Name: Deadly Dozen
Developer: nFusion Interactive
Price: $19.99 in US / import $35, Inc shipping.
Min System Spec: PII 300, 64mb RAM, 8mb 3D card
Recommended System Spec: PIII 800, 256mb RAM, 32mb 3D card
Official Web Site http://www.n-fusion.com/
Reviewed By: Fugue

Deadly Dozen.

When I first heard about a budget WW2 game due to be released at the same time as EA's "Private Ryan" shooter Allied Assault, I wondered how it could ever hope to compete against a game which literally took E3 by storm. Allied Assault suffered an almost inevitable delay and Deadly Dozen stepped into its shoes, big shoes to fill for a budget game.

The game is based loosely on the 1967 film of the same name, the dozen are a bunch of US Airborne & Rangers soldiers, all highly skilled in a range of disciplines and considered misfits by the US Army. Misfits they may be but their leader, Major Maxwell needed just such men for commando operations behind enemy lines. That's the plot in a nutshell, you select from this pool of twelve men to complete missions in a range of locations including Africa, Denmark, Germany and Normandy.

Graphics.

Budget does not necessarily mean bad graphics, and Deadly Dozen does have some very nice features. The engine was developed in-house by nFusion, the soldiers and dogs are all well animated and have a good level of detail. Enemies react well to hits, stumbling back and bending over etc, the death animations are very good, no blood though (This was left out to keep the Teen rating), but a gore patch is already being worked on

With some of the higher graphics options switched on you get waving grass, telephone wires, pictures and even pot plants, although some objects look a little flat it certainly doesn't detract from the overall effect. Explosions from grenades etc look nice, firing into the ground shows little puffs of dirt and smoke from gun barrels. Walls and objects show bullet holes and sparks as rounds hit, tracers from enemy fire zip past you and muzzle flashes are handy for giving way enemy positions. Weather effects are also good, rain drops splash on the ground and snowflakes drift slowly by. Not bad considering the whole game was finished in just seven months! There are plenty of options in the graphics menu to scale the game to suit most systems, if your computer only just meets the minimum requirements I would suggest giving this one a miss, if you have less than 256mb RAM a memory upgrade would be a good idea.

Missions

If you have already tried the demo then you probably know what to expect, the maps are huge and set in many different locations at various times of the day, in some it might be raining or snowing etc. Objectives include destroying bunkers, stealing briefcases, freeing captured aircrews etc. Famous events and battles are all featured including Operation Overlord, Battle of the Bulge and Market Garden. Each of the 10 missions must be completed to unlock the next, if you find some a little too tough the developers have released a small program which allows you to select any mission. Some sort of RPG element to the squad's abilities would have been a nice touch, but with so few men to choose from you really do have to keep all of them alive, loosing a few good men often means a restart

Gameplay

Deadly Dozen has two gameplay modes, in the options menu is a setting, which toggles arcade/realistic. Arcade basically allows you to charge around with guns blazing, you can take more damage and as you take hits you can move and fire back. In realistic mode far more stealthy tactics are required. One shot in the right place can kill you, each time you are hit the screen turns red and you are incapacitated, a little annoying at times but it adds to the tension.

At the start of each mission there is a briefing outlining objectives, a rough map shows locations of important features. You then select four men, stats for a range of abilities including Sniping, Explosives, Heavy weapons, Medic and Stealth etc are there to help you choose the best depending on your mission. Once that's done its over to the equipment screen where you can accept the default load or replace any weapons / items with those in the inventory.

Sounds familiar? Well fans of H&D will feel immediately at home with the games basic set up, once in game you have a choice of 3rd or 1st person view, at any point you can take control of each of the four men under your command. They can be moved individually, in pairs or as a team using "follow me" or "halt" etc voice commands, there are two stances, standing or crouched, there is no prone/crawling option, but I really didn't miss it.

Missions have multiple objectives, which can be completed in any order; there is a logical sequence to most. A pop up map shows your current location and important landmarks. The maps are huge, most missions will take the average player between one to two hours to complete and have plenty of replay value. Three difficulty settings change enemy accuracy, damage taken etc, hard really is just that, almost impossible.

The game screen is nicely uncluttered with just a small compass and status bar for each man. If one of your team dies, he stays dead, no Landwarrior style resurrections in this game, getting all four men to the exit is very important. In normal difficulty you can take a fair few hits before dying, medical kits can be included in your inventory or found scattered around the maps, but not in such abundance to make life too easy and you usually have to fight to get at them.

The medic system works well, each man can heal himself but you can use a man with high medic stats to heal the others using the mouse. You can save at any point in the game, which considering the level of difficulty is just as well. Sadly there is no multiplayer option, the developers budget simply didn't allow them to include it, a real shame as the game is just crying out for a co-op mode.

The A.I.

This is one aspect of the game that is particularly good, the soldiers and dogs in Deadly Dozen are far from static and that alone makes them tough. You can sneak up behind unsuspecting guards with stealthy characters, but if they spot or hear you they shout, then all hell breaks loose. Officers can blow whistles to call reinforcements and can also direct other soldiers so picking them off early is a good idea.

The dogs barking also alerts guards, they rush towards you weaving from side to side and have a nasty bite Soldiers use similar tactics to (Except the biting bit) running at you, shooting then moving again, and rarely in a straight line. I really enjoyed this aspect of the game; each contact is a tense and challenging firefight and makes a real change from picking off motionless, dumb enemies.

Most are encountered on their own or in pairs, occasionally threes and fours, any more than that and it would probably be a blood bath. (You, not them) Some will hold their ground and keep firing but most will rush you with guns blazing. At times they can seem a little too tough, but it really is refreshing to find a game where enemies don't drop after a few rounds and are quite hard to finish off.

It is possible to snipe from long ranges but any near by guards will home in on your position. They also have long patrol routes so taking your time and working as a team is very important as you explore the maps. Your teammates are also intelligent and will follow commands well, if you leave two men with good weapon skills covering a road they will pick off any guards which come into view, in fact going off on your own is generally a bad idea. Ambushing is great fun, line up your troops and take one man forward, fire off a round then back up quickly as the guards run into a hail of bullets.

Weapons & Vehicles

In both views the ten weapons all look very nice, allied forces have M1 Garand, Thompson sub-machine gun and Springfield 1903 sniper rifle, the enemy have a similar range including K98 rifle (not scoped), MP 40, P38 pistol etc. Grenades, mines and timed explosives are also available should you need something a little more powerful, throwing a grenade accurately takes a little practice as they bounce around. Heavy weapons include both allied and axis bazookas plus the odd fixed MG 42.

Weapons from dead guards can be picked up, once you are carrying the maximum load (Which like H&D is pretty generous) ammo can be collected even if the gun can't be picked up. Simply clicking the right mouse picks up weapons & ammo, uses fixed guns/vehicles etc. Using the mouse wheel scrolls through your weapons /equipment making selecting on the move easy.

None of the weapons are that accurate, even with a sniper rifle the first shot does not mean a guaranteed kill, Thompson's and MP40's spray bullets all over the place. Some players will find this frustrating but it really sets the game apart from most shooters, what it does do is force you to rely on your buddies for extra firepower, keeping them close with full clips at all times is essential. After playing for some time I found the Garand far more effective at long shots than the machine guns, at close range the Thompson is excellent.

Vehicles are fairly good, nice level of detail and all based on the real thing, but the controls are a little over sensitive and can't be steered with the mouse.(Yet) There is no option to switch view from 3rd person when driving. If you find a car/motorbike etc (five usable vehicles are included) you can all jump in and drive around the map, enemy tanks are pretty tough and will take a few hits from a bazooka to knock them out.

Sounds & Music.

The weapon sounds are in general a little disappointing and could really do with beefing up, the weather/environmental effects are all excellent, as are background noises such as aircraft flying over, birds etc. The ominous sound of squeaking tracks before you see the tanks is a nice touch.

The music is also very good, it has a similar orchestral theme to H&D only with a lot more variety. When little is happening its just quietly in the back ground, if an enemy is close by it quickly changes, if you cant see the reason for the sudden change in tempo it's panic time, great for upping the tension. The whole effect is very movie like, not being a fan of in-game music I must admit after a while I really enjoyed it.

Conclusion

One of the best tactical shooters I have played for a long time, if you like H&D then this is bound to appeal. The gameplay is excellent with a nice balance between stealth and action. The AI is superb, plenty of detail and variety in the locations and mission objectives, in short a fantastic budget title and a must have for fans of WW2 games. Many of the games minor flaws are already being addressed in patches; the developers have certainly taken note of feedback from fans.

On the down side Deadly Dozen is real memory hog and it did crash / lock up occasionally. There are a few bugs, including one where the soldiers fall through the ground! (I had to laugh when that happened) which should be fixed soon. Its tough, very tough at times particularly in the nighttime missions and that mean lots of restarts. Lack of multiplay is a shame, but nFusion may be releasing some editing tools allowing you to create your own maps which will help increase the lifespan.

There is still no official word on a European release date, but the game can be imported for around $35 (£24) including shipping, seeing as a budget release in the UK will probably have a £19.99 price tag why wait?
The game can be ordered on-line from these links:

DEADLY DOZEN
Buy for outside USA

Buy inside USA

 
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Reviewed on

Windows 98
PentiumIII 450
256mb Ram
Geforce2 MX
DirectX 8.1


How it Performed
Ran well at resolutions up to 1024x768 in 32 bit with plenty of detail, occasional slow down in buildings. A few crashes/bugs, but patches have already been released with more to follow.

Score
8/10
Reviewers Comment
A superb WW2 action game, similar to H&D in concept but actually improves on the idea in many ways. The AI is one of this games strongest points, making Deadly Dozen a very challenging tactical shooter. While the graphics may look a little poor by today's standards it still looks great, the gameplay is excellent, plenty of tension, lots of atmosphere and good replay value. The sort of game co-op multiplay was made for, perhaps something to look forward to in a sequel.

 

 

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