Beyond the Law: The Third Wave
Review by Old Rooster
Imagine, if you will, organized crime at a level where it threatens
all strata of societyeven to the point of taking over the
national government! Imagine, also, that the only way to stop this
imminent threat is through your efforts as commander of an elite
group of paramilitary specialistsa band that is beyond the
If you have a hankering for this kind of heroics and enjoy the
prospect of a largely stealth tactical strategy game, in the Commandos
mode, you may well find pleasure in Beyond the Law.
This new, budget-priced title from Magnum Games attempts to follow
the formula of such classics as Jagged Alliance, Splinter Cell,
and, of course, the revered Commandos series. Let's discuss
the overall premise, execution and final outcome.
"Avoid the Three Guards in the Office"
Installation and set-up went very smoothly, with system requirements
quite low by today's standards. A haunting musical theme plays while
set-up is occurring and during your initial briefings. Graphics,
locked at 800×600 resolution, present a 3/4 top-down view,
much like the Commandos series, but with neither zoom nor
map rotation. Movement around the map occurs with left and right
mouse clicks, with arrow or edge of screen mousing displaying more
of the environment. Each of the 20 missions, in five broad categories,
loads completely, so that you have the entire location (ship surface,
for example) on display at one time.
After choosing a difficulty level, you are given a briefing and
asked to purchase or rent several mercenaries for your task. Your
money is limited, and the amount changes, so you have to make some
choices. These fellows have different skill sets, emphasizing such
areas as sniping, tactics, and technical prowess. For any given
mission, you may need particular areas of expertise. Unfortunately,
you can't really guess this very well without failing at least once.
Following mission completion, the game is automatically saved, and
a quick save/load is possible during the mission. Several of the
levels have a time requirement, adding to the tension (frustration?).
BTL is, primarily, much like the games after which it is
modeled, a "sneaker." Usually, once your group is dropped
into a setting, you can pause to look around and get your bearingssee
where guards are patrolling, the location of objectives ("turn
off the alarm"), and most of where you need to go. Your little
group (typically two to four) can be moved individually or together,
much as we might do in an RTS game. The puzzle is in finding the
correct route, avoiding guards and alarms, and even doing this with
minimum casualties. There may be more than one way to solve a particular
problem, but discretion is usually the best approach. Unfortunately,
those guards and alarms seen especially sensitive, and the game
can be very difficult on "normal" setting.
"Before You Can Say Organized Crime!" Group
BTL is a rather quiet game, with little other than ambient
sounds during missions. Your group will respond to you, though,
when directed to move, with comments ranging from "O.K."
to "On my way," to the above organized crime response.
Soon these become not only redundant, but a bit annoying. Indeed,
let's discuss redundancy.
Although we have 20 allegedly different environments (and I've
played each level), there is a sameness to it all that bogs the
game down about a third of the way through. Whether it's decks of
an old freighter or a construction site outside Queens, the goals
and play of BTL are much the same, with even the settings
just ending up like a different crossword puzzle in this week's
Times. I don't mean to be unfair, but each level looks dark,
shaded, with the same kind of rooms, goons, alarms, obstacles. The
storyline isn't sufficient to motivate you along, and it is hard
to maintain enthusiasm after the first few hours.
I found Beyond the Law to be an adequate effort, fun for
a while. However, its graphics are outdated by at least five years,
and gameplay pales in comparison to the titles it seeks to emulate
(Jagged Alliance, Commandos). It's a bit ironic that the
developer is entitled "Modern Games." Of course, you may
say, it's a budget titlewhat do you expect? That's fair. And
if I were a rabid fan of stealth/tactical games, I may well wish
to add this to my library. However, one of the problems with budget
titles (typically $20 new) is that they are competing with "bargain
bin" games that may be in the same range or less. One thinks
not only of the vaunted JA and Commandos series, but
also such fairly recent (and better) games as Desperados, Freedom
Force and Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood. All
of these are tactical/strategy in nature, with varied and colorful
settings and good storylines, and they can be purchased new for
under $20, often under $10. The question becomes raised as to not
only how you wish to spend your gaming money, but also how you wish
to spend your valuable gaming time.
There is some fun to be had with Beyond the Law, at least
initially. However, with dated graphics, redundant settings and
gameplay, mediocre production values, I can only recommend this
for fans onlythose who have to play every tactical game that
comes down the pike, whether its taking on the Nazis, Western bad
men, a Nottingham sheriff, or runaway Mafia.
Release Date: April 5, 2004
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium III 800 MHz
128 MB RAM
500 MB free hard disk space
Power Macintosh G3
128 MB RAM
800×600 pixels (16-bit color minimum)
System 10.1 or later
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