By Mr. P

I’ve been playing this game for the past 8 hours, and I’m still not sure if I’m playing something good, or a rehash of Minesweeper…

pspimg0006.jpgThe premise will be familiar to anyone who’s played a roll playing game on any format, best encapsulated in the phrase ‘the fog of war is thick today..’
For those that haven’t, in Steel Horizon’s you control a flotilla of ships, of different types, and attempt to confront the enemy ships and destroy them. That would be easy if you could see the whole map, but you can’t as the ‘fog of war’ hides all but the things near to you. Certain ships and aircraft launched from carriers can extend your ‘horizon’ and give you the jump on what the other fella is upto. But it’s also about resource management, having the shipwards to replace losses or mount assaults. The more ports you control the greater number of ships you can amass, and the less available to bash you with. Ships can be grouped in command groups of 8, and your allowed 8 groups, giving you a grand total of 64 ships. This can be a pain, because when you reach 8 groups it won’t let you have any more even if you’ve only got one vessel in a particular group. Often it can be a tactical plan to intentionally trash an unimportant group so that you can bring on better, faster, stronger reinforcements, which is a little crazy..

Given the limitations of the PSP, the control system is relatively simple and does become annoying quickly. Each battle group can be highlight and then a wheel-of-selection appears. What soon grinds is the systems ability to select by default what you don’t want to do next, and if you cancel reset the wheel position from where you just had it. An option for it to say stay on ‘Move’ by default would be appreciated. That said, I soon had my ships zigzagging around the small map ready to take on whatever the opposition could throw at me! They’ve kindly included some tutorials which prime you on the tactical and strategic thinking you’ll need to employ to win, like the mixes of ships and what works against specific opposition. It’s worth doing these, because they do give some insight into the logic behind naval combat, or at least in WWII.

pspimg0021.jpgThe battles themselves are performed in 3D with a small intervention on your part. Once the fleets engage you can select individual ships and direct them to move or attack, and special ships have a ‘special’ manoeuvre which they can perform periodically. It could actually be more fun if the fighting space was bigger and the battles lasted longer than 60 seconds, a time so short you often wonder if you had any impact on the outcome. But more of a problem for me was some of the things I saw happening as I progressed further into the Campaign mode.

pspimg0009.jpgThis is one of three basic modes that you get, the other is a quick game ‘skirmish’ and ‘Mulitplayer’ head to head. In some respects it’s a story mode where your presented with fictional parts of the war and told to go sort it out by some brass hat. I’m not sure why they put these bits in games, because I don’t play them to have some fat bloke in uniform tell be the bleeding obvious, a basic outline of the scenario would suffice.

These points are irritating, but some things that happen in battles are entirely baffling. Like a landing craft pushing on alone an attack against a flotilla of heavy cruisers! It didn’t make any sense, it wasn’t like he was going to take anyone with him, was it? In another incident a powerful enemy group sat motionless in mid ocean while I brought up five entire groups and lined them up. One weakened group consisting of destroyers was in clear view, but it ignored them – ironically I used these to finish them off once the battleships had crippled them. But it’s not only the AI tactics that seem strange. In one encounter two enemy landing craft survived without any damage the combined assault of three Aircraft Carriers, two Light Cruisers and two Destroyer Escorts. How? There’s statistical possibility, and there’s luck, but that’s a bit beyond belief.

However, 8 hours in and I’m still playing, so it must be doing something right! Perhaps I’m holding out hope that the later levels will introduce more cunning on behalf of the AI and as yet undiscovered challenges. If it doesn’t I’ll be relegating this to those times I’d like to play Minesweeper.

Score: 5/10 

0 Responses to “Steel Horizon’s on the PSP”

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