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Nuclear Dawn

Nuclear Dawn

ESRB: Teen - T
Platform: PC Games
Category: 3D Gaming, First Person Shooter, Shooter, Strategy

32 player multiplayer
Team voice communications
Real Time Strategy Elements

Nuclear Dawn should have a big sign on the store page. This sign, should it exist, should read “GET A HEADSET.” I'm deadly serious here, because voice comms and group tactics are extremely important in Nuclear Dawn, and a headset, trust me, makes your job a lot easier. Soldiers can warn the commander of flanking manoeuvres, commanders can let people know what they're building, and without a headset, it's like watching a bunch of headless chickens... No teamwork, just a lot of running around and clucking before eventually falling over. As an FPS with RTS elements, Nuclear Dawn relies on teamwork.


The game uses the Source engine to power the game, and, as such, the general visuals are not exactly AAA. But the maps are still fairly interesting looking, with ruined cars, wrecked streets, and the occasional vine covering. Similarly, the visual styles of the two factions make for a good look, with the Empire holding the beefier looking weapons, while the Consortium have the most interesting building look. The weapons are mostly of the “Chunky and Exciting Detail” school of thought, generally being big, bulky, and explosive. As to the HUD, it's simple, doesn't get in the way, although the RTS side of the game is merely a top-down view of the map with a different HUD, which doesn't look great. But the important thing is, it still does what it's supposed to (although it might be useful to make research easier to look up.)


Soundwise, the game has a soundtrack that fits quite well with the concept, lots of dramatic, pulsing tunes and martial beats, although it's a lot quieter in-game. In-game, most of what you're going to hear is gunfire and explosions (the gun sound effects are okay, but again, not amazing), along with, in a good game (one with headset equipped players) the chatter of players and commanders warning about flanks, resource points, and ambushes. It's quite clear the devs intended you to wear a headset with a mike, because, without headset equipped players, the game is a lot quieter, and, as we shall see, it's also a bit of a steamroll.


You may have noticed that I mentioned the importance of headsets about three or four times now. This is because there is a direct correlation in-game between the amount of players with headsets (who use them), and how much you either steamroll or get steamrolled. In a game where even a quarter of the players decently communicate (and the commander is at least okay), the other team generally gets their buttocks handed to them. In a team with no headsets, it's confusing, annoying (your commander doesn't generally get the hint as quickly), and you generally lose pretty quickly.

But here's what goes on in the game. So far, there's only one game-mode and a zombie mod available, although the mods have promised more modes. Warfare, the main attraction, is a combination of control-point capture and deathmatch, with the winner being the first team to destroy the base of the other. You'll notice I said “Base”, and this is because of the RTS elements of the game.

Essentially, one player is the commander, and he is the one who builds turrets, extra spawn points, power relays, and researches advanced weapons for the team. He also has a few abilities like directly controlling his own artillery, laying down healing fields or buff fields, and, in times of desperation, going outside his bunker to kick ass and take names. Most of the game, however, he will be stuck in a small building, looking down on the battlefield and dropping buildings like a hyperactive child with LEGO bricks. He can also give attack and defend orders, which give players points if they do the right thing. Of course, the life of a commander must be protected, as he's not invincible, even when plugged into his command bunker. So keep an assault handy back at base, or an assassin may come and screw you over for a vital few seconds. In this, it's very similar to competitive RTSes, as those seconds can change the tide of battle.

The rest of the team can join one of four basic classes, each with their own special abilities and counters. Exos, for example, are the only ones to carry the seriously heavy weapons... but they're vulnerable to Stealth players, who can run rings around them, and stab them in the back. Stealth, in turn, are vulnerable to the special ability of Assault, a thermal-vision which means they can't hide. And the poor Support class is left to basically help out the rest and die a lot, depending on their kit. Each class, in turn, has the aforementioned kits, which include such things as Stealth Assassins (stabby types) or Marksmen (think Snipers with cloaking fields), while the Support come in flavours of Medic (who have gas grenades), Engineer (EMP grenades, good for cutting off power), and BBQ (Pyro, who are excellent close up building destroyers). These are just examples, and the breadth of possible tactics are high.

Another thing players need to know is that the commander can do jack if they don't capture and hold control points, while the players will be hobbled if the commander doesn't place spawn points and turrets. This is definitely not a game where you can skip the tutorial. As well as this, there is a surrender option open to the commander, which gives players a vote to, as it says on the tin, say “gg” and lose the match early. And this feature, while largely ignored by the current playerbase, shouldn't be. Because the endgame is quite horrific. If you want a good example, go read my blog post on a Nuclear Dawn game ("Thoughts on the Gaming Industry: Teamwork and the Interwubs"), but a summary of what it's like is below.

Essentially, due to the very nature of the game, the endgame often involves five to ten minutes of dying not ten feet from the very first spawn of the map. Which, if you're on the losing end, is also the very last spawn of the map. It's not fun, it's not pretty, but the game won't get marked down for it, because it gives you the surrender option. If things truly are bleak, as someone who's played the game a fair bit, I would highly recommend you take the option when it's presented in the late endgame. Otherwise, it's going to be frustrating.

As far as gameplay goes, there are very few flaws. Essentially, those flaws are that Power (one of your two resources) is not shown in the commander's HUD, and research is similarly a little difficult for new players to find. The Gizmo system (rank unlocks) are slightly annoying, but then, they've been a bit annoying in every game with said feature, so no real score down for that. Some people have complained about classes being overpowered or underpowered, but the only class consistently considered a little UP is the Support, and most of the people complaining a class is OP are the ones who play that sort of class regularly, from what I can gather. To me, this just shows that, if you know a niche really well, the game's designed for you to take your skillset and own the game with it, not that the class itself is overpowered. The best example? the Exo. Looks tough, is tough, but can be countered quite easily by at least two kits (Assassin and Marksman, especially if an Engineer throws an EMP grenade at the poor Exo).

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