them.
  • More Dakka: Every faction has a lot of it, particularly for anti-infantry or anti-air weapons.
  • Motive Decay: The plot of Direct Action went from the Consortium monopolising the increasing oil prices via terrorist attacks to Zakharov waging war with America because he can.
    • He even lampshades it when he is brought back to the States, giving a sarcastic response when the Americans ask him why he did what he did. It is also made clear since the first mission that the rest of the Consortium is not happy whatever he's doing and they eventually cut ties with each other sometime before TFT enters Russia.
  • Nigh-Invulnerable: In campaign mode, Sgt. Major Jefferson. He behaves similar to any Task Force Commando, but has ridiculously high health and rapid regeneration. Additionally, whenever his HP goes below a fifth (at which point other infantry units would be crippled and die if they do not receive medical attention soon) Jefferson keeps regenerating and gets back up soon thereafter. This greatly increases his effective durability. Tough to lose when he's this broken.
    • Same goes for Oz Jackson in the expansion.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Chamberlain, the National Security Advisor in Direct Action. He turns out to be a member of the Consortium, so that might be the real reason for his interference.
  • Our Presidents Are Different: President Baldwin is somewhere between President Personable and President Iron: In person he is quite polite and affable. He stands by what he believes but is still willing to listen to the counsel of those around him when presented with good evidence. He also has some elements of President Action, being a veteran of the Vietnam War and using military protocol when his helicopter is shot down to help TFT rescue him before the Consortium can kill him.
  • Police Are Useless:
    • Averted in San Francisco and Washington DC levels where you can find and recruit survivors of the local police and SWAT teams respectively and are capable of dealing a lot of damage, though not taking much. In-Universe, these guys managed to survive against enemies armed with military hardware, making them definitely not "useless".
    • Averted by the Metropolitan Police in the London level, who are in a similar boat of being able to deal a fair amount of damage but not necessarily take it, and who put up a fight against enemies with military hardware as well.
  • President Evil: Turns out the Big Bad of High Treason is Vice President Cardiff, who is a Consortium mole and orchestrated the assassination of President Baldwin and the kidnapping of Senator Watts so he could become president and win the election unopposed. He does become president for a while, but TFT rescues Senator Watts, who exposes Cardiff's allegiance.
  • Psycho for Hire: Zakharov eventually turns out as such. He's more interested in wrecking havoc in America than making a profit from the sky-rocketing oil prices, the latter of which was the reason he was brought into the Consortium in the first place.
  • Put on a Bus: General Kelly gets arrested for bogus charges at the start of the expansion, though he comes back for the last few missions. Like President Baldwin, he was a prominent character in the original game and most likely dropped due to the lack of live action cutscenes.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: President Baldwin. In one scene in which Chamberlain is trying to obstruct Richter from saving the Egyptian refinery, it's implied that the President grabbed the phone out of Chamerlain's hand to give Richter the go ahead.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: While he's technically betrayed the US already, Chamberlain is killed by Zakharov after he targets Falling Star at the White House.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Zig-Zagged. Buildings are indeed built ridiculously fast, but vehicles are dropped in by helicopter instead of being manufactured in the field.
  • Running Both Sides: The Consortium has the means to fund all of the bleeding edge military technologies, which include Task Force Talon's advanced units thanks to having officers like Chamberlain in the U.S. military leadership during Direct Action. The facade does break in High Treason and by that game's conclusion, the Consortium has resorted to using the remaining leftovers of Task Force Talon's arsenal until their demise.
  • Shoot the Medic First: Given how important POWs are to the game's economy, it's vital to take out your opponent's ability to heal their troops and their medevac units. Except for TFT, because their medic equivalent, the nanowave healing center, reaches anywhere, making it that much difficult to counter.
  • Strategic Asset Capture Mechanic: The game requires oil wells (the game's sole resource) to be capped with an extraction structure.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: From nukes to falling satellites.
  • Tank Goodness: The Tier 3 tanks of each faction are very powerful. Spinners, Akulas, Abrams, you name it.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Particularly evident with artillery, which always seem to know where your forces are.
  • Title Drop:
    • In Direct Action, there are two: Task Force Talon is stated to be a "Direct Action" team, and during the invasion of San Francisco, Jefferson says that this isn't just a terrorist attack, but an "Act of War".
    • In High Treason, it's stated a couple of times that Task Force Talon is wanted for "High Treason".
  • Units Not to Scale: While infantry are a bit out of scale with a few vehicles, it's mostly kept at very realistic proportions, particularly in urban combat, where the infantry can be seen inside the structure and will fire through the windows.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: Every faction has access to Tactical Weapons, as well as Counter-Tactical Weapons that can intercept and destroy them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • So, about that world oil crisis that triggered the plot...?
    • In High Treason, we hear that the Consortium took over Cuba, but that plot goes nowhere once TFT leaves. There is also a brief Handwave that the country would have been abandoned following the Consortium's destruction.
  • You Have Failed Me: In the epilogue of High Treason, it's revealed that Cardiff was killed by the Consortium for being a liability prior to the organization's destruction.

    United States Army 
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier:
  • Boring, but Practical: Of all the playable factions, the US Army is the most "conventional," with its units generally being far less flashy or futuristic in design. On the other hand, its arsenal is still rugged and robust enough to win the day.
  • Cold Sniper: Excellent in their role, but you better make them fall back against any other kind of unit.
  • Composite Character: While called the "Army", the manual clarifies that the faction actually represents the combined forces of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Marine Corps.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: One of the main characteristics of this faction. They have units which are far superior than any other in a particular area, but are basically useless out of their main role. For example, the F-15 is the strongest fighter plane in the game, but only carries Anti-Air Missiles.
  • Deflector Shields: The Abrams tank can be upgraded with temporary shields which reduce any incoming damage.
  • Fun with Acronyms: EFV (Electronic Fighting Vehicle), MLRS (Multiple Launch Rocket System) and FAT-V (Future All Terrain Vehicle).
  • Gatling Good: A-10 Warthogs, though they only use them in High Treason.
  • Grenade Launcher: A potential upgrade for the Marine, which causes every 5th shot to be a grenade.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The EFV in the expansion can give this to any friendly unit nearby, except for other EFVs.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The MLRS is all about this. It's utterly devastating for anyone on the receiving end.
  • Power Nullifier: The EFV.
  • Power-Up: The EFV again.
  • Semper Fi: Ironically, their basic infantry unit is a Marine, though for some strange reason they say "Hoorah" instead of "Oorah"note .
  • Superior Firepower: Bombers: US Army have access to the B-2A Spirit.
  • Tank Goodness: The M1 Abrams, which is highly durable and packs a punch with its 120mm cannon. Can be upgraded with a temporary shield that makes it even tougher.
  • You Nuke 'Em: Their Tactical Weapon is a tactical "Wolverine" nuke.

    Task Force Talon 
  • Attack Drone: They love this trope a lot. They have construction drones, recon drones, tank drones which can switch between a 105mm railgun, a rack of AA missiles or suicide bomber drones, and drone planes. The expansion adds a modified recon drone that can become a mine and a version of the aforementioned tank drone that carries a cruise missile instead.
  • Awesome Personnel Carrier: The Stryker deserves a special mention, since you can upgrade it to become a mortar platform or an antitank unit.
  • BFG: Their Heavy Snipers pack 35mm anti-materiel rifles that can put the hurt on vehicles and infantry with equal efficiency.
  • Cool Car: "This is a buggy!"
  • Death from Above: Their WMD is the massive Mjolnir artillery piece.
  • Dual Mode Unit: Many of their units can select an alternate mode, which can give them completely different capabilities.
  • Elite Army: To give you an idea, their basic infantry unit, the Task Force Commando, can easily dispatch any of their counterparts from the other factions even if outnumbered. They can become even more elite with the Future Force Warrior upgrade added in the expansion.
  • Fun with Acronyms: S.H.I.E.L.D stands for Super-High-Speed(Direct Action)/Mobility(High Treason) Infantry ELectronic Defense System.
  • Gatling Good: Sentry Turrets have these from the start, the V-44 transport has a pair under the nose, and is one of the weapons available for S.H.I.E.L.D units.
  • Glass Cannon: The Heavy Sniper can dish out a lot of damage, but can't take much.
  • Grenade Launcher: Comes standard with Future Force Warriors in High Treason, which causes every 5th shot to be a grenade.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The Comanche comes with one. The V-44 can also be upgraded to have one.
  • Jack of All Trades: Their units tend to be the most versatile, typically either through Dual Mode Unit or upgrades.
  • Powered Armor/Super-Soldier: S.H.I.E.L.D units, soldiers wearing massive mechanical exoskeletons which allow them to move faster, take more damage and carry bigger weapons than normal infantry can. Unfortunately, they become more vulnerable to anti-vehicle weapons.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The Spinner Drone defaults to a 105mm railgun, the Sentry Turret can be upgraded with a similar weapon, and the DD(X) Destroyer from High Treason has a pair of 155mm railguns.
  • Military Mashup Machine: The Spinner Drone is a drone tank which can switch out its default 105mm railgun for a suicide drone or AA missile battery.
  • Nanotechnology: All TFT infantry and S.H.I.E.L.D units wear special nanotech uniforms that can heal them when activated by a Nanotech Healing Center.
  • Semper Fi: Task Force Commandos sometimes respond to being selected in High Treason with "Marine SPF.", likely a reference to the USMC's Maritime Special Purpose Force.

  • Army of Thieves and Whores: The Consortium uses as its private army a "large number of armed groups around the world — terrorist organizations, armed militias, freedom fighters, mercenaries", with the more basic troops having low-tech but still effective gear (such as Kalashnikov rifles and self-propelled mortars).
  • Attack Drone: Their Akula stealth tanks.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Polaris Sniper vehicle, which is basically a buggy with a sniper in the turret, good against lightly armed infantry but useless against anything else, another case of Crippling Overspecialization.
  • BFG: The Kornet, which require two soldiers to be fired and only needs one to two shots to take down most tier 1 vehicles. Also a case of Glass Cannon, as they're fragile.
  • Cannon Fodder/Mooks: Their standard AK-74 soldier is the weakest of the basic infantry, with a Task Force Commando being able to take on 3 of them at the same time and win.
  • Colony Drop: The Falling Star project originally developed by the US, the Consortium WMD, works by making a satellite fall over enemy targets, it can be upgraded with Ebola virus to deal additional damage to any unfortunate survivor.
  • Elite Army: In contrast to the Consortium's "Undercover" arsenal, which is primarily comprised of Soviet-era surplus, its "Revealed" units are far more sophisticated and lethal with very high-tech gear (e.g. optical camouflage-equipped soldiers and railgun-armed stealth tanks).
  • Flawed Prototype: The YF-23 Black Widow, a real-life plane which was cancelled because the US military preferred the more flexible and agile F-22 Raptor, can be built by this faction. It's the weakest plane in terms of damage output, but it can attack both air and ground units and drop bombs against structures, making it the Jack of All Trades of aircraft in gameplay.
  • Grenade Launcher: While called and treated as a mortar unit, the MM-1 soldier is using an oversized grenade launcher.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Except for the Piranha artillery and the Blackjack bomber, all of their high tier units have stealth technology.
  • Magnetic Weapons: The Consortium's only defense buildings are railgun turrets, which are exceptionally effective against everything. Their Akula stealth tanks also pack dual railguns.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Mi-35 Hind-D copter is slower than its counterparts, but it has enough armor and HP to survive loads of punishment. Once upgraded with rocket batteries and missiles, it can win a one-on-one fight even against most AA units.
  • N.G.O. Superpower: The Consortium has enough money and tech to wage open war against America, even managing to occupy Washington DC.
  • Non-Indicative Name: This faction has two tech levels. The first is "Undercover", which doesn't have any stealth units, while the second is "Revealed", which primarily consists of stealth units.
  • Renegade Russian: Zakharov, the leader of the Consortium in Direct Action, is Russian. He also convinces a Russian army unit to join him.
  • The Plague: Basically the objective of the Consortium in High Treason, and of course the Ebola loaded weapons they normally use.
  • We Have Reserves: Both in gameplay and in story, the Consortium can easily afford to take heavy casualties.
  • Zerg Rush: Considering how cheap their basic infantry is, it's an affordable tactic, although it can be countered with a decent amount of effort.

  • Big, Bulky Bomb: The "Fireworks" illegal mercenary, a truck which can deploy a nuclear warhead.
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: Need some additional fast overwhelming firepower in exchange of money? Well now you know what to use.
  • Combat Medic: The "Grizzly" Rescue Team, which both can fight and heal friendly units.
  • Invisibility Cloak: The "Shadow Hawk" F-117A Nighthawk is, of course, a stealth plane.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: The "Rawhide" Smerch Rocket battery (misnamed in the game, it's actually the Russian TOS-1), which has even more missiles than the US MLRS, great for annihilating the enemy in a rain of fire.
  • Private Military Contractors: We have the official, the unofficial and the illegal.
  • Tank Goodness: The T-80 tanks of the "Burning Legion".

Alternative Title(s): Act Of War Direct Action