Hire and command a squad of mercenaries on a variety of missions. Kill, detonate, rescue, destroy, try not to go broke, listen to great commentary.

I forget when it was that I bought this game… probably around 1997, with my rocking, now-sitting-as-a-spare-in-Shad’s-LAN-room P200. Even when it came out, the look was dated… 640×480 256 color VGA graphics, DOS 5.0-native code. However, this game stands as a testament to how rocking games USED to be, when coders were more concerned with making something that was fun, rather than keeping up technologically with the Joneses and the Carmacks and getting the sucker out on a deadline (after your development budget has been funneled into PR).

Although I never played the original Jagged Alliance (I will if I can find it), this game is basically the same, with a few new features and some of the territorial control taken out of the original. This is a turn-based strat, where you control each member of a squad that you have to hire, equip, train, pay, and bandage when necessary. The mechanics are deceivingly complex… you feel like the interface is easy, but what is actually going on in the code is another world of sophistication. Hide Scope in some deep cover crouched and facing a walkway, and if she has action points left over, she can interrupt passing enemies and cap them before they have a clue what happened. Enemies with electonic listening devices hear your guys padding around and prepare an ambush with flanking snipers.

However, the real killer point of the game is not the mechanics (which rule anyway), it’s the mercs. 70 mercs for hire, each one a fully fleshed-out character with skills, characteristics, attitudes, quirks, personal relationships which can complicate your mission, and extensive quotes which they whip out at you throughout play. There are some mercs who suck statistically, but you take along just to hear them rant. Some mercs get scared in combat and are best left home repairing your stuff or tending to the seriously wounded. Some are great snipers who have a psychotic need to kill people on a regular basis or they quit (taking their equipment with them). Some mercs hate other mercs and will refuse to join your team if you hired their enemies, or will join and suddenly turn on their enemies during a mission. JADG combines a gigantic amount of quality RPG material into this game, another hallmark of great game programming.

Mu Rating: 9/10. Aside from a couple of issues with CD-ROM spinup times being challenged constantly and slow multi over the internet (it rocks on LAN, though), this game is about as near-perfect as possible. I started playing it again a few days ago, and it still keeps me up until 5:30 in the morning.

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