We're Not in Vegas Anymore
The principal feature of the game as touted in the promo materials is the hybrid First Person Shooter/Real-Time Strategy (FPS/RTS) gameplay. The uncomfortable fusing of multiple genres was all the rage a few years back, often meeting with ugly results. More recently Stormrise was released this past winter and is the latest disastrous attempt to meld these genres. Attempting to control an RTS from a first person view is simply disaster prone. Not until Halo Wars has an RTS really worked out successfully on console, so it would stand to reason that proper RTS concepts have taken a back seat, although I'll likely regret that comment after the release of StarCraft II and the near-certain resurgence of the late 90's flood of cloned RTS games.
Raven Squad fares far better in the hybridization of concepts. It borrows from several genres and creates a hybrid system that, believe it or not, actually works...and works well! Gameplay begins in the first person shooter view as your squad takes care of a few training objectives to familiarize players with the game environment. At various points in the game the "OC" will go off-line, and you'll lose the overhead RTS ability forcing you to meet objectives from the first person view only. These moments are rare, however. The rest of the time you can freely switch between taking control of one of your squad members in first person view, or switching to the overhead view, presumed to be satellite imagery of the battlefield. From there you may control your squads, see enemy positions (enhanced with icons over them), scope out the terrain to decide how best to infiltrate an area, and locate ammo stores and health packs
Technically Raven Squad doesn't focus only on Raven Squad, but is divided into two squads: The Assault Squad and the Infiltration Squad, each squad tallying three members each. Each member has their own unique skills and can be controlled in first person. In the assault squad we find our hero Paladin, an all around every-soldier with a standard assault rifle, featuring a heavy machine gun as his "special" weapon with limited ammo. Beside him are Oso the grenadier toting three frag grenades, and Thor, the odd-man out with a shotgun for a primary weapon, and his trusty rocket launcher, perfect for taking out vehicles and a few select walls, as his special weapon. The infiltration squad, focusing more on range and stealth tactics, is lead by Shadow the sniper. Along with him are Flash, who as his name implies wields the flashbang grenades, and Zombie who in addition to toting smoke grenades, has a scoped nearly sniper-like assault rifle as his primary.
The formula is a fairly simple one, though, no doubt, every player will play it differently. Most of the battle is controlled in RTS mode, and splitting up your squads to best cover an area or breach a well guarded area is up to you. When you hit a combat zone, the AI can take care of a lot of it, but in heavier firefights you're much better off directly taking control of a squad in first person mode...assuming your aim is decent. Primary weapons, though they require reloading, feature infinite ammo, while secondary special weapons have extremely limited supplies: Three rounds each for explosives, ten rounds for the sniper rifle. Ammo crates are scattered around most maps for replenishing these supplies, though strategic usage of them is still of the utmost importance. Additionally med-kits are available around the map for restoring your teams' health. Thankfully, though, if a squad member falls, they can be revived with partial health by any squad-mate on either team. You can keep playing and healing them if even one single soldier remains. If an entire squad falls however, a countdown timer does require fast intervention by the other squad before a soldier dies permanently, and the game is over.
This isn't an entirely new formula, however. It's been done before, fairly successfully in an old Gathering of Developers series named Hidden and Dangerous featuring squads of the British SAS in WWII, though the overhead perspective was a pure 2D map, not a 3D modeled world as it is in Raven Squad. The modern incarnation, however has a simplicity to it that makes it a bit more fun in its notably more colorful world. Hostile Waters: Antaeus Rising also attempted, long ago, to meld FPS and RTS in a more typical RTS model featuring unit production. The FPS element in that title, was, however, providing a feeling of "wow, I get to use an RTS unit in first person," as opposed to a fully implemented FPS game contained in Raven Squad. While it's difficult to draw comparisons to other games, the closest I could get is to say the overhead should be a bit reminiscent of Fallout Tactics, while the FPS is something of a hybrid of Rainbow Six and Crysis. An odd pairing, but it kind of works.
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