Hammer & Sickle PC CD-ROM
Published by CDV Entertainment/KOCH Media
Developed by Nival Interactive
Release Date: 24th February 2006
Hammer & Sickle, an introduction.
Quality turn-based strategy games have always been in short supply and quality turn-based strategy games with RPG elements are even rarer. It was a sight for sore eyes then in 2003 when Silent Storm was released. Not only was the game impressive but it's one of the few titles in the genre that can live with the classics such as X-Com and Jagged Alliance 2. With Silent Storm being so impressive then, the expectations were high for Hammer & Sickle, a game that uses the same game engine and is essentially the same style. Surely we're going to have another tactical turn-based strategy/RPG classic on our hands?
What's the game about?
Hammer & Sickle puts us in a hypothetical Cold War scenario. The game is set in the spring of 1949 and puts you in the shoes of a Soviet spy. Well actually when you begin the game you're not a spy but you're asked to do a spy's work because, as the game puts it, 'you're expendable and intelligence agents are not.' The game begins as if it's going to tie-in with historical events but soon goes off onto a completely fictitious story line as you go undercover in the Anglo-American controlled West Germany. The game begins with you controlling just your character (you have a choice of six character classes to play as) but before long you'll have your own small squad with each member having their own particular special abilities. In theory at least Hammer & Sickle should be something special.
What's good about the game?
The game features day and night cycles and some tasks are easier when performed at particular times which adds an additional strategic element to the game. Hammer & Sickle has the same RPG elements that are to be found in Silent Storm and this does add interest to the game. The game claims to be a RPG but in truth it's very much a turn-based strategy game with RPG elements. You can develop your character in any which way you see fit which is a nice touch. Your actions in a mission (such as the relationships you form and the equipment you pick up etc.) will affect events in later missions which is certainly something worthy of praise. With being able to develop your character in any number of ways and being able to do missions in a number of ways, it means the replay value is going to be good. As a result of you being able to shape the overall experience through your actions, there are multiple endings which again increases the replay value of the game.
What's not so good about the game?
Silent Storm was an outstanding game and you'd naturally think that a game that's closely based on it would be very enjoyable. Sadly, Hammer & Sickle doesn't turn out that way and it's for a variety of reasons. For one the story seems disjointed, isn't very informative and isn't that interesting. Sometimes in missions it's not always clear what needs to be done. Whilst Silent Storm was very challenging in places it hardly ever became downright impossible. The enemy AI isn't what it should be but usually the amount of enemies provides the challenge (some missions seem to have a ridiculous amount of enemies). Hammer & Sickle almost immediately becomes frustrating with enemies almost always taking you out the first time they see you (even on the easy difficulty setting). The pauses for the enemies to take their turns are a bit on the long side and can get tedious in larger battles. Time ticks away even when you go into the menus which can be annoying. The game has also frozen on me several times too, which is rather puzzling as Silent Storm runs very well on the same PC. Overall the game just doesn't feel right and as a huge fan of Silent Storm, this is a big disappointment.
How does it look?
Graphically the game hasn't really changed from Silent Storm and you'll notice a lot of things such as character models that have been recycled. The superb damage modelling physics that were in Silent Storm can be found here too and they still look impressive. At the time of its release, Silent Storm actually looked very good for a turn-based strategy game but two years on and the graphics do look dated (although admittedly still more than good enough for a game this kind). What is baffling is the poor performance of the game. We reviewed the game on a PC that had an AMD 64 3200, an ATi X800XT with 1GB RAM. Our PC doesn't have the latest and greatest hardware but it's not a poor PC by any stretch of the imagination. In fact it runs Silent Storm very nicely but Hammer & Sickle seemed sluggish and scrolling around proved to be a choppy experience for some reason. The graphical details and resolution are configurable but nevertheless the game should perform a lot better than it does.
How deaf gamer friendly is the game?
Silent Storm was great for deaf gamers and Hammer & Sickle is pretty good too. Much of the visual feedback that Silent Storm had can be seen in Hammer & Sickle. The tutorial is subtitled. Character response subtitles can be enabled in the game so if your character makes a remark during a mission, this remark is shown in text. All important dialogue is shown in text so you'll be able to follow the story as it plays out. Ear icons appear above enemies to show that they can hear you which is a nice touch. In fact a good use of icons has been made throughout the game which is great to see. You can access your journal at any time which contains any information you may have collected or want to recall. The opening movie footage that plays when you first load the game isn't subtitled but aside from that everything else is fine.
After reading about Hammer & Sickle I felt sure this would be one of the best PC games of 2006. However, for one reason or another, the game hasn't turned out that way and even this early in 2006 it's quite fair to say that Hammer & Sickle has to go down as one of the year's biggest disappointments. Seeing as it's been over 2 years now since we reviewed Silent Storm I thought it was time to revisit the game to see if my opinion of Hammer & Sickle had been unnecessarily harsh. The difference between the games is like chalk and cheese. Silent Storm still has the ability to grab my attention and keep me playing for hours on end which is something I can't say about Hammer & Sickle. Don't misunderstand me, Hammer & Sickle isn't terrible but it's not in the same league as Silent Storm. If you've yet to play either game I would strongly suggest you pick up the Silent Storm Gold Edition (which can be found for less than £15) as it's a much better game. Those of you who enjoyed Silent Storm might want to give Hammer & Sickle a try but it's an inferior product in every way.
Overall Game Rating: 5.4/10
Deaf Gamers Classification:
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Hammer & Sickle is going to be one of the biggest disappointments of 2006. The game should have been a great follow up to Silent Storm but it ends up being a game that only the most determined fans of Silent Storm should persevere with.