Jagged Alliance: Crossfire – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: More of the same engaging combat as Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, with much better strategic maps, new mercs, new weapons, and new achievements.
Failed Basic: More of the same inventory management, pathfinding, and LOS problems as in the original; character text and voiceovers are horribly mismatched; still no quick save / load.
Our Story So Far
Not long after securing the island of Arulco and eliminating dictator Queen Deidranna Reitman in Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, the Association of International Mercenaries (A.I.M.) is called upon to help another small nation in peril.
In Jagged Alliance: Crossfire, the stand-alone expansion to Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, you gather your choice of mercenaries and head to the Asian country of Khaanpa, smack into a religious and economic conflict that threatens to destroy the country. A large temple has been discovered and excavated, along with a potentially very profitable vein of coltan ore.
Mercenaries from all over the world are now converging on Khaanpa in an attempt to get a share of this valuable ore, and the peacefully religious citizens are not capable of facing such a large armed force. Khaanpa Ambassador Behnam Atiqullah calls out to the U.N. for aid, but they decline to intervene in what they see as a religious conflict. Atiqullah then turns to A.I.M. for help, hoping that fighting fire with fire doesn’t end up burning down his beloved country.
Frustratingly satisfying. That’s how I can best describe Jagged Alliance: Back in Action. There were times during play when I was really enjoying the game and other times when I was so very close to losing my Zen. The good and bad news is that Crossfire is exactly the same way, with a good many enjoyable moments balanced with a good many gritting-my-teeth-grr moments.
The satisfying parts of Crossfire come by way of planning and executing proper combat tactics so well that a merc group of six is able to secure a town guarded by forty-four bad guys. I love the combat, the balance of real-time and turn-based action, including the Plan & Go feature. Reminds me a lot of another game I loved, the original Rainbow Six. The wide variety of mercs, their skills and abilities, and the large number of weapons and tools available make for a myriad of options to employ, in and out of combat. I have spent many hours doing nothing but switching out weapons to see what each does to a merc’s stats, and just getting into the generous RPG aspects of the game.
It’s the combat in Crossfire that I get the most enjoyment from, whether I wipe out a location full of enemy, or get wiped out by them. Crossfire allows players to use a good many tactics, most everything from run-and-gun Rambo combat, to ninja-esque stealth attacks with melee weapons and silenced guns. The wide variety of terrain in locations adds a lot to the tactical decisions, including having the correct camouflage, and choosing whether to go offensive, defensive, or a combination of both.
Perhaps the best element I like about Crossfire is the new vertical aspect. Many of the buildings have multiple floors above (and below) ground, giving the ability of mercs to truly use the high ground to their (or your) advantage. This made me rethink the standard tactic of using rooftops as often as I did in Back in Action.
Better from the Start
Crossfire also gives a slightly better start than Back in Action does. For one thing, it has two well-equipped merchants in Yadong Harbor, where your mercs start their mission and which they must capture and hold as a staging base. Supplies and reinforcements arrive by boat this time, as long as the harbor is friendly territory.
The second improvement is that this time around you get much better weapon drops from downed enemies right off the bat. In Back in Action, I had amassed (and sold) a ton of .38 cal. six-shot pistols before I ever got a better quality weapon. In Crossfire, better weapons dropped off the first group of enemy mercs I dispatched, including some of the new ones added.
A third way Crossfire helps out is by giving up a lot more money in the beginning, by way of general loot, and with more valuable items to sell throughout the campaign. More money gives you the means to hire more mercs earlier than was possible in Back in Action, and to buy better equipment, clothing, armor, and weapons from the start.
I have not confirmed this, but it also seems to me that the militia have been upgraded in various ways. They seem to increase in number faster, which means there are more available to guard each location much more quickly. It also seems they are more capable of defending locations when attacked; however, this could be due to the better quality and quantity of the weapons available. Either way, it’s a good thing.
Nonetheless, it’s still frustrating to spend an hour or more securing a location, collecting all the items from dead mercs spread across the map, consolidating it, sorting it all out, repairing weapons, equipping mercs back to a full combat load, and arming all the militia in the area, only to leave the location and have it attacked and retaken by the enemy in a mere ten seconds or less. It happens—a lot.
More frustration bleeds in when attempting to stealth-move a merc down a narrow street, and he suddenly gets noticed by an enemy merc through a window that I didn’t see no matter which way I rotated the camera. Many other times, I would work out a complex coordinated attack with lots of movement and actions through the Plan & Go system, only to have my mercs walk into each other—and keep walking into each other, unable to separate themselves on their own accord—which would blow the entire plan, and usually ended up being a TPK—Total Party Kill. To say Crossfire takes micromanaging to a new level is an understatement. Yet, in a way, that’s a good thing; just be prepared for it.
One item of note that I would really like to see addressed is the freezing of time when on the tactical maps. Time passes on the strategic map, and can be sped up, slowed down, or paused. When mercs arrive at a location and the game switches to the tactical map, time stops, totally. While it may take an hour in real time to secure the location, the game time hasn’t advanced at all. I think making time an element to consider in each location would do a lot for adding more strategy into play.
Frustrations aside, I keep firing up the game, putting together various merc squads with assorted weapon and equipment loadouts, and taking them into combat. I’m not so much involved in the storyline and end-game at the moment, but rather focused on experiencing the thrill of victory or working to correct the agony of defeat. If that also sounds like your style of play, then take your A.I.M. and try out Jagged Alliance: Crossfire for yourself.
Armchair General Rating: 75%
About the Author
Jim H. Moreno dropped his first quarter into a video game back in 1977, and has been avidly gaming ever since. He joined the Armchair General squad in 2003 and helped launch the website and magazine, and remains a regular contributor of war, combat, and strategy articles. When he’s not working on an ACG piece, he’s writing other PC gaming articles for GameFront.com and for other sites and game companies, catching sci fi shows, enjoying a quality cigar or whiskey, or just being zen with his cat, Spritzer.