By Eric T. Baker

Silent Storm for the PC by Nival Interactive and from JoWood Productions is a new 3-D game set in World War II. Modeled at the squad level, play is resolved using turn-based tactical combat, but the characters who do the fighting have their skills, abilities, and weapons chosen and improved through an experience-based role-playing system. Players can act as the Axis or Allies, but they select their squads for each mission from a pool of 40 male and female mercenaries of 30 nationalities. Each has a different profession and skills. The missions are not historical, but the 75 different weapons are authentic, even if some never actually saw service. There are 24 missions, and players do not have to play them in a particular order.

Besides the mercenaries’ base stats and skills, players can provide and improve 50 additional abilities for the soldiers, everything from making them harder to kill to making them better killers. In additions to this role-playing mechanic for improving characters, the major difference in SS from other tactical WWII games is that weapons’ fire can destroy everything on the maps. The destruction even obeys real world physics; destroying the base of a building will actually collapse the upper floors. There are several ways to complete each mission and the game has three difficulty levels. Players can use stealth for many missions. When the 24 base missions are completed, the game has a random mission generator and a campaign editor so players can fight more computer missions or create their own.

Meanwhile, in the near future, Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow, from Ubi Soft for the PC and video game consoles, projects tools and training of counterterrorism in 2006: The game posits that the U.S. installs a temporary military base on East Timor, the “world’s youngest democracy,” to train its forces to meet the threat posed by Indonesian militias. One of these guerrilla militias captures the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. The player takes the role of Sam Fisher, a U.S. agent charged with rescuing the hostages and destroying top-secret documents held in the embassy.

The game has two focuses. One is to tell a tight, gripping suspense story. Action is not limited to the embassy rescue; several characters help build the plot in high-quality cut scenes. The second focus is on high-tech equipment that, based on real-world prototypes currently in development, will be available in 2006. Advanced goggles let Fisher see in the dark and read the thermo signatures of the things around him. Electromagnetic gear, gadgets for entry and evasion, plus advanced weapons take the player past the cutting edge of security technology.

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