With so many kitten videos on YouTube, taking over the world is something of a hassle these days. Vladimir Putin, with his head as smooth as a baby's first jazz recital, has found this out the hard way, attempting to start a world war while also maintaining his long-distance stalking of PewDiePie. Luckily, there's an easier way to dominate the planet. RISK has had dozens of video game adaptations over the years – and this is the latest.
The last version of this classic to hit consoles was RISK: Factions, a quirky, colourful affair that pitted cats and zombies against yetis and robots. It had its issues, but was fun to play because it had so much of its own character. Plus, you could turn all of the nonsense off if you wanted to.
For this PlayStation 4 version, the silliness has been removed, but it's been replaced with dry, futuristic military animations that seem dragged from the latest CGI blockbuster. There's no personality here, just virtual helicopters floating across the screen or aeroplanes on a bombing run. Considering that each match can easily run three hours or more, the narrow selection of less than ten animations will soon become frustrating, and you can't skip them.
The game itself is exactly as you'd expect it to be, and there are a few different versions of the original ruleset if you want some variety. The basics are this: place your soldiers, attack your enemies, and hope that they don't undo all of your work in the next round. Only Monopoly has broken more homes, but this digital remake works, and, in that regard, it's hard to fault the developer; it's built up a decent foundation and then screwed up the presentation, which is better than making mistakes from the beginning.
It's all just a little bit serious, and the move to a more modern setting – with VR ladies commentating every move – doesn't help it any. This wouldn't be so much of a problem if there was a 'basic' mode without any of the extra pomp, but there isn't. You can speed up the AI and you can skip the announcements, but these have to be done each move and each vocal section – there are no universal options.
Online, of course, you're at the mercy of whoever you happen to be playing with. Some will blast through their move in seconds, skipping every unnecessary bit of fat knowing full well that there are people waiting for them to be finished with their go. Others will deliberate over the simplest of things for ten minutes straight, deciding whether to place their last two troops in Great Britain or Greenland. Those people should be banned from the PlayStation Network for life.
Not that it's easy to finish an online game. The amount of time that it takes aside, we've yet to complete a full match that didn't see at least one of the other players losing connection. Against strangers, this isn't too bad, as the AI jumps in and does a decent job of taking over. If you only want to play against friends, though, you're going to have issues. Once a connection is dropped, it can't be remade, and you'll either have to quit entirely and start again – or continue without your buddy. It's something that needs to get patched, but, for now, will cause problems for those who specifically want to campaign against people that they know.
Alternatively, you can play with up to five friends locally. This is not ideal, but it's an improvement over the previous RISK game, and a more than welcome one.
However, like Ubisoft's take on Tetris, this game has some truly baffling issues that defy explanation. Some of the animations have slowdown – actual framerate drops – which are more than visible time and time over. Again, if they could be properly skipped, perhaps you'd be able to overlook the poor optimisation, but it's forced upon you and happens enough that it stands out. Meanwhile, you can skip your own attacks, but it's hard not to be suspicious of how balanced the dice are when you've seen armies of 9 or 10 units die to a single opponent more than one time in a match.
RISK hasn't changed very much in the nearly 60 years since its creation. Maybe that's why Ubisoft has tried to sex it up, adding fancy animations and setting it in the near future. What's on offer will leave you wanting something more back-to-basics, though; for diehards, it's probably not worth upgrading over RISK: Factions.