Phantom Doctrine (PC) Review
Phantom Doctrine tries to invoke all the feelings of high espionage from the cold war, mixing in much of the intrigue that moves that plot forward. It also borrows heavily from the XCOM series in mechanics as well, not only in field movement but also in base building aspects. People might be wondering what could go wrong when you copy almost everything that made the previous two XCOM games a hit, almost wholesale, and pasted them into another game that is about spies instead of aliens. The answer is a ton. A ton can go wrong.
The first thing is that the game lacks subtly. All the intrigue might make for a surface level interesting plot, but it starts to fall very flat the moment that any pressure is taken off. Great spy fiction wasn’t simply written by having one boring thing happen after the next, all of which loosely connect. For it to properly work the entire thing should be tightened entirely more than—mainly because it feels like there are long stretches that the player is doing nothing other than hanging out and sending agents out to investigate literally nothing.
The second problem is that stealth is the only functional option to progress in the game. Other choices are presented, but they pretty much result in every single NPC on the screen instantly turning against the player and physically knowing where they are—even through a series of buildings if required. This means that the normally viable tactic of taking out the only enemy, silently, in a room before they can react is now invalid; instead now turning that now unconscious lump into a distress become to anyone with a gun.
The game also doesn’t like multi-monitor displays either, so if a TV is hooked up for—say—Steam big picture, and Windows sees that as monitor 1 that is the screen the game is going to be played on. While this might not be a huge issue for everyone, it is annoying for anyone that might be currently writing the review and didn’t want to play the game with a controller instead of a mouse and keyboard at a desk.
While there are things that some people will probably really like about Phantom Doctrine, as those that simply need more XCOM in their lives regardless of how they get it, most people are probably entirely safe just skipping this title. While nothing is overly offensive, nothing about it is subtle, or even done that well, and there are a handful of glaring issues that there is no reason that weren’t fixed before the game was released. Maybe wait until it is on a Steam sale and there is nothing else worth getting, and the urge to spend money on something easily forgotten is overpowering.
Also available on PS4 and Xbox One for $39.99.