Game Over Online ~ Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business

GameOver Game Reviews - Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business (c) Sir-Tech, Reviewed by - Pseudo Nim

Game & Publisher Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business (c) Sir-Tech
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 133, 32MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 84%
Date Published Thursday, December 21st, 2000 at 10:53 AM

Divider Left By: Pseudo Nim Divider Right

I have always enjoyed the entire Jagged Alliance series. I discovered the first one by accident, and absolutely loved it. I didn't get a chance to enjoy quite as much Deadly Games, but I was in full blast again with the second JA, and now, with Unfinished Business. The curious part about JAs is that, while they gather awards by the dozens, they don't seem to be that famous - moreover, the company couldn't even find a publisher for Unfinished Business for quite some time. People need to stop publishing educational and other moronic titles and really check into where the good games are.

Regardless, onto the actual game. This is billed more as an expansion pack than a new game, and that it is. There aren't really any new visual improvements, and the additions are traditional for an expansion pack: more weapons, more/different mercs, and more areas. The story goes something along the lines of a new threat to Arulco: some crazy madman dude who has a big huge factory stuffed with nuclear missiles, and he is going to nuke Arulco into the stone age if they do not surrender their mines to them. You are, of course, hired to kick his ass and make sure that doesn't happen. The story is cheesy, but then again, that isn't really the point of the game - Jagged Alliance has always been about the gameplay more so than anything else.

The first thing you notice that is quite different from JA2 is that when you go to AIM or MERC to hire your mercs, you no longer hire them on a weekly/daily basis, but on a one-time flat payment basis instead. This becomes quite convenient for some of the more expensive mercs, but you don't have that much money to play with, so you can't really hire the expensive ones, because you will get completely *destroyed* right at the beginning (more on difficulty later). You can also import your old character from JA2 if you want, but that results in the difficulty level being slightly upgraded from whatever you chose initially - which is NOT a good thing, believe you me. If you choose, instead, to generate your character, you will find that the method is identical to JA2, except that the weapon you get at the beginning feels (I'm not fully positive if it actually is) much crappier than in JA2. Of note is that if you do import your old savegame, all the mercs in your team will preserve their characteristics (though you will have to rehire them).

Sir-Tech claims that there are 20 new levels in the game, and I have seen 19 of them. The game does not take very long to complete, but then again, that depends on the difficulty level. At first, I wanted to be brave and courageous, and chose Intermediate (my reasoning was, "Hey, I've played them all so far - I can't be THAT bad"). Well, I was. I couldn't get past the first couple of levels. So I restarted and went down to Novice. Here, I found a strange discrepancy. Some levels are inordinately difficult (even though you are on Novice). Yet others are ridiculously easy. When you choose the difficulty level, "Expert" results in a warning saying that the company thinks it's a very tough level and you shouldn't attempt it lest you are fully sure. Since I was (unfortunately) unable to get very far on Intermediate, I cannot verify how some of the harder areas are on it, but they were quite hard even on novice. Unfortunately, the difficulty usually doesn't lie in the tactics that the computer utilizes to scalp you - it's in the positioning of the enemies. If it's a narrow hallway, you can bet your ass there will be a couple of guys down at the end of it looking your way (and usually getting an interrupt), armed with LAWs, grenades, stun grenades, and so forth. They also usually have powerful sniper rifles, and seem to be extremely skilled with long-range burst mode. If it's a city, you can bet (a) that all the key points are covered by snipers, (b) there are a LOT of them, and (c) there are dudes on rooftops to make your life more fun. If it's a room, there will be people hidden somewhere where you can't see, staring directly at the entrance, and way better with guns/sniper rifles than you are.

That describes the difficult parts. The easy parts are fairly dumbfounding, as well. After I leveled up my characters a bit, and wound up with some nice weaponry, I stopped being careful in some of the intermediate areas (i.e. forests, roads and such). I would go in, guns blazing, sometimes using stealth mode (but usually not), and just wipe out the opposition completely and without any challenge whatsoever. (Then I would hit a city, and the previous paragraph would restart again).

Another issue that comes into play is money. Specifically, how easy it is to come by. You don't have to pay your mercs, but you can (theoretically) hire some new ones (but I wasn't able to do it, because I was unable to find a certain item that is required for that). Usually, though, you will spend your money on weapons and on fancy ammunition for those weapons (besides the Steyr AUG, most of the new cool guns use custom ammo, which costs a lot and is usually not on the battlefield). However, you pick up so many junky guns along the way, that you can always sell them to an arms dealer for whatever money, and make a killing on that. Just to save you the trouble, though, you should be able to scavenge at least $40,000 off dead bodies and from looting the poor (?) folk of the country.

The new additions to the game are rather enjoyable, especially the guns. I was always a fan of sniper rifles in JA/JA2 (perhaps because I was never really able to sneak up on people), and here, JA2 really shines. My favourite addition (predictably, I guess) is the Barrett M82A2, a 44 damage @ 150 range sniper rifle. Ammunition for it weighs an incredible amount (1kg for 11 rounds), but it's well worth it (if your character can use it well). It will easily kill with one shot, often with a very gory one (lethal headshots usually result in the head being blown apart with a nice fountain of blood). The second place is shared between the H&K PSG1 (38 @ 50) and the VAL Silent Sniper Rifle (it's just very cool). Of course, you can still perform all the modifications like before (increasing the range, decreasing the AP cost of firing, adding scopes, etc.) though usually you won't really care about the modifying mods, and just go for the laser/optical scope and such. Reason is that most weapons have a pretty good range anyway (and chances are, you won't want to try it on anything over a screen's width anyway - at 96 - 97 MK my snipers still usually miss at that range), and most weapons (besides the Barrett) cost a relatively low amount of APs, so you can fire them a few times in a turn.

One (two actually, but same category) addition that is extremely useful in JA2:UB (and I wish were there a very, very long time ago) is the visual display of cover and where your merc can see (whatever that is called). If you hold down "Del" and move the mouse cursor somewhere, it will display a coloured square which will reflect the current enemies and what cover that square would have relative to them. If it's red, that's a dangerous area. Green = safe. Orange = maybe. Of course, if there happens to be an enemy hidden one square away from where the cursor says green, that'll be some tough luck - but it makes sense. If you hold "End", you will get the information on what your merc can see. Here, green will mean that you should see that spot in any of the three positions (standing, crouching, lying down), yellow - two of three, orange - one of three, and red - none.

That having been said, JA2:UB is still but an expansion pack. The way you should see it is like this: if you loved JA2 (like I did), then you owe it to yourself to play this. If you hated JA2, though, there is nothing in this that will make you change your mind: in fact, the higher linearity (compared to JA2) will likely turn you off even more, and you are probably better off waiting for JA3, whenever that will be. For now, we have to live with UB, as well as user-created campaigns (the map editor used to create the levels is included with Unfinished Business). So, for the fans, this is a worthy expansion pack/game, and one I would definitely recommend playing.


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