March! Offworld Recon by Buka Entertainment is a hybrid FPS/tactical simulation. Although it is touted as a true hybrid, a majority of the time you are firing upon countless enemies trying to keep yourself alive. At its best, the game is mediocre in the graphics department, and it features some of the worst collision detection I have ever seen in a game.The basic story of MOR seems ripped out a science fiction movie. Many years ago, humans decided that they needed to find new resources and looked to the moon and Mars as possible solution. Slowly the humans left Mars leaving only military research facilities and some automated industrial plants. You are part of a military unit sent to Mars to investigate the appearance of some unplanned structures that have appeared on the surface. Obviously, this cannot be a good thing, so the use of force is authorized and you and your team are equipped with a variety of chain gun type weapons. As soon as you enter your ship, you face an onslaught of enemies and you are directed to find out what the problem is. Although this sounds like a solid premise for a FPS/tactical game, the story is quickly lost in a clunky interface, poor collision detection, and hit or miss problem solving.The gameplay in MOR is straightforward. You are presented with an objective that must be completed to advance. Although a good attempt was made at providing a reason for the objectives, the game seemed like a bunch of shooting levels slapped together with a story added at the end. In some cases, your original objective changes before you have a chance to complete any of it at all. This was confusing at times and made the story seem disjointed. For example, early in the game you are instructed to defend a recon team trying to breach a facility. Before you have a chance, you are hit with a bombing squadron. During the bombing, you are held in an area by a force field and must destroy the bombers. This consists of timing your location to miss bombs while shooting the bombers, so you have no hope of protecting your partners. Interestingly, when the bombers are defeated, your team has disappeared. I was not sure if they had breached the facility or just vanished. The door they had tried to open remained closed and they were gone. For all I know, they went off to get a soda and some chips.The level design of MOR suffers from many problems. For some reason, the architecture is built with a sense of purposeless symmetry, such that turning left or right often results in a mirror image of the other direction. This is actually not a bad thing in a deathmatch style game such as UT or Quake Arena, as it can eliminate camping and may serve as an equalizer. In MOR, however, it serves only to frustrate. I wandered back and forth for 15 minutes on the first level before I realized there was a hallway that I had missed! There was no seam or lighting differential to draw my attention to where I needed to go. This would not be a problem if it only happened once, but moments of frustration seemed to crop up more often than moments of satisfaction.MOR utilizes the Lithtech engine, which has been used to produce some nice-looking titles. Unfortunately, the engine is showing its age and, although some environments look good, there is nothing in this game that looked great. If MOR had been released several years ago, my take may have been different, but so many great titles have been released recently in this genre, that MOR looks stale. The character models are an exception in that they are very well modeled and articulated. Unfortunately, you will not spend a lot of time admiring the characters as you are trying to shoot them, or, in the case of your team, trying to protect them.Throughout each level of this game, I found myself thinking how I have “seen this been done better in another game.” I remember the section in Unreal where I entered a hallway and heard a creature but did not see it. I was also very low on ammo and had to move ever so slowly through the hall. Just when I thought I was safe, out went the light! MOR bypasses tension and opts for scenarios like this: I enter a hallway with a bunch of robots and shoot them. Some of them have ghosts living inside that attack me. I shoot the ghosts and go to the next hall.The control of MOR is straightforward and any seasoned FPS veteran will feel right at home. A novice, if there are any, will have a tough time understanding the control scheme as there is no tutorial to play through. Although you can attack the game from the FPS side of the coin, it is helpful to read the control description to determine how to manage your teammates, who are bots. A standard WASD configuration is used for movement but customization is easily accomplished. Weapons are changed via the 1-0 keys, but, frustratingly, not through the scroll wheel! Depressing keys on the keyboard can accomplish a variety of other actions. Each weapon features a primary and secondary mode of fire. These are a*igned to the left and right mouse buttons, respectively.It is easy to switch between first and third person perspective, but there is really no reason to do so. Third person is only useful for looking at the player models, which are nice, but you will not have much time to do this. There are a few straightforward commands that can be used to issue instructions to your group of fighters, but they are so simplistic that I found myself just letting them fend for themselves much of the time.I was sure that MOR would have some redeeming quality, so I set out to find some multiplayer action. I searched for a server with some action, but, sadly, did not find even one! I am not sure if this is for a lack of copies out there, or a bounty of copies that are not in computers.The graphics in MOR are not horrible. There are plenty of options for the player with a high-end system, but it will not make the experience a lot better. I maxed the settings and had a relatively stutter free experience. The textures are very repetitive and locations have a generic feel to them. There is some environmental scarring, but marks and bodies fade away quickly on the default setting. Lighting and fog effects are good, but nothing special. I found the smoke effects to be too uniformly shaped if you happen to pay attention to them.The AI in MOR is below average most of the time. Enemies will stand in plain sight, even when being riddled with bullets. The fire patterns are very predictable if you pay attention, and you can avoid being shot if you are very careful. Your teammates will wander, ever so slowly, into enemy fire and even trap you in some hot spots. The collision detection is some of the worst I have seen in a very long time. Occasionally, enemies fire through solid structures and make quick work of you. At other times, specifically in close proximity, you can fire at an enemy dead on and miss it entirely. I am sorry, but unloading a shotgun at point blank range does not result in a miss in this universe!MOR has enough options to keep the meticulous gamer happy. Virtually every control can be customized. My only real gripe was the inability to set weapon switching to the scroll wheel on my mouse. I have a problem with having to pay attention to which number I am pressing for my favorite gun. The auto select is nice, but I like to save my heavy power for sticky situations. As previously stated, graphics can be tweaked up or down depending on your system. Saving can be done in game with the F7 key and quick loads are equally easy to accomplish. It is also possible to save by escaping from the game if you so desire.I wish I felt better about March! Offworld Recon. Unfortunately, in a market flooded with FPS’s and tactical simulations, I would not recommend this title. There are plenty of games in the bargain bins that give a much more satisfying experience for your money. For me, the best part of this game was putting the CD back in the package and shelving it.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.