Review: Jagged Alliance: Back in Action (PC)

You know how older gamers gripe about games not being what they used to be?

Well, they were right.

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action (JABiA) has been touted as a contemporary remake of the much beloved Jagged Alliance series, but plays more like a brand new game than anything else.

Though it retains features from its predecessors, JABiA has done away with the turn-based strategy that was much beloved of Jagged Alliance (JA) and Jagged Alliance 2 (JA2). Everything happens in real time now, forcing the game to focus less on strategy and more on stealth. There is even a visibility marker on your mercenaries.

However combat remains tailored for a turn-based battle. Your mercenaries don’t automatically attack unless on guard mode, and don’t continue attacking even after you set them to! It’s possible to have your merc aim at an enemy, shoot him once, and then stand there and wait to die. Folks with low situation awareness (like me) should definitely not try this game in its default situation.

Fortunately, there are options to pause the game during crucial moments. This makes combat a lot easier, and mimics the turn-based system of old. When paused, the game also phases out into a ‘night vision’ mode, where enemies are coloured red. In this mode, you’re also able to see the actions that have been queued for your mercenaries, and the paths they are going to take.

Campaign wise, the JABiA story is similar to the ones featured in the old JA and JA2 – you’re tasked with liberating an island of a despot. You start off with a limited amount of cash – just enough to hire a couple of mercenaries – and start beating your way through the bush. As you pick up loot from enemy corpses, you’ll earn enough cash to hire more mercenaries for your squad. You can also break them into different squads and send them off to other tasks on different parts of the island.

While the game concept is exciting (once you turn on the pausing), there are annoying little kinks in the game’s design. You can’t pass items from mercenary to mercenary, for instance, unlike in JA. Instead, you have to drop an item on the floor for your comrade to pick it up. The lack of automatic shooting mentioned earlier is another peeve of mine, and a general lack of user-unfriendliness pervades the game.

After finishing the first scenario, I had to click about on the map for a bit before realising that travel was done via world map. You can’t remap hotkeys to your personal preference, and there aren’t any prompts to have you reload – you just switch to melee. Running out of ammo is another constant problem even when on single-shot mode. You’ve got to really keep an eye on your ammo gauge and remember to buy ammo when you hit a shop. Lastly, your map doesn’t scroll when your cursor hits the sides of the screen. You have to WASD it! Oh well, at least there are three different camera angles…

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action seemed really promising at first. I was a big fan of stealth-base strategy games, such as the first few Commandos games, and hearing that Back in Action had swapped over to stealth-based real-time combat was exciting. But clunky controls and general user-unfriendliness spoiled the experience for me. Dying repeatedly in one level because of something that could have been better designed is just not how I’d want to spend a Friday evening.

In summary, I’d recommend playing the game only if you’re new to the Jagged Alliance series. Fans of the older games will find JABiA to be a huge disappointment.

Graphics 7.0
They look a little dated, and the load-times are slow for such simple textures!
Sound 8.0
Similar to JA2’s, and actually stresses you out when you’re stuck in enemy crossfire.
Gameplay 6.0
Not user friendly or smart enough, could definitely do with improvement.
Lasting Appeal 5.0
It’s not very appealing to keep dying because your mercenary’s AI is too low to automatically continue shooting.
 How the RGB Scoresheet works


Jagged Alliance: Back in Action is developed by Coreplay GMBH and published by Kalypso Media for the PC platform. It was released on 9th Feb 2012.