published on: 24/07/2023
I'd like to start out by saying: Six Days in Fallujah, is a modern testament to an accurate to life representation of what the second battle of Fallujah in 2004 looked like. The game in its current state, is a tense, mixed bag, of slow and fast paced tactical fireteam based gunplay, that has you constantly on edge and on high alert. The sound is phenomenal. The lighting is fantastic. The radio communications filters over in-game VOIP is stupendous. The game has all these great qualities to it that sets it apart from other titles in the same genre. It's a game that's been in developmental hell and born again from the ashes to a successful and great launch into early access.
The war simulator arrived in Early Access after a years-long fugitive, thanks to a series of filmed documents in which you can hear the words of those who took part in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004. And, we must admit that the title Highwire Games has managed to make us dwell on aspects that we usually do not pay much attention to in virtual conflicts. Let's find out why by venturing into the horrors of what is still called the bloodiest battle of the entire Iraq war.
War never changes
Before putting a rifle in the player's hands, Six Days in Fallujah offers two short video-documentaries, which alternate material filmed on the spot by reporters and the testimonies of veterans and civilians who lived through those difficult moments on their skin. It is a few minutes assembled with the aim of smoothing the boundaries between player and character, to make him live the proposed situations with an anguish and involvement that normally would not feel in other shooters with a lighter setting.
When you start playing it really seems to immerse yourself in the stories heard just before, with a certain tendency to glorification of the human and heroic deeds of the stars and stripes soldiers. At times it almost seems to have a horror on your hands, but without supernatural entities: every step requires careful reflection, because behind a door there could be an enemy ready to pull the trigger before us and immediately end the operation.
The feeling of danger is constant, whether you are outdoors or indoors, since mortar shells also fall randomly and staying out in the open could be fatal. After all, there are no UAVs here to provide us with support, drones attacking for us, or helicopters razing structures chock-full of targets. The only ally is a small armored vehicle on which there are a few extra supplies for those who finish the magazines too quickly and two reserve soldiers who act as 'extra lives' for those who succumb to enemy fire before the end of the mission. In Six Days in Fallujah there is not the slightest hesitation and the only way to get out without a bullet planted in the head is to act in perfect harmony with the rest of the team.
Not the usual milsim
The element that most amazed us about Six Days in Fallujah is the gameplay, since we are facing a product that does not seem to want to make complexity its strong point. Unlike productions like Arma or Escape From Tarkov, which require the player to learn articulated combinations of keys to perform a wide range of actions, here everything is rather simple and immediate, so much so that it is possible to take the field even without having explored the training section.
Everything about the use of guns is identical to the vast majority of other shooters and the additional commands to be taken into account, such as those to decide how to break into a building, are clear thanks to the instructions that appear on the screen when the protagonist is near a door to open. To make the experience more engaging, the peculiar communication system with the members of the team takes care of it: the exchange of jokes takes place with the radio, which is activated by pressing a button. While our soldier opens the voice channel to speak and holds his hand on the device, it becomes impossible to perform other actions. This means that there may be situations in which you need to carefully consider whether to focus on any targets or communicate with your teammates.
As for the gunplay, we were pleased to note that it is less cumbersome and slow than other exponents of the milsim genre. The development team seems to have been successful in making the behavior of the weapons credible without sacrificing a certain fluidity (which is usually not part of simulation games). This means that Six Days in Fallujah is not an unapproachable product, but we do not want there to be any misunderstanding: the game by Highwire Games has a particularly high level of challenge and, at least for the moment, there is no way to touch it down.
There is a desperate need for content
We can not be fully satisfied with the state of the game a few days after the launch of Early Access.
The biggest problem of the shooter is the lack of content, since to date it is possible to experiment with only one mission with random objectives and forcibly online, and the AI of allied soldiers has not yet been implemented. This is a huge limitation that affects the enjoyment of the experience of those who do not have a group: the times for matchmaking are very long and sharing such a product with random users is not the best. It must also be taken into account that text chat is completely absent, which represents a gigantic obstacle for those who try to play through matchmaking. Since there are no dedicated servers and a team member acts as a host, we also experienced lag and disconnections due to the group leader's exit. Among other things, the possibility to select the loadout, which is assigned randomly, is missing. This means that you could find yourself in the shoes of the soldier armed with LMG unintentionally, while the lucky ones can wield the assault rifle with a crosshair to attack even the most distant targets.
Between buildings of various sizes and squares (always complicated to cross because of the snipers) located at random points, the approach to the mission must necessarily change. That said, we reserve the right to test the game in the future to assess the actual long-term durability of these procedural solutions. An exceptional job has also been done with the audio sector, as every single noise spreads in a manner consistent with the surrounding environment: the behavior of the sounds in indoor scenarios is incredibly realistic.
In development since 2009
I can see the appeal for some who like hyper realist war/shooters like this. The game gets a lot of what it was like correct. Loved the intro to this game the fact I wish more games did this especially those who use historic aspects. They nailed the environment, sounds, and fog of war/combat.
If you're into tactical shooters, this is definitely a game you want to check out. It's intense, immersive and a team driven close quarters combat game based on real life events. The procedural generated environments will always shape how you will complete a mission objective. The particles combined with the environmental atmosphere were really well produced by the devs to make it look as authentic as possible. It's a bit like a horror game trying to clear a house that's pitch dark, not knowing whether there's an insurgent hiding around the corner.
That being said, at the time of this review it's still in "Early Access". There are many bugs that needs to be addressed and improvements to be made. Some noticeable bugs/improvements to list are:
- Clipping issues. The viewmodel firearms will sometimes clip through walls during ammo inspection.
- Insurgent AI. Sometimes they would see you, start shooting their AKs and miss half a magazine from 15 meters away. Other times, they would turn on their wall hacks and start pre-firing with a PKM with pin point accuracy.
- Weapon animations. These can be further improved, as of now the weapon handling and reloading do feel a bit janky and robotic.
- Mission and role selection. You cannot select the missions you want to play, it's all randomised. Same with the roles (unless you are the "leader" of the lobby queue), you'll be placed into a random loadout kit to play.
- Lead player host servers. Whenever a game starts, it'll be hosted on the "leader's" server. So if the leader decides to quit, it'll shut down the entire server.
- Chat. No text chat in-game, only voice chat.
In any case, the developers are proving to be quite receptive to feedback and have already published a first patch that introduced the FOV slider and other small improvements to the gameplay. We therefore hope that the support is constant and that it can not only add content but also smooth out obvious edges.
Although currently there is a handful of mission objectives to play, each mission will have it's map randomly generated. Which is a nice feature to have to keep replay-ability. This game does have potential to be a very authentic tactical shooter and I will stay around to see what future updates will bring to improve on this game.
There is one issue currently that stands out as needing work, and that would be the AI. Both friendly and enemy AI do. Friendly AI are pretty brain dead at the moment. Enemy AI is kinda the opposite in that they are laser guided to destroy you. They need to be toned down just a touch to not be quite so accurate.
The devs haven't hid the fact that the game is an early release so keep that in mind before you buy it. The sounds, the sights, the straight panic of not knowing who is shooting at you, and where those rounds are coming from is something the devs have done right. I know some people have really harped on the running aspect of the game but in real life you are not sprinting around with 75lbs plus of gear so this is just another realistic part of this game.
So why oh why am I hesitant to fully recommend this game? It's simply too pricey for what is being offered currently, and not entirely cheap by Early Access standards of release. Regardless of technical issues and bugs, this title is asking for 2/3 of normal retail price for a game you can play in 2-3 hours and have experienced all it has to offer.