Raven Squad Review
Raven Squad box art
System: X360, PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Atomic Motion 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: Evolved Games 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Aug. 25, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: 1-2 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Command & Conquer Meets Call of Duty
by Robert VerBruggen

For a decade, mainly in Tom Clancy's various series, many first-person shooters have worked in an element of strategy. Sometimes you have to plan your missions before riddling enemies with bullets. Other times you can direct your squad-mates to various positions to outwit the enemy. In still others, stealth is key.

Raven Squad screenshot

For Raven Squad, developer Atomic Motion had a great idea in this vein: combine first-person action with real-time strategy, and allow players to switch freely between the two gameplay modes. The company even implemented this well; with the push of a button, you can go from directing avatars around on a map to pumping lead into opposition forces by hand. At the end of each level, the game tells you how long you spent using each system.

Both modes boast simple, effective mechanics. The first-person shooter controls work essentially like those in a Call of Duty title, and the RTS system is simple enough that you don't have to learn more than a few commands. You control two squads, containing a total of six people with two weapons apiece. When you need a particular weapon, you can switch to that character (FPS) or direct him to use it (RTS), and if you need help in first-person mode, you can call the other squad over to you.

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All of this amounts to a template for a great game, but Atomic Motion filled said template with an awful one. The fatal flaw is in the level design. It's all pretty much linear, complete with indicators telling you what direction your next objective lies in. There's rarely an opportunity, much less a need, for extensive planning as to how you'll invade a given area. In fact, you'll rarely need to employ even the most basic maneuvers, like directing the other squad to attack from a different direction than you are.

Raven Squad screenshot

As such, the RTS mechanic feels superfluous, useful mainly for traversing long distances with one button press rather than by hand. It's also good for seeing where the enemies are hiding, making it basically a way to cheat while using the first-person setup rather than an independent way to play.

That's not the only problem, though, not by a long shot. Next up is the voice acting. This isn't intentionally cheesy, so-bad-it's-good, over-the-top enthusiasm. It's not a mediocre performance from a decent cast. It's not even the best effort the development team could coax out of non-actors hired due to a small budget. No, this is quite possibly the flattest, most awkward, and overall worst voice acting ever released on a video game - ever. The writing is terrible. The actors sound like they're thinking about something else while they're talking. The accents sound fake even to people not familiar with them. These performances are so bad that, if the level design hadn't already done the job, they'd go a long way toward ruining the game on their own.

Raven Squad screenshot

Aside from the basic mechanics, engaging in FPS combat doesn't work as well as it should, either. Everything the developers couldn't steal from Call of Duty is mediocre at best. There is no animation to show that you've hit an enemy without killing him, so until your foe bites the dust, it's hard to tell whether you're even causing damage. Your opponents will take cover and move a little bit to avoid getting shot, but that's about the most sophisticated behavior they're capable of. If you manage to sneak up to them and shoot them from the side, half the time they won't notice you standing there.

Screenshots / Images
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