Uber Soldier Review - 

World War II first person shooters make up many of the best games in the FPS genre, and with the sort of graphics that make your jaw drop and the type of supernatural gameplay to make you stare in awe, at times, Ubersoldier comes very close to them.

Firstly, when you see the game, and indeed the very high specs it needs to run at the highest level, you wonder whether this is more of a test from Burut, the developers, to see what can be achieved on a high end, modern PC. With the minimum requirements, you'll be playing at the lower end of the graphical spectrum, but the game still looks amazing.

You take on the role of Karl Stolz, who's a German Officer killed in action, and experimented on in the infamous underground Nazi science projects. The Nazis at this point are still very much in the war, so this experiment, to produce a super soldier from a lifeless corpse, could tip the balance. The idea is, that once you are in the void between life and death, and your body is trying to escape to the afterlife, you take on supernatural powers, and the Nazis want to harness these for everyday use.

The experiment on you is a success, and you learn through a variety of in game cut scenes (using the same graphics engine), that the first person these 'Ubersoldiers' hear, will be able to have full control over them. You're obviously in a science lab at a medical institution, but rebels have broken in, and their second in command, a feisty young woman, kills the two people guarding you, and perhaps predictably, talks to you. You are now under her command.

It would have been interesting to be able to order the ubers around yourself, but these such instances are controlled through the cut scenes, and it is probably for the good of the arcade gameplay that that is so.

Unfortunately, the abilities that you get aren't as varied as we first imagined. You get lots of health, improved strength and so on (the usual things that developers rarely have to explain in their first person shooters), and an incredibly cool shield, right from the start of the game. This shield, as you may have heard, completely encompasses Karl and everyone within about a metre around him, blocking bullets and keeping you safe. The excitement comes when you release the shield, as it sends everything it has caught back at the enemy, or wherever you are facing. Burut have kept it balanced, as you cannot fire out of the shield either, but it is a very effective means of wiping out enemies.

In fact, we charged into a room full of about 20 Nazis, activated our shield, spun round, to get bullets from all angles, and then released, and they shot off and must have killed at least half of our enemies. A very nice feature indeed.

There are 12 missions, including some on rails sections, with you being required to shoot down enemy aircraft (out at sea), but that's about as varied as it gets. The locations contrast well though, with the sea level about as far from the rest as it can get. The levels are large, and are designed with quite a bit to explore, and a fair amount purely for aesthetics. When you're walking through the streets of Czechoslovakia in the middle of the night, there is a really eerie feeling of unrest in the area. All the textures are superbly varied, and the graphics take on a sort of Timesplitters style in some parts, with the characters appearing more fake to create an alternate world for the gamer to play through, rather than striving for realism. Having said that, there has been a painstaking amount of details paid to the objects around you, with signs all readable (if you can speak German), objects in the way, that you can move and manipulate, and a veritable plethora of items to make you sit back and stare.

For a budget game, Burut have really put the effort in. The 12 missions will take you between 10 and 15 hours to complete, and all are pretty epic and memorable. While your objectives tend to be well laid out in front of you, they are easy to miss, and often you just go room clearing to try and get through the level. Some parts are impressive though, with you being tasked to destroy the wall of a warehouse, and eventually climbing into a tower and sending a crane flying towards the wall, making it all explode and crumble in real time – it would be nice for you to have to work out what to do for yourself, without the onscreen hints, but again, the game is about fun, and in that sense, it certainly delivers.

You have a bevy of authentic weapons for your use throughout the game, 16 in fact, and if you are a fan of Call of Duty, then you should feel right at home. There's the MP40, the BAR, the Kar98k, a Panzerfaust, the good old Stielhandgranate, or the potato masher to some, and a horde of pistols, amongst other weapon types. All these can be experienced in the first two missions, and as you progress, you can discover the other variants on the weapons. Each gun has an alternate fire mode, which is more often than not simply the ability to look down the gun's sight. There is a sniper rifle available to you, which is the first step towards 'headshot driven gameplay'.

Basically, when you get 3 headshot kills in a row, or pretty much together, icons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen light up, and you get a boost to your time shield. You can also get 3 knife kills in a row (the knife is simply mapped as a melee attack), which again, powers up your character's abilities.

The game is very immersing, with a small HUD, and great audio to couple with the graphics, and you'll often get involved with your character and feel the tension in the air.

You will regularly see the great rag doll physics of Ubersoldier, but there are times where it seems a little forced. When you shoot someone, they react incredibly realistically, and slump to the floor. You can in fact still shoot them while they are on the ground, and again, they react to it. The problem comes when you are aiming at the enemy in a window, and their building randomly explodes. The men get thrown out of the window, and it all looks a little fake. Similarly with explosions, if you see an explosive barrel, then you shouldn't go near it. This is one of our major gripes at Ubersoldier, because the explosive barrels could be stacked on a gangway that you have to walk past, with no enemies in sight, but as soon as you come within range of the barrel, it will explode. With no enemies in view, the only way to avoid being killed by the barrel is to shoot it before you get there, and it's these sorts of vaguely scripted moments, that leave you feeling annoyed when you die for seemingly no reason.

There are three different difficulty settings, and that makes Ubersoldier a fair bit more tactical, but you will find yourself hanging back and looking for the headshot through a gap in the cover, rather than running in. It's strange in that sense, as it seems to have been designed with run n' gun gameplay in mind, especially with the Time Shield, but it's still fun, whichever way you play.

On certain missions you will have teammates with you, but this is a largely story orientated inclusion. You can start with 20 men on your side, but a minute later, and they'll all be gone. Even running to their deaths to ensure they don't make the rest of the mission easier for you. You get sent sappers or reinforcements throughout the levels, but again, they'll die before you have a chance to catch up with them usually. It's nice that the game is realistic in this sense, but when you do get a character with you who is clearly invincible, it makes the gameplay more immersing, and draws you into the story, as you have some characters to get attached to, and it would be pleasing to see this more often.

There are vehicles in the game, although you won't be controlling them. There's certain objectives, much like in Call of Duty, where you are expected to run past 50 guards and stick some C4 on a tank, before scuttling off again to safety, and this adds a little variety and elements of franticness to the gameplay.

The enemies look pretty different in their faces, but all wear basically the same uniform. You will come up against some other Uber Soldiers during the game, who again, are all dressed the same, and are pretty zombified, but to see a pile of 10 dead people, all dressed exactly alike, does look strange.

The enemy AI is pretty good, and while they seem to see you from a mile off, even if you just stick your foot out from behind cover, and never seem to have to reload, they cover well and come to find you if you stay permanently dug in. The gas masks that some wear, and indeed the logo you'll see pasted around looks really great, and is stylised in what can only be described as a really cool way.

An oddity with the game is when you shoot a soldier. They'll fall to the ground, but unless you shot them in the head, or over eight times in the body, then they will get back up. Ok, you may say that this is a great addition to the gameplay, but when you run through a section, shooting ten guards and sending them all to the ground, you don't expect to turn round and see them all getting up in exactly the same way. It leads to people sneaking up on you, and detracts from the gameplay experience.

The dialogue is strange, as, while it is clear that you need the Germans speaking English to be able to understand them, they have really strong American accents, and their cries of 'where are you' sound straight from an American war film, rather than a German portrayal. The voice acting is quite poor too, with dialogue not stringing together too well, and some voices not matching the characters particularly impressively. Still, it gets the job done, and progresses the story.

Sound effects are much better, and although the guns sound a little watered down, the in game music, atmospheric ambience and tense clatters in the background keep you impressed.

At some points the graphics are amazing, while at others there are flaws. When planes fly overhead, they look sketchy and out of place. At the point of explosion, fire looks unreal, before the beautiful glow erupts and take the negativity away. The same applies with the physics. In the first level, there are stretchers and tables that can all be manipulated within the environment, but you will often latch onto them while running, blocking your path. The jump isn't great considering you're supernatural, and you spend minutes trying to move the objects out of the way and get past. The jump is problematic again when you have to navigate certain areas, which require jumps to be strung together, but thankfully, these are few and far between.

Sadly, there is no multiplayer, but please remember that this is a budget game, and with 15 hours of gameplay in there, you're getting your money's worth here. The game is fun. It has the addictive joy of simply mowing people down, with no real thinking involved, and while it can be challenging, you'll be replaying levels simply as a stress reliever. All this with such a high level of detail too.

With the amazing graphics, smooth gameplay, fantastic physics and innovative abilities, Uber Soldier shows what can be done, and it is so rewarding to see developers not after thirty or fourty pounds for games that could quite easily raise them. At the twenty pound price, this really is a must own for FPS fans.

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