• Ignited buy the South’s secession from the Union, due to what they felt were unfair trade advantages and their refusal to outlaw slavery, the American Civil War claimed nearly 1 million military and civilian lives.

    In between Marvel: Ultimate Alliance and Call of Duty 3, Activision released The History Channel: Civil War, a smaller-budget FPS developed by Cauldron. The game came to market without much fanfare or a big marketing campaign, and a value price of only $49.99. As a result, there are quite a few gamers out there that don’t even know it exists.

    The emphasis in Civil War seems to be historical accuracy, which is done admirably thanks to The History Channel’s participation. There are a total of 12 missions, divided evenly between Union and Confederate armies, all taken from the most historic battles of the war including Gettysburg, Bull Run and Antietam. The missions are offered in traditional linear style, but players can jump back and forth between each of the warring factors since Union levels are not restricted by Confederate accomplishments and vice-versa.

    The History Channel: Civil War

    The American Civil War was fought across open fields and farmland for the most part, making for a very unique landscape when compared to traditional war-shooters. One of the first things I noticed upon beginning the game was how green and bright everything was. I, of course, had initial doubts as to how the graphics would look considering its “value price”, but was happily surprised to find a visual presentation worthy of the Xbox 360’s abilities. In fact, Cauldron has done a very nice job in this department by creating a very good looking, and believable, rendition of the virgin lands that were 1860’s America.

    What impressed me even more was their attention to detail regarding the weapons of that era. Ever wonder how difficult it was to fight and survive with a single-shot Springfield Model 1861 rifle? Or maybe you’d prefer the Henry .44 and it’s mind-bending fire rate of 28 rounds….per minute. Be forewarned; you shouldn’t expect the experience of firefights to resemble those of Call of Duty 3 or Gear of War since these low capacity limitations prevent one from mowing down a lawn of enemies with ease. Instead, the game forces players to focus on strategy and patience. While both the Springfield and the Henry pack one helluva punch, they can only do so much, so fast. Regardless of that, the guns look great as do the reload animations where you see your character’s hands moving swiftly through the process of adding blackpowder, shot and primer in preparation for your next shot.

    All of this attention to detail results in gameplay with a much different pace than that of a traditional FPS. Open environments and slow-firing weapons significantly increases the importance of strategy and foresight if you want to successfully move through each mission. While the missions in The History Channel: Civil War are a bit short, the slower pace at which you need to move through gives them a “longer” feel.

    When it comes to Achievements, Civil War features a total of 50, about half of which players should be able to unlock by completing all of the missions. There are quite a few challenging Achievements, however, that may require you to play through the game a few more times in order to lay claim to. An example would be the “Deadeye” Achievements within each mission. These 12 separate Achievements require you to complete the related mission with at least 95% shot accuracy in order to unlock. Others include finding all secret photos and secret documents in the game, 100 kills with a pistol and the same with a knife. While none of these are impossible to unlock, they should require the average gamer to revisit the war more than once.

    The one feature missing from the game is Xbox Live play. Usually a staple in FPS titles, Activision chose to bypass the option here. In all honesty, it probably wasn’t a bad idea considering most FPS fans (myself included) are looking a frantic, action-loaded experience on Live which is not Civil War’s strong suit. The idea of coming across an enemy on Live and dancing around after missing my first shot while waiting for my character to reload, just loses some of the magic of online play.

    While The History Channel: Civil War certainly doesn’t redefine the FPS, it does put an interesting spin on the genre. The game’s dedication to historic accuracy and original Xbox pricing offsets most of it’s shortcomings making for a title that most war-shooter fans should enjoy. However, if Xbox Live multiplayer is your top priority, then you may want to give this one a rental before you make the commitment.

    Score: 7/10

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