THQ – Warhammer 40,000 Squad Command review

futuristic turn-based strategy for PSP
Photo of THQ – Warhammer 40,000 Squad Command

There can be few games that have spawned so many offspring in such different formats as the Warhammer series. Whether you’re playing on massive table tops in your local Games Workshop, collecting the cards or fighting massive real-time strategy battles on the PC, the attraction of futuristic permanent combat shows no sign of waning.

Having had considerable success on the PC, the latest manifestation now makes its first outing on the PSP and has necessarily had to make several adjustments for handheld gameplay. Those familiar with the Warhammer universe will instantly recognise the elite Space Marines that you control, and the considerably more evil Chaos Space Marines you’re fighting against.

The story is largely irrelevant as the game consists of 15 single-player missions, where you have to manoeuvre your six squad members around each map and either capture or destroy certain objectives while taking out as many of the enemy as possible. As it’s a turn-based game, you have to decide how many of your ‘action points’ are allocated to movement and how many to combat. The more powerful the weapon and the more you want to fine-tune your aim, the more action points you use up.

The camera view is a fixed, top-down, isometric view of the 3D landscape which again is usual for RTS battles, but this is where the developers ran in to their first problem. For some unaccountable reason they don’t give you the option to rotate the camera or change the angle, so often it’s impossible to know exactly where individual foes are hiding. As you can only kill your enemy via direct line of sight, this gives an unfair advantage to your opponents and proves frustrating when negotiating around large buildings and machinery.

On the plus side, the scenery is completely destructible and so if you have the right weapon you can take out a concealed Chaos soldier by blowing away the wall and then blowing him away. The range of weapons (20 in all) covers everything from the basic bolter rifle and sniper rifle to chainsaws and rocket launchers, and the explosions you can produce are very satisfying.

Although the degree of detail in the graphics during gameplay is about average, there are various cinematic cut-scenes between missions that give you a much better feel for the Warhammer world. If you love gore, though, there’s not a trickle to be seen here.

There is a multiplayer option which might yet ensure that Squad Command has some future replayability. Up to eight players can take part wirelessly, using three different squads from each race spread over three different types of environment (urban, winter and desert), which does at least give you some scope for varied tactics.

Company: THQ

A disappointing first showing on the PSP for the latest Warhammer franchise, as the 15 turn-based missions are hampered by an inflexible camera operation that severely limits your strategic planning.