Guest Author - James Shea
A somewhat unusual tactical game, "9th Company" places the player in command of a somewhat unusual protagonist - the Soviet army during the invasion of Afghanistan. However, even aside from this oddity, the game is ultimately hampered by some poor design choices, which reflect poorly on the interesting things about it.
9th Company is a real-time tactics game that emphasizes the use of cover and strategy to make up for your realistically-vulnerable soldiers. There is an rpg-like element to the game as well: before missions, you pick which of your soldiers (with unique stats and differing models and uniforms) you'd like to bring with you, and what to equip them with. However, you have to bring about 30 people on every mission, and there's no way to group them beforehand. So, despite all the little details, you're never in a position where you can safely micromanage all those individuals and it turns from "hey, neat, rpg stats" to "what a pain, I can't keep all this straight".
Gameplay works in much the same fashion. For starters, the camera is terrible, so it's hard to keep an eye on the people you want to keep an eye on. Despite, again, having 30 people, there are few group commands. The list of options available to your troops - different positions, different formations, and different weapons including grenades, rocket launchers, and mines - is overwhelming due to the inability to pause the action and issue orders. Instead, during frantic firefights you're forced to micromanage your soldiers. In any case, providing them with cover isn't that helpful anyways, so the few precious seconds you spend trying to order your one RPG soldier to fire a rocket could cost you half your team.
There are vehicles in the game, as well; these are primarily used as transport for your infantry. My first experience with the game was driving a loaded APC into an ambush and having it get hit by an RPG round, killing everyone riding on top of it and wounding those inside. Vehicles are useful, but as in real guerilla warfare, they must be protected by a screen of infantry.
The graphics are fairly good for a game of this quality. Each soldier has a semi-unique model, with different uniform styles and faces. Additionally, the gear they wear is represented on their model. It's nothing exceptional, but if the gameplay was handled better it would be a neat way to identify and empathize with your units.
9th Company could have been a neat game with some tweaks. However, the irritating layout of the command system and the awful camera make the few good ideas not worth it. For $20 on Steam, it might be okay if you're a dedicated hardcore military fan, but average gamers should stay away.