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The Slacker's Guide - Because You Just Can't Go Wrong With Mechanized Weaponry

by Chris Barylick
August 2nd, 2006

Some things are infallible. Mechanized weaponry, especially that set in a futuristic setting, falls under this category. And in a decade where we were promised Jetsons-esque technologies, only to find that a digital video camera has to be returned to CompUSA for a third time given that all new problems arose during its last repair process, we're entitled to hope for some comic book technologies within our lives.

A few years back, Battlefront.com did something new and interesting with Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin. Here was a game unlike anything else on the strategy title market that took a battle and dissected it into single minute, turn-based chunks. Until then, I'd never seen anything quite like it. As the battle roared on, the field widened and new tactics had to be decided upon as units ran out of ammo, became frightened, found themselves pinned down or moved on to take new territory.

Perhaps most striking about the title was the work that went into it. Still sitting on one of my shelves is the 266-page manual that went with the game. The title, designed to replicated the machines, equipment fighting style, theater and environment of World War II to a tee. The team behind it prided itself on being the war gamer nerds of the industry and they had their work cut out for them.


A defeated tank in Battlefront.com's DropTeam.

Several years and multiple products later, Battlefront.com has released DropTeam, a futuristic military strategy game in which players compete against both the computer and human opponents via the use of dozens of mechanized weapons. Like most competitive games, the player chooses the weapon of their choice, which is dropped in via a ship and then deployed into the field. From here on in, the player fights as best as they can, working with teammates to reinforce or advance their position as well as outflanking the enemy.

While this isn't anything new, Battlefront.com has added some interesting elements. There are no super-vehicles to be had here or ultimate weapons to be fired. Like anything, there are strengths and weaknesses to each vehicle, players fighting with machine guns, artillery rounds and lasers while maneuvering across variable terrain (trees, small ditches and hills make all the difference). Combine this with realistic physics, cool sound work and graphics/terrain that are on par with some of the best titles out there and you have a compelling real time military strategy title.


A player takes aim at an incoming drop ship.

Military titles are nothing without tactics and DropTeam actually has some extremely interesting functions that can be performed. In addition to strictly combat units, reconnaissance, command and defensive units can be called in. Players can help hold a line by planting automated turrets and land mines while a clever mix of vehicles such as long-range artillery and fast, short-range vehicles can help slow an enemy advance and achieve long term goals. It's finding the right blend that proves to be fun and this could turn into an extremely fun title for network play wherein two teams collaborate closely with each other.

DropTeam is currently available as a 230 megabyte multiplayer demo available for download through 3ddownloads.com. The demo links to multiple servers and gives a good idea of the game, albeit the demo code brings even mightier Macs screeching to a halt. For the first time since Doom 3, I found myself lowering the visual quality of the title via the built in settings. This may signal that it's time to move on past a dual 2.0 GHz G5 tower, even though the minimum requirements to run the program are Mac OS X 10.4.5 or higher and a 1.2 GHz or faster G4/G5/Intel processor. DropTeam's demo expands to occupy 323.2 megabytes once decompressed. The full version sells for $45 for download and mail delivery and $55 for both.

While I'm not accustomed to recommending a demo version of a game in this column, much less its retail counterpart, Battlefront.com has created something fun that can only get better. The mechanized elements chase after the nerdier elements in my heart while the strategic elements can find a wider appeal. There's something good here that's worth a look and Battlefront.com has fulfilled their role of the detail-oriented war game nerds all over again.

That wraps it up for this week. As always, if you see anything new, cool or useful in the Mac universe,

.

Chris Barylick covers games for The Mac Observer, and has written for Inside Mac Games, MacGamer, UPI, the Washington Post, and other publications.

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