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Pathway to Glory

Companies who seek entry into the games industry can have a tough time, especially if they’re introducing a new machine into the marketplace. As many will realise, you’ve got to get the hardware and the software right to make any sort of impact and get people to buy your products. Would the Xbox be as successful as it has been without Halo? What would have happened if the N-Gage QD had been the original design for Nokia’s handheld? More significantly, what if Pathway to Glory had been a launch title?

Set in 1943 during the Italian campaign of World War II, Pathway to Glory places you in charge of a squad of special forces soldiers, the swaggering gum-chewing type. Viewing the ensuing battles from an isometric viewpoint, it’s your job to command your troops, attacking enemy positions, demolishing objectives and driving vehicles in the process.

Right from the start, it’s quite clear that this is one carefully crafted and well thought-out game. Each operation takes place in a huge map, full of detail and cleverly designed to foster tactical gameplay. Despite the N-Gage’s small portrait screen, the events in Pathway to Glory are easy to keep track of thanks to a quickly accessible map pulled up via the ‘2’ button. This shows an outline of the level and positions of your soldiers as well as visible enemy troops, so you’re rarely lost within the game’s vast battlefields.

The graphics themselves are finely detailed, showing consistent art direction and mirroring the dull tones of the likes of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. The large battlefields are accurately representative of the locales they feature and are largely free of repetition. When it comes to presentation, the game also shines, with a decent soundtrack and nicely constructed menus and cut-scenes. Nokia has been talking about Pathway to Glory as a technical showcase for the N-Gage, and it’s exactly that.

We all know that a pretty game is nothing without solid gameplay, and here Pathway to Glory continues to deliver. You start out each mission with a briefing and then are prompted to choose your squad. With multiple soldier types (heavy weapons, sniper, officer and so on) and each having several weapons options, there’s plenty of depth here to play with, giving more attentive commanders adequate tactical options to toy with.

Once your team is chosen, you head straight into the action, which is turn based, much like Advance Wars. Each soldier has a set number of points which can be spent on moving and firing, with different costs for each stance (prone, crouched and standing) being levied. It costs more to move while prone than standing, but you’ll be less exposed to gunfire and will fire more accurately. Likewise, spend more points while shooting and you’re more likely to cause damage, while crouching often provides a good balance of all the stances. When you’ve used up all of your available points, you end your turn and the cycle begins again. It’s a simple concept, but one that keeps the game well paced and free from frantic decision making.

Pathway to Glory‘s gameplay is remarkably deep for a mobile game and it uses all of the N-Gage’s buttons, but the game’s pacing and tutorials keep it from becoming too overwhelming. The campaign is involving and linked together well, proving more than a mere starter for the multiplayer. Its complexity and difficulty at times my put off some, but for many it will prove to be an engaging and challenging experience.

Where the game really starts to raise eyebrows is in its ambitious multiplayer options. Offering single console, Bluetooth and online gameplay, it allows you to face off against both friends and complete strangers. There’s no downloadable ghosts to be found here; this is the real thing. A hot seat option allows you to play amongst friends by simply passing the N-Gage round once your turn is complete, which works really well if you can’t find anyone else with one or simply can’t afford online play. Bluetooth works in a similar turn-based way, connecting multiple devices together via a stable radio link. Arena play is a whole different matter though, linking together players worldwide via GPRS. Connection problems and the cost aside, it’s a great idea and one that works well providing that you can find a good opponent. Even if the numbers taking advantage of Pathway to Glory‘s online options may not be as high as Nokia would like, it at least shows their commitment and determination to make Arena work.

Pathway to Glory isn’t just about multiplayer though, and that really makes a difference when it comes to replay value. The singleplayer alone should last for a good number of hours and at the rate people tend to play mobile games, that’ll last you quite a while. If you’re not put off by the initial intricacy, you’ll find an involving game worthy of your time and money.

As Nokia’s only real first party developed N-Gage game, Pathway to Glory has had a lot to live up to. Touted by many as the game that will really make a difference, it’s been subject of much hype and anticipation. The resulting game is superb, a real all-round package. Yet I fear that its release may be too little, too late. As a DS or PSP release, people would be jumping up and down for it, but as a late N-Gage arrival, many will dismiss or ignore it. However, if more games of the same quality are around the corner, then we could just see one of the biggest comebacks in gaming history.

9 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is the Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in November 2000. Get in touch on Twitter @PhilipMorton.

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