Soldner: Secret Wars

Any time you start or end a mission in Soldner: Secret Wars, some guy says “ZOLD-nerrr†while it’s loading. He sounds really bored, and you can hardly blame him, as he’s in the unenviable job of narrating one of the worst action games you’ll ever play.

Snap35In Soldner, you play a soldner, which the manual defines as a “rather small but highly specialized mercenary.†They seem regular sized, but the part about being a mercenary is dead on. You pick from a list of missions, accomplish them, and then return to base to reap the reward, which is often a new vehicle or another kind of gun. Sometimes you also win another idiot team member who will disregard your orders and do things like sit in the gunner’s seat of your tank, shooting at nothing in particular and refusing to let you take the controls.

Your idiot team members aren’t too great of a liability, because your opponents are equally dumb. Your objective is often to blow up or steal something, all the while the enemy troops are zigzagging off in random directions or running back and forth inside houses because they apparently haven’t mastered the concept of doors. Some of them are ramming tanks and jeeps into trees. In the midst of this chaos, it’s a simple matter to accomplish your objective and simply leave without any bloodshed.

What hurts most about Soldner is that it’s doing things that other first-person shooters should be doing. Remember when Red Faction promised destructible terrain in a first-person shooter? It’s a sad joke that a game like Soldner finally delivers on this promise. Buildings can be knocked over and destroyed. You can blow a hole in a wall if you don’t feel like using the door. Trees fall over and serve as cover. Explosions even dig shallow craters in the ground. In multiplayer games, a captured base is reduced to a smoking ruin by the time the round is over. It makes you appreciate just how silly it is in Battlefield Vietnam and Joint Operations that all those thatch huts are still standing.

Snap48Soldner’s dynamic campaign is also a wonderful feature that should be in more games. It lets you build up a team and a cache of equipment over time, much like you did in X-COM. You can equip your soldners however you want for each mission, making use of all sorts of vehicles to get you where you need to go. Imagine loading up in a helicopter, flying to your objective, doing the dynamically generated deed, and then flying home. It would have a great “all in a day’s work†vibe, but in Soldner, it’s just pointless. Since no one’s going to put up a fight, you can destroy your target from a kilometer away in a tank.

It’s too bad that such potentially great features are wasted on a game as bad as Soldner. It’s a sad state of affairs when a patched up game is worse and less ambitious than Breed, Chrome, or Conflict: Desert Storm II.

System Requirements: Pentium III 750 MHz, 256 MB RAM, Win98SE

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