S.W.I.N.E. is one of the strangest RTS games that you will come across this year. In a sort of animal W.W.II were the Rabbits are the Allies and the Pigs are the Axis the action gets as bizarre as it possibly could. This may make the game sound as though it was RTS spoof but in actual fact S.W.I.N.E. is a solid RTS that should appeal to most fans of the genre.
Avoiding the base building element of RTS games and keeping your unit count on the small side, the basics of the game seem fairly similar to Mechcommander 2. While controlling small forces may not sound as exciting as some of the more grandiose strategy games of the last 18 months, such as Cossacks, the units have special abilities and also need to be maintained for their condition, fuel and armour so a greater degree of supervision is necessary. The units can also be upgraded and gain battle experience.
There is also a degree of customisation about your forces. You are given SP's (Strategy Points) after each battle. These SP's allow you to purchase more units or supply trailers to carry forward into the next battle. Of course you can choose to purchase no additional units if you so wish but I found purchasing extra, more varied units allows you to adopt more effective strategies than simply going with the default line-up.
The game has two campaigns, one of which is based on you playing as the Rabbits and attacking the Pigs and the other is you playing as the Pigs and sees you attacking the Rabbits. The Rabbits campaign is the easier of the two and slowly eases you into the game. The Rabbits campaign is, for the most part an extension of the tutorial as it begins with only basic units and slowly introduces you to the more advanced enemies. The Pigs campaign requires a firm grasp of the game in order to complete it, as it can get quite hectic very early on and the maps tend to be larger and contain more buildings and enemies. On the multiplayer side of things there are four variations, Death Match, Capture the flag, Countdown and Domination with the option to compete as either the Rabbits or the Pigs.
Graphically S.W.I.N.E. is very good. The terrain graphics are especially good with the textures looking terrific. The units whilst not being the most detailed are fantastically animated. The tanks recoil and visibly shake when explosions land close by. The spirits of the pigs that waft from the vehicles when they have been destroyed has been superbly done. As the game is in full 3D you can rotate the viewpoint and a limited zoom is provided. A further addition is the dynamic weather system. Day and night missions are also possible.
The interface has been kept simple and allows for easy navigation of the game. A variety of hot keys also makes performing operations easier. More importantly though the whole interface is tool tipped so you never struggle in finding out what does what which is always a bonus in a game of this nature.
This has to be one of the most curious games ever in terms of subtitling. Take the tutorial for instance. Only parts of the speech are subtitled. This is kind of annoying as it tells you, in text how to perform the basic operations but for instance when it is verbally describing the interface it doesn't have any text at all. Cutscenes are not subtitled but mission objectives and the introduction to each of the campaigns are subtitled. Character remarks in the game are not subtitled either but to be fair these are only there to add colour to the game and don't really affect gameplay in any major way. The game on a whole is OK for deaf gamers it just seems crazy that in places the text feedback is very good and in other places it is non-existent.
There is very little wrong with S.W.I.N.E. as an RTS. The main problem is that it does very little to make it stand out, apart from including animals as the main character. It would have helped if the enemies hadn't always been in fixed locations as it can make the replay value limited. Some of the missions, particularly in the Rabbits campaign are a little bland and you do lose some of the atmosphere because the animals taunts etc. aren't subtitled. All things considered though, S.W.I.N.E. is a good RTS that enthusiasts should consider.
Overall Game Rating: 7.4/10 S.W.I.N.E. is a good RTS that should appeal to fans of the genre. Good graphics and fantastic terrain textures may give the game visual appeal but it is the use of strategy points and the need to maintain your units that add the necessary depth to the game.
Deaf Gamers comment: A curious mix of good subtitling and non-existent subtitling if ever there was one. The tutorial is the best example of this where the key functions are subtitled but the places where it goes into more detail are not subtitled. Ultimately the game is not impossible because of the omissions but it is a shame that the game was not fully subtitled.