By Chris Picone, 28 October 2023
USC: Counterforce is still in early stages of development (the campaign isn't available yet) but it's looking promising as a hardcore squad-based tactical game.
Don't be surprised if you a feel a little overwhelmed when you first load into the game. Until the campaign mode unlocks, you're restricted to the tutorial and custom games, and there are a lot of customisation options available. Select your map and mission type, then you're given a stack of points to buy and deck out your squad with. Points can be spent levelling your characters up, but must also be used to purchase all weapons, armour, and other items for your whole crew. It's a lot to take in all at once but does promise excellent post-campaign replayability. Some pre-made party sets would go a long way here but you can at least save your builds.
Once actually in the game, it's a nice solid turn-based tactical with well-balanced mechanics - harder than usual to do given the flexibility USC affords. You can move, shoot, move again, switch weapons, shoot again, whatever you want to do in whichever order you want to do it, for as long as your action points last. I started with a "classic" game, moving through the tight corridors of some derelict spaceship, hacking my way through the ship and blasting xenos. The combat was tight and intense, with an excellent range of rushing, shooting, exploding, and just about every other kind of xeno you can think of. I also dabbled with the base-builder / horde survival mode, which was exactly as fun as it sounds, and USC also offers a bunch of other game modes (feels like there's a new one with every update!) to check out. Some quality of life features such as simplified reloading are missing but the game's still very much in EA so I'm sure those things will come later.
The verdict? As one of the more hardcore squad-based tactical options out there, USC: Counterforce won't be for everyone. But for those of us who love that sort of thing, it's very promising. It's not super user-friendly but the customisation options are incredible and the combat's very engaging. The custom games have been fun but I'm really a campaign lover at heart so I'm looking forward to seeing what Counterforce brings to the table.