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Developer:
Cauldron
Publisher: Activision
Platform: Xbox 360, PS2, PC
Release Date: November 2006

by Jason Ferguson




While there are an overabundant amount of World War II games, there arenít very many games based on the Civil War. Activision and The History Channel are looking to correct that problem with the recent release of The History Channel: Civil War.


Unlike any other Civil War games out there, The History Channel: Civil War is a first-person action game. Youíll take the role of several Civil War-era soldiers and relive twelve of the warís greatest battles, such as Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, and Bull Run. Some of these missions will be played from the perspective of a Union soldier and others will be played as a Confederate, but each mission will have you controlling a new soldier. Considering this title is endorsed by The History Channel, you can trust the historical accuracy of it. There are plenty of Civil War-era weapons at your disposal, from swords to muskets, and historical battlefields to fight on. There are also fairly detailed documentary videos explaining the events of each battle, so you just might learn something while playing this game.


Due to the historical accuracy of the game, some of your weapons will only get a single shot before you have to reload, and reloading isnít exactly quick. This ends up slowing things down quite a bit and will probably frustrate the casual FPS fan. Still, the slow reloading times are realistic for the time, and that's what this game is aiming at. There are plenty of other weapons that have multiple shots (still not a LOT of shots, but 6 or so is better than 1), such as your revolver, so theyíll allow you to do a bit more fighting.


Ammunition can be a bit scarce, particularly in the larger and longer battles, so conservation might be the key to victory. When you donít feel like wasting ammo, you can enter melee combat with your knife, sword, or bayonet. Considering the long wait for your weapons to reload and the scarcity of ammo, youíll probably do a fair amount of melee combat, which is annoying because itís a bit clunky. Youíll probably miss more than you hit with melee, and youíre as good as dead if you get surrounded by a few enemies.


The weapon variety is decent and authentic, and each weapon has its advantages and disadvantages. While the rifle might be slow to load, itís also pretty darn strong. The pistol, on the other hand, gets more shots off, but does significantly less damage. Itís a bit odd to see a game that strives to be historically authentic that also allows a soldier to carry 4 or 5 weapons at a time. The weight of the musket alone would surely slow a solider downÖ throw in a repeating rifle, a sniper rifle, and a sword, and I really wonder how the soldier would be able to move (and where heís keeping all of these weapons). Of course, itís just a game, after all, and what fun would it be if you could only carry around one gun?


The game offers a decent variety in gameplay, including sabotage missions, stealth missions, sniping missions, and many more. There are also times when you can take control of cannons and gatling guns to lay waste to enemies all across the battlefield.


Unfortunately, the game is also relatively short and features no multiplayer at all, whatsoever. However, there are battles both from the Union and Confederate point of view, and three levels of difficulty for you to master if you just canít get enough. Disappointingly, there are many closed off areas that keep exploration at a minimal. In some areas you can use the environment to your advantage, such as hiding in the woods or attacking from the high ground, but with so many closed off environments, the opportunity to use these strategies is minimal.


The controls are easy to catch on to and relatively friendly. If youíre a big first-person shooter fan, youíll catch on before you even start the game up. Gameplay is objective-based and simply hitting Select will display your current objectives. This makes the missions fairly linear, but also heightens the urgency of each battle. Visually, the game is actually pretty decent. While the death animations certainly leave something to be desired, and the characterís faces have very little variety, the battlefields look pretty good. Thereís a lot of detail that has gone into this game to make it look authentic, from the uniforms to the weapons. The sounds of the game are also decent, from the music taken straight out of the movie, Glory, to the rumbling of cannon fire and the firing of muskets. Unfortunately, the voice acting and the dialogue arenít as good. This title isnít necessarily cheap, but it is a value title, so donít expect top-of-the-line production value.


As a first-person shooter, The History Channel: Civil War isnít particularly good. Itís short, features no multiplayer, and most gamers wonít tolerate waiting to reload after just a few shots. However, as a Civil War game, itís solid. As a former Civil War re-enactor (yes, Iím a dork), I can tell you that playing The History Channel: Civil War feels a lot like the real thing. From the authentic weapons, to the detail of the uniforms and equipment, combined with the sounds of cannons ringing all around the battlefield, this game will bring the Civil War to life in your living room. At the very least, this game will appeal to the Civil War buff, but itís not necessarily for everyone. The game is also available on PS2 and PC, both of which are more appropriately priced than the 360 version.


At the very least, The History Channel: Civil War offers a unique gaming experience. How many other Civil War-themed first-person shooters can you name? Probably none. Itís a must play for any Civil War-loving gamers out there, and a decent rental for anyone curious to experience a war game from a war other than World War II for a change.


Final Grade: 60%




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