Nuclear Dawn Review

Nuclear Dawn

I hold some sympathy for developers that want to tackle the FPS/RTS hybrid genre. It has to be one of the toughest games to pull off – ensuring that the FPS players have a competent shooter and the RTS players have enough meat to chew on when juggling build orders and commanding the battlefield. Nuclear Dawn, one such game from developer Interwave, succumbs to the pressures of the genre, never attaining what it is clearly setting out to do.

Nuclear Dawn casts players as either a Consortium or Empire soldier/commander, two sides that are fighting it out in a post-apocalyptic future. What they are fighting over is never explained as the game makes no attempt to explain anything, instead offering up standard bombed out buildings and crumbling infrastructure complete with oppressive billboards and sparse environments as its story. Players can jump into one of four soldier classes, which are further customizable. Supports can be Medics or Engineers while Exos can be Suppression focused or Siege units. Each team has one player Commander who build structures, create waypoints, and act as the “eye in the sky” for on the ground players, helping them complete the objective.

When this setup works, it works very well. If the Commander is vigilant in creating forward bases, supplying power to those bases, supporting the ground players, and the on-the-ground players are capturing resources, following waypoints, and pushing forward, then the game gels together nicely. When it doesn’t work – it doesn’t a majority of the time – the game devolves into a mess for a few key reasons.

nuclear dawn

Nuclear Dawn employs a rank up system that is now the standard of all multiplayer FPS games, yet the developers have no idea how to implement it intelligently. In games that do it right, the unlocks are staggered evenly and balanced neatly so that a level 1 player should have the appropriate tools to take on a level 50 player. Here, the unlocks are not staggered evenly, so that level 1 players have nothing at their disposal to stay competitive, where high level players have different bullets and gadgets to help them out. It becomes a slow, frustrating grind to try and grab the goodies that veteran players are using just so one can stay in the game and have some fun. As a result, the game becomes a one-sided battle at certain points, with nothing in place to assist these low level players. One match I played was over before it started, as a team of high level players immediately entered our base and started slaughtering us, destroying structures and killing my team as soon as we spawned. If there was some deployment phase where the game allowed players to establish a base before allowing the forces to clash it would be a simple fix. Unfortunately, Nuclear Dawn feels so cheap that this thought probably wasn’t considered.

That cheapness is evident thanks to the crippling bugs that will take whatever enjoyment players are squeezing out of the game and crush it. Players can become caught in geometry; going into a sprint animation and then exiting it keeps your gun in the holstered position, and collision detection issues ahold back the already tough gameplay.

The production value is lacking as well. The game is a Source mod based on the Left 4 Dead 2 code, but it doesn’t show nearly the same level of polish. Environments are empty and bland as if the developers wanted to hit all the generic beats that an apocalyptic, totalitarian society should have. Character models and structures have smeared textures and they all look like slight variations of each other. The gun models look somewhat impressive and the UI elements actually make good use of ammo count and inventory, but it’s a small right in a sea of wrongs.

Nuclear Dawn is a game that can reach great things if it was put together more coherently. Bugs, balance issues, and an uninspired use of the apocalyptic settings makes for a game that feels competent at best and incomplete at its worst. It’s a skeleton of a game, shambling around, hoping for someone to understand it, but it never helps players to do just that.


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Author: Matt Erazo View all posts by

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