Reviewed: April 25, 2003
Released: March 26, 2003
New World Order was developed by Termite Games and published in Europe by Project Three Interactive, who has recently bought Termite Games. In the USA the publisher is Strategy First, a game company who typically has concentrated on strategy titles. New World Order is a straight-up first person shooter action game.
One can not deny the striking similarities between New World Order and one of the most popular online FPS games, Counter-Strike. In fact, one might go as far as to say that New World Order is a Counter-Strike clone. Being a clone is not a bad thing, but if you're going to clone a game, you should at least make your game as good as the original game, if not better. Does NWO manage to beat CS? In a nutshell, not really.
The story of New World Order is extremely typical. You can be either a member of the Global Assault Team (GAT), which is basically a military police organization whose goal it is to wipe out organized crime, or more specifically to wipe out the Syndicate. The Syndicate is the most powerful organized crime organization in the world, operating in at least 16 countries and known for their extreme violence. The Syndicate controls a major portion of the black market weapons business and other illegal goods. Basically, the GAT versus the Syndicate is what gives you an excuse to run around in realistic looking maps killing each other.
The interface for NWO is very typical of the FPS genre and it will not require a lot of customization if you're accustomed to the WASD keyboard layout and mouse-look, although it is fully customizable. You can even set up the keys to match your favorite Counter-Strike layout if you want to. Needless to say, if you're familiar with the genre, the learning curve for this game is practically non-existent. There are keys to yell out various things to your fellow teammates (in multiplayer) or to yourself in the single player game.
Why would you want to yell at yourself, you ask? Well probably to relieve some of the frustration of trying to play this game in single player mode. The game basically is the same in SP as it is in MP, except that you're stuck playing the "good" killers in the GAT. That is, you have a bunch of terrorist-types doing there terrorist stuff, and you have to go in and kill them all or at least stop them from accomplishing their goals. Only thing is, you don't have any help. It's you, against an army of well-armed if stupid bad guys.
It wouldn't be so bad if you could save the game mid-mission, but you can't. You will die often from the realistic weapons damage model until you've memorized the locations of all the bad guys and know exactly where to go. Worst of all, the game takes forever to reload the map after you've died, instead of just using the map that is still in memory and just repositioning all the terrorists and you back to the beginning. We're talking a load time over one minute long every time you die. Get yourself a good Tom Clancy book to read in between the short sessions of bad guy blasting.
The real problem, however, is that the game is not very stable or optimized. I had several crashes to the desktop with no warning or message. The graphics were quite choppy even with the graphics options turned on to the lower settings. In fact, if you ever get more than a couple of Syndicate goons going after you at once, you typically can not defend yourself because the screen is just too choppy to be able to aim properly.
It is really a shame that the game is aimed for the extreme high end gaming rig, but that is apparently the case with NWO. This is a serious problem because if you ever get multiple enemies on you at the same time it essentially means the end of the level, and you have to sit through the long loading screen again and try, try, again.
The graphics look very realistic and at first glance are extremely impressive. The game had a cool physics engine which shows off whenever you make a kill leaving bodies in strangely contorted positions, not to mention lots of blood and bullets flying. When you shoot a wall it leaves a bullet mark. Shell casings and metal jackets lie at the scene of the kill. Bodies slump over realistically or sometimes wildly. The streets are filled with cars that look pretty realistic. The shadows are realistic and lighting effects look good when no enemies are around to make the frame rate plummet.
The graphics engine supports all the latest gizmos that are available on modern graphics cards. Full screen anti-aliasing, bump mapping, pixel shaders, dynamic lighting, etc. The graphics options screen looks like the back of the box features list of the latest ATI or Nvidia graphics card. The game will support resolutions up to 1600x1200.
Be warned, however, that unless you have a top of the line computer and graphics card that you are not going to be able to actually use these fancy options and modes. On my modest computer that barely met the steep minimum specs I could only play the game at all at 640x480 using 16-bit low res textures with many options disabled and medium sound quality. Even then, the game was a slideshow during battles with more than one AI opponent. For multiplayer it was okay as long as the enemy wasn't grouped up. The graphics would have received a much higher score if they had been better optimized.
The sound effects in New World Order are about average. The weapons fire noises isn't terribly realistic sounding but it does sound like guns. It does support full 3D sound and you can hear things going on around you. There are ambient noises like trucks and cars running. The music is a metallic industrial type sounding theme. There is voice acting with the Syndicate goons yelling things at you like "Take him down!" or "Not a chance!" But there is not enough variety and eventually you just use it as a way to tell what direction they are coming from.
There are only 12 missions to go through in the game, but it may take you quite a while to get through them since you have to restart them every time you make a mistake. For the single player a good FPS gamer can probably get through this game easily over a weekend. However, this game is primarily aimed at multiplayer, and as a multiplayer game, it does a pretty good job. If you have a really fast computer it could be a good game to play in place of Counter-Strike or whatever other team-based tactical shooter game you have a fancy for, because the graphics really are pretty good if your rig has the power to be able to display them properly during fire fights.
There isn't a lot of people that currently have the game so finding other opponents could be somewhat difficult and frustrating. I did manage to get in a few games and when you do have a lot of people playing it can be a lot of fun. Lag wasn't bad at all over cable modem, but when multiple people were in the same fire fight the graphics engine would bring the game to a crawl.
NWO does include a built-in matchmaking service which seems to have all the features you'd need to have and getting into games was painless once there were some games out there with people playing in them. The multiplayer is essentially the same as the single player except that you can play against humans and also you can have other people on your team. More appropriately you could say that the single player is the "practice mode" of the real game, which is the MP game.
What is really frustrating about New World Order is that it feels like it could really have been a contender. It almost has the goods but not quite. If only the developers had spent more time polishing the single player mode to have a real story with in-game cutscenes and such. If only the single player had a mid-mission save system, or at the very least if it didn't take so long to reload the level every time you died. If only there were a lot more people online playing so that you didn't care about the half-hearted single player mode. If only...
Unfortunately, the videogame market is already saturated with FPS titles so it's hard to really make a recommendation for New World Order unless you have a really fast rig and want to see some pretty realistic environments in a Counter-Strike type game setting. If you have the required gaming gear and you like this type of game then it could be worth a look, but chances are if you have the power required to play NWO you are probably already playing something better. Since there is a free multiplayer demo available, I recommend you take a look at the demo before you make a final decision.
Editors Note: I tested NWO on my 1.4GHz system (the recommended stats for this game) and it still peformed very poorly. This game is in need of heavy optimization.