Homeland Defense: Boredom Patrol
Yesterday I promised an AAR for a curious RTS game about running a US border post. The game, Homeland Defense: National Security Patrol, is a Valusoft title released in 2008 and now available for a few dollars over at Impulse. And since I promised, here it is, and everyone better be grateful, because this has been a painful, painful experience.
The game can be summed up easily. It’s Command and Conquer meets a Tea Party rally. It’s an RTS (although a terrible one) where your job is to stare at your border post ensuring your border agents vigilantly check everyone crossing the border for drugs, lack of legal entry permits or shock, the chance they are a terrorist. If you catch one of these ne’er-do-wells, you throw them in your detention center and interrogate some justice into them.
Or you could just tase them to death.
One of the first thing you should know about HDNSP is that there are three kinds of NPCs:
- Agents: These are the good guys you hire. They are border agents, mechanics, intel people and medics. They do the work and you control them, although by all accounts, they’re terrible at their jobs.
- Illegals/Aliens/Criminals: These are all lumped together in the generic category of “The Bad Guys”. Try and sneak across the border and it’s our job to deport your ass. Try to smuggle drug or blow up Americans? And it’s of to jail with you! …Maybe after a little tasing though. They’re all crims after all.
- Everyone else: These are the good honest citizens who cross the border with all their papers intact. They keep your agents busy.
And lets not be squeamish about calling a spade, a spade! Right from the get-go the pitifully short manual makes it quite clear how we’re to refer to the bad guys.
We are to stun uncooperative illegals (the only humane thing to do, clearly), shoot criminals, search everyone and stop the aliens! After all, it’s the only way to be sure The Terrorists don’t win! But enough of that, on with the game!
Here’s the splash screen. I find it really gets me in the mood to play HDNSP; We’re going to stop those illegals! The whole look and feel of the title screen sets me brimming with authoritarian excitement! It’s enough to give a guy an authority-boner! There’s a reason the original flag of fascism was a bundle of firm, upright rods, after all!
The game gives you the choice of three locations at which you can play with a “Free Play” mode and challenges at each location. The “Free Play” mode sees you start with a small amount of cash (which you can easily run out of, and therefore lose the game) whereas the challenge mode sees you start with a lot more cash and some vague goal (eg “stop the smuggler car!”). Does it make sense? No. Does it matter? Not really. You’ll probably be happier if you just lost the game quicker in Free Play than if you tried a Challenge, which is likely to drag on a lot more.
I chose the exciting and dusty border of Southern California for my Free Play game.
The first task, on loading the scenario, is to place a few buildings for our border patrol gig. If we don’t get on that right away people will end up waiting at the border to cross (due to our lack of recruited agents) and we’ll be fined cash from our limited budget. I throw down a barracks, a workshop, a detention center and a canine facility. They are a wonder to watch being built.
With the buildings up, it’s time to right-click the facilities and recruit staff. This poor candidate thinks the border patrol will be rewarding and exciting. Poor chap, he’s going to be in for a nasty shock. I hire him and four others (the maximum for the single barracks we have).
We also pick up a mechanic – he’s going to be building some of our awesome observation facilities! He’s also in charge of repairing the cars we’re going to buy.
I chose an awesome SUV from the list of four potential vehicles. This is going to be very handy for the boys, I’m sure!
With the kit purchased, I send the boys waddling down to the nearby border crossing. Yes, waddling. Border Patrol staff in this game walk like they’ve eaten an extremely large lunch and have yet to have a chance to enjoy a quiet sit with a newspaper. I guess that’s what marks out the brave, dedicated people of the US Border Patrol service from the rest of us mortals!
It’s at this time that one of HDNSP’s most annoying features comes to the fore: A very loud and annoying beep every time you get an urgent message. And urgent messages they are too! Check this out!
Terrorists and criminals! And they’re slipping through my border! Damn!
Speaking of which, here’s our border post.
On the top left you can see border information, including the number of cars and people who have transited as well as the number of illegals, criminals and terrorists we’ve arrested. It’s pretty thrilling stuff! I can click the border to be fully open, or have people at the border checked by my guards, who are dutifully manning their posts.
I’ve also got a couple of Border Patrol people set on “Guard” nearby and they frequently dash about interrogating random passers-by in case they are brown, suspicious or should be locked up!
Here one of my staff has checked the papers of a suspicious individual and I’m prompted for guidance on what to do next. Contrary to popular opinion, the option buttons are not “burn with a magnifying glass” or “beat with chair”, instead, I can search the individual, detain the individual or let them go. With nothing suspicious found after a search, I have the guard wave the citizen on.
In other news I have now purchased two cars and hired a couple of mechanics, but it seems I’ve hit a bug already and my men can’t get into the damn vehicles, I
Ok, yes, more damn terrorists on their way. Thanks alert system. Anyway, where was I. Yes, our men can’t use the vehicles and instead seem to be attempting to mate with them. Something strange is going on at the border, that’s for sure!
Hmm, that’s a shame. I know you can drive cars, I managed it last night. You click the staff member, click the car and then click the car and click where you want it to go. This seems to serve pretty much no purpose (you can drive around, through and past suspicious individuals without anything happening) so it appears it’s just a “feature” to micromanage. There’s also some weird issue where it seems your Border Patrol staff can only drive where they can walk – that is – on the side of the roads and cross country. US Border Patrol staff are terrified of tarmac it seems.
Oh well, screw the vehicle fleet then.
Damn that’s annoying. More terrorists, more jail escapees, more drug dealers, more illegals rounded up by local cops (uh-oh, egg on our face, huh?!), the trouble never ends at the border! Hmm, I’ve got an idea! How about we get some dogs trained up to help our border team!? Great plan! I order five dogs.
The elite sniffer dogs arrive instantly. The player is meant to be able to assign them to border patrol staff but no amount of clicking seems to make this work. The dogs seem to know what’s best and begin roaming the grounds on their own. Well, some of them do. Others head for the hills. I trust they are dashing off to hunt illegals all by themselves! At night I expect to hear their howls as illegals flee from their gnashing jaws of justice!
Oh, what’s this! A border guard has arrested someone!
I don’t know why she has been arrested yet, but I suspect she’ll cough up some details after a detailed interrogation at base. Right now I suspect she’s in handcuffs for at least one of these reasons, if not more:
- She’s a bit brown.
- She’s a woman.
- She’s not married.
All of these points are cause for concern, if you ask me, so I am pleased my guard managed to take the initiative on this issue! Most of the time they need to be completely micromanaged (open the gate, close the gate, search the car, walk here, walk there, blah blah blah.), but this guard, patrolling in front of the border post, is clearly management material! Reward this man with a stylish pair of mirrorshades, stats!
Oh, that reminds me, the only female Border Patrol staff you will see in this game work at the medical center.
What’s this? Disturbing news!
HIGH LEVELS OF ILLEGAL WORKERS! Shit! Head to the bunkers, boys, there are Mexicans doing our lawns and their Levels are High! What do we do?! Well, it appears we need more control over our border! But how? We have the main road picketed, what more can we do?
Oh, it’s clear from the alert that there are also waves of terrorist slipping through our grasp, presumably coming in from Mexico, that well known hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism (terrorists are always Islamic, you see). Never mind, whatever “international intelligence enforcement officers” are, they seem to be doing a good job of tidying up these bad guys.
The border problem is a bit of a conundrum. We have a long open border with just a couple of guard shacks built by our mechanic (when I say “built” I mean I merely clicked the mechanic, right clicked half way across the map, selected the structure and poof it was there. He has amazing powers of substantiation). How on earth am I meant to keep this border safe from illegal criminal terrorist aliens when I’m losing money daily and started off pretty poor to begin with?! The game’s only suggestion is
Here are one of the two border watch towers I’ve built west of my main facility. You can see I have a lot of border to cover and I’ve got no idea what I’m meant to do if anyone is spotted here. I think I have to manually send my Border Patrol Guy to chase them down. How tedious. Good luck to the guard, though, he’s on his own out there for the foreseeable future. We’ve got no cars and by all accounts it took him a couple of days to reach this post on foot and I’ve got no plans on ordering him back!
Oh, the green dots on the bottom right of the map are my dogs! They are hunting illegals in a pack. I’ve taken to naming them The Justice Hounds. Sure, they’re on the Mexican side of the border, but that’s ok, they have a better sense of smell than humans and I’m certain they can sniff out the intent to be illegal well before any Mexican reaches the border!
In other news, our first detainee, after interrogation, turns out to be innocent! Oops! Oh well, better let her go. I’ve not noticed any consequence for her detention but it would probably be bad to hold her indefinitely. And by bad I mean I’d eventually get a promotion and an apology from the government for taking some initiative to stop the damn alien criminal illegal terrorists.
To relieve the tedium I build an intelligence center and hire a specialist! Sweet! I’m going to have him build some surveillance equipment to help us monitor our border.
While that is being built I start messing with the threat levels. I can cycle through all the levels of threat with a simple mouse click, so exciting! To mess with the locals I set it to “Severe” for a while, this seems to do nothing, but then I ponder, perhaps this is a wry jab at the whole threat level system? Naw, I don’t think this game is quite that deep. It’s probably just a broken “feature”.
In keeping with theme I drop the level back to “Guarded” and leave it there. It’s what Bush would want me to do (and the game time is 2007, after all).
I go ahead and try and build a surveillance tower with my new intel engineer guy. It turns out they are really hard to place and I can’t put one anywhere near my border post. In the end I put one in my base. You know who watches the watchers? Me, bitches!
I’m running out of funds and getting pretty bored so it’s time to have an agent mess with a local near the border to see what happens. It’s time to break out the tazer! Clark detains this old lady, whips out the tazer, and ZAP! She falls over!
Zap! Again! Zap! Clark tazers her down to very low health.
Again! Look, she’s scared.
Clark can’t seem to kill her, but that’s ok. Probably not ideal to kill random old ladies. Especially when they have such proper American-sounding names. I might be fined a few hundred dollars.
But what’s this? I get Clark to interview her and then we discover…
This old lady is an illegal! The name must be a fake! I’m sure if we interrogate her back at base we’ll find out she’s a secret Mexican and we can then administer some justice to what’s left of her health bar! I quickly click “detain” and Clark drags her off to the compound.
It seems that tazing people for justice really does work!
But, shortly after this I get some sad news.
I’ve run out of cash and as this is a game about being an arm of the US Government deficits are clearly forbidden! But don’t you fear, dear reader, I am going to take one for the team and play this game again so you can experience all the “fun” that this title has to offer. I’m going to try a Challenge mode scenario! Which of these do you think I should chose?
“Alien Crisis” or “Border Under Pressure”? “Alien Crisis” sounds awesome, I mean, a crisis, but with aliens, what’s not to like? But defending America from an onslaught of refugees looking for respite from a civil war? Cruelly forcing the refugees to clamour at our uncaring border guards, asking for relief from crime and violence? That sounds much more patriotic! I’ll see you again soon with more exciting action from HDNSP!