Phan­tom Doc­trine

A colder war.

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - DaviD Holling­wortH

De­vel­oper Cre­ative Forge games• Pub­lisher good shep­herd en­ter­tain­ment• Price$ Tbc • Avail­able At steam good shep­herd. games/ games/ phan­tom-doc­trine

I like to imag­ine the el­e­va­tor pitch for Phan­tom Doc­trine was pretty sim­ple. “It’s XCOM, but for spies!” and some­one at Good Shep­herd went “Heck yes!” But it’s also a pitch which doesn’t do the game any jus­tice, be­cause in a lot of ways it is far, far bet­ter.

Phan­tom Doc­trine’s core loop is al­most iden­ti­cal to XCOM’s – the game switches from man­ag­ing the strate­gic pic­ture of the Cold War dur­ing the 1980s, to the tac­ti­cal stage of run­ning op­er­a­tions across var­i­ous global hotspots with your team of agents. But whereas XCOM is al­most en­tirely about shoot­ing aliens in the face, much of the mis­sions in Phan­tom Doc­trine re­volve around a more de­lib­er­ate ap­proach, and end­ing a mis­sion with­out a shot fired, or a sin­gle dead body, is of­ten more im­por­tant than light­ing up those damn Russkies or Cap­i­tal­ist Pig Amer­i­cans.

And yes, you can play ei­ther as a KGB agent, or a CIA agent, but… Well, I’ll leave some de­vel­op­ments for you to find out on your own.

There’s all kinds of in­ter­est­ing twists to the base XCOM for­mula. When things do go loud, it’s pretty clas­sic stuff – you can move and shoot, move twice, hug cover, set agents to Over­watch, and so on. But on top of Ac­tion Points, there’s a cou­ple of other met­rics to keep track of, which al­low you to per­form silent take-downs or per­form lethal head­shots. And while XCOM’s rather du­bi­ous ran­dom hit chances are bit of a sore point for many fans of such games, Phan­tom Doc­trine’s does away with ran­dom val­ues al­to­gether – your agents are pro­fes­sion­als, and will ei­ther do min­i­mum or max­i­mum dam­age with each shot, mod­i­fied by dodges from aware op­po­nents. This makes you feel that much more lethal on the ground; but, the badguys have the same abil­ity.

Get­ting into a gun­fight is very rarely a good idea, and do­ing so dur­ing the ex­trac­tion phase of an op­er­a­tion – and you have call in your evac, mak­ing tim­ing ev­ery­thing – is even worse, as your car, chop­per, or what­ever may well veer off if the land­ing zone is too hot.

Back at base, there are again sim­i­lar­i­ties, as you can train up agents, al­lo­cate high-tech spy gear (and you re­search some real neat toys!), and ex­pand base op­er­a­tions. But you can take con­trol of much more, and the big­gest in­no­va­tion would have to be the In­ves­ti­ga­tion Board. You know that great meme from It’s Al­ways Sunny in Philadel­phia, with the red string and pho­to­graphs and gen­eral air of crazy des­per­a­tion? That’s a whole mini-game in Phan­tom Doc­trine, as you search out im­por­tant key words, link up doc­u­ments, un­cover hid­den plans, and fi­nally un­lock new clues to on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Phan­tom Doc­trine does have some flaws – line of sight can feel a lit­tle iffy at times (se­ri­ously, how could that guard have seen my damn sniper?!), for in­stance – but over­all it comes across as the think­ing gamer’s XCOM.

Your agents are pro­fes­sion­als, and will ei­ther do min­i­mum or max­i­mum dam­age with each shot.

Se­ri­ously, who brings a .50 cal lon­garm to a CQB fight? This guy.

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