Although I can't say Act of War: Direct Action is anything new or innovative, I can say it's one hell of a damn good real-time strategy game. Instead of trying out new things, Eugine Systems went with the safe approach and perfected the tried and true aspects of the genre. Perhaps what piqued my interest and kept me playing, above all, was the focus on combat as opposed to building and preparation. No longer are the days of hours of building and preparing only to climax at a 5-6 minute battle. Attacks on your HQ come regularly, and objectives are piled on with secondary objectives added to make use of entire maps.
"As the price of crude reached a new record price of $75.30 a barrel yesterday, a new report from the American Energy Production Group issued dire warnings today that no end to today's oil crisis is in sight, and again called on the White House to act."
Thrown almost immediately into a world of terrorism and rising oil prices, you assume the role of Sgt. Mjr. Jefferson, head of Task Force Talon, and are directed against the Consortium, a terrorist organization planning assaults on various oil refineries around the globe. With the help of the U.S. Army, you'll fight on the Golden Gate Bridge as terrorists take over San Francisco, you'll fight in the streets of Europe and oil refineries of the Middle East, and eventually on the White House lawn. Advanced by cheesy live action video between levels, the story is filled with twists and turns that will have you playing just to find out what will happen next. Based on the novel by the New York Times' Bestselling Author, Dale Brown, you can rest assured you'll enjoy the plot and will be moved to ignore the cheese factor of the videos and dialogue.
With little more than a few elite infantry units, you'll eventually work your way up to tanks, mechs, helicopters, stealth bombers, all culminating with tactical nukes. As your levels increase and more advanced units become available, your infantry stay as useful beside fighters and tanks as they did beside tents and drones. You can have a company of tanks and helicopters, but the easiest way to take over a building will still be to storm the building and put your infantry in its stead. Throw a group of snipers on a rooftop to knock out enemy AA to bring your bombers and helicopters in, and your tactics will inevitably lead you to success. There's a ton of urban combat, so get used to it.
It doesn't detract from urban combat when all the details are stunning. Trees collapse as tanks roll over them, hydrants release streams of water when broken, windows are filled with infantry from occupied buildings, and explosions look lifelike. I was amazed at the tactical nuke explosions towards the end. If there was ever a war going on in a city, I would expect it to sound pretty much like Act of War: Direct Action, only without the stupid character quips. The music, frankly, sucks, but explosions and weapons sound lifelike and 3d audio makes everything OK.