At first, I was intrigued by the idea of a game about the Chinese military, the People's Liberation Army. But now after spending a weekend with the Glorious Mission Online' s public release, the novelty has worn off.
Originally slated to be a People's Liberation Army training game akin to America's Army, Glorious Mission Online is now available to the masses. Recently, the game is back in the news for offering a controversial new map that allows players to fight the Japanese military in a stage that takes place in a contested territory that both China and Japan claim as their own.
Keep in mind that this is first official public release of the game. Glorious Mission Online was originally released for the Chinese armed forces. This public "test" officially launched on August 1, the 86th anniversary of the People's Liberation Army.
As a whole, Glorious Mission Online seems like every other first person shooter before it. It takes elements from other shooters like Counter Strike and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and merges them into one game.
Like in Modern Warfare, there are the kill streaks as well as the role-playing game elements. Players, for example, can customise the look of their character, buy guns and upgrades through earned in-game currency or via micro-transactions. This is a "freemium" game. Unlike, say, Modern Warfare, there really isn't any "rescue" or revive mode available in this game; if you're getting shot at and you're dying, you die.
Mechanics and gameplay-wise, it is like every other first person shooter. It isn't a far departure from the mainstays of the genre.
Graphically, the game is kind of odd. For some reason, the game wouldn't run on my PC with a dedicated 1 GB graphics card, nor would it run on my MacBook pro with BootCamp. It would, however, run on at an internet cafe PC. Due to the variations between cafes, I can't really say how good the graphics are. They're not great, but they're not bad. Also, in-game objects aren't destructible, so there's that.
In terms of game modes, Glorious Mission Online offers three: Player vs. Player in death match, Player vs. Enemy in team death match, and single player training mode. At first glance, the first two modes don't really need a detailed rundown, and Player vs. Enemy is where things get interesting. However, there is one part of Player vs. Player that is really cool.
Buried beneath the other game modes in Player vs. Enemy, there is a "team search and rescue" mode. In this mode, players aren't out to kill each other, but instead, they're rescuing earthquake victims, which is something that the real PLA also does. The player holds what looks like a GPS/Sonar device that directs them to the location of someone needing help. Every now and then, there are aftershocks that shift where the victims are and or kill the player depending on where they are standing. This game play mode was very cool, the only downside was the voice acting. It sounded like ghouls shrieking, "Help me, help me." It was very unsettling.
Originally touted as a way for Chinese players to play as PLA soldiers instead of Western ones, Glorious Mission Online is super political. It's not as informative as other communist propaganda games out there. For example, it doesn't bother explaining anything about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute. In this game, the islands belongs to China. End of story.
Glorious Mission Online's latest update isn't just about the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, but instead it is about China and Japan -- whether those are events in the past, possible events in the future, or pure fantasy.
There's an in-game battle is called "Return Dream of Shanghai". This is basically a confrontation between the Chinese soldiers and the Japanese soldiers based in a small section of 1940's Shanghai. The funny thing is...the Chinese soldiers are modern soldiers with modern weaponry while the Japanese soldiers look like they just stepped out of World War II. To add insult to injury, the very first line shouted at the beginning of the battle is a voice over that says, "The devils are here, kill them all!" The very last thing you hear is "Good job, the devils are dead." Oh.
Now to be perfectly clear, some will argue that they don't say Japanese at all in the voice overs. In Mandarin, the voice shouts "gui zi (鬼子), which could mean any foreign devil, but here, "gui zi" is used to refer to the Japanese.
What was most unsettling to me was that if you were to stand over a downed Japanese soldier, the player's gun starts emptying it's clip on the dead soldier. It's messed up, and I could not confirm that this was by design or a glitch.
The next part of player versus enemy is the battle of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. Here, the player is defending the islands from a Japanese invasion. This time around, the Japanese look more "modern." They're given today's weapons and updated looks (there are no more Hitler moustaches). The map also starts with a voice over saying, "The devils are coming." There isn't much more to be said about this except that at one point there is a helicopter that you need to take down but you aren't given any surface to air weapons.
Political overtones aside, Glorious Mission Online is a triumph of Chinese game design in that it works fairly well as a shooter. When compared to other homegrown efforts, Glorious Mission Online is a step above. However if you take it as a whole package, it is undeniably offensive and politically charged. At no point in this update are the enemies anyone other than the Japanese. However since the game is currently only in open beta, there could be more "enemies" added. It's also very interesting to note that despite the various amount of promotional material and hype presented before the game's release, there didn't seem to be any sighting of China's first operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
But the question is should you play this game? The answer is a whole hearted, no. The game as it is, is no different from any other shooter, except for its message of destroying the Japanese and protecting the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Glorious Mission Online is virtual chest thumping, wrapped in propaganda and fantasy. There isn't anything of substance. But how often can that be said of any military shooter, let alone this one?
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