It's About Time for a Hostile Takeover...
The current trend in the computer game industry seems to be that when a successful game is released, hordes of cheap copies are produced by competitors with little more than a extra gimmick to recommend their product. Exactly the same as in the TV and Movie industries. Rather than make a cheap copy of Command and Conquer with a stupid gimmick, the designers at Interactive Magic decided to take the high road. They looked at the real-time strategy games out there and decided to address some of the core problems of the genre.
War Inc. puts the player in charge of a mercenary corporation. You can buy and sell stock in competing companies, if you are a business fan. Or you can have the computer auto-manage that if your attitude runs more along the lines of 'business shmizness'. Your company is offered contracts by corporations and nations to deal with any little skirmishes or wars that spring up from time to time. Beyond that, you must ensure the integrity of the bottom line, and research new technology to aid your troops in the field.
An annoying trait of most real-time strategy games has been that there has been little or no potential to increase your technology. Aside from building the 'advanced factory' or the equivalent, the units you use in play have always been limited to the dozen or so created by the designers. War Inc. lets the player hire scientists and assign them to work in eight different areas of research. Once you have researched technologies, you can create entirely new units based on your technologies. Rather than being limited to a few pre-designed unit types, this design gives the player the flexibility to create a nearly unlimited variety of units. Haven't you ever wished you could somehow increase the range or armor on an artillery unit? This flexibility gives the player great power to let his or her imagination run wild, with in the confines of the achieved technology, that is.
The gameplay in War Inc. is divided into three segments. First there is the office. From here you make all research and finance decisions, as well as choosing mission contracts to play. Next, there is the strategic map. In a mission, you use the strategic map to move your battle groups and examine the entire area. Finally, there is the tactical map. It is this part of War Inc. that will be most familiar to veterans of this genre. Here is where you observe combat, move your troops, build facilities, and construct units. An interesting facet of war Inc. is that each mission has four tactical maps. There is one for your headquarters, and one each for the three mission objectives. You are able to move units around on the strategic map between the different tactical maps. This allows you to spend some time at the headquarters to amass an army, send it out to fight, bring it back to HQ and reinforce it.
I generally liked War Inc. The novelty of creating totally new units gave me a great degree of freedom and the ability to experiment. The business aspect of the game meant that gains (or losses) from one mission are carried over to the next, And the division of each mission into several objectives help make the game seem more realistic. I found War Inc. to be quite fun to play, and I enjoyed the sleek interface, but I was a little annoyed that garbage pixels sometimes cluttered the screen. All in all, War Inc. is a much-needed burst of fresh air in the stagnating genre of real-time strategy games.