In the ultimate battle of the sexes, The 8th Day's Gender Wars pits men and women against in each other in a tongue-in-cheek action strategy game. Let's just say that 1996 was a different time.
First of all, let's get the gender politics out of the way. Women deserve equal pay, new fathers should be entitled to more parental leave and Ghostbusters 2016 was simply a terrible movie. Ok, if any of that triggered you then prepare yourself for Gender Wars. Every negative stereotype that dogs both genders are present and accounted for and it's just as unfunny as an Amy Schumer Netflix special (replace with 'Dane Cook HBO Special' for the sake of balance).
The story is that in the 23rd century, after a long period of world-wide matriarchic rule, men and women had fallen out on a grand scale. Entire countries would pledge their allegiance to either of the two leaders - the Matriarch or the Patriarch - and banished the opposite sex as a result. A failed assassination attempt on the two tyrants began an all-out war to completely annihilate the enemy. This would be known as the Gender Wars. In case you're wondering, cloning was now a thing, perfected solely to continue the species. And presumably no-one has sex. What a future.
This story is nothing but a gimmick that's only really confined in the menu screens and cut-scenes. The campaigns are different too, though they play the same. Any attempt at a plot is pushed aside to allow for some incredibly unfunny jabs at each gender. In this universe men are drunken, messy slobs with low intelligence and a violent nature. Women are obsessed with shopping and cleaning while being complete technophobes who can't drive. They also express a similar violent nature. There wouldn't be a game otherwise.
The game itself is rather generic. It's an action-focussed RTS in a similar vein to Syndicate or Cannon Fodder. You control four squad members tasked with a variety of missions which include planting a bug on a communications device, collecting a number cryogenically frozen ovaries or simply killing everyone in sight. There's nothing really wrong with the controls - left click to move to that point, right click to shoot - but there's a few programming and design quirks that do hinder any enjoyment.
For starters, the maps are massive from the very first level. It took me about an hour and a half to complete the first male mission (though it could be a fraction of that if you know what you're doing) and later levels are even longer. You cannot save mid-mission either so if you die two hours in that's time you'll never get back. There's a healthy amount of recharge stations that will replenish your life so that's something at least. The mission directive are also not very clear. You can view a briefing before you begin but guaranteed some of the most important information will be forgotten by the time you need it a few hours later. You can access a checklist in-game, but it's not as detailed and will offer no hope as to what to do. For example, the first male mission asks you to destroy some solar panels, but I had not paid attention to what they looked like during the brief and so had no clue what to look for. They are located in a large garden section on the other side of a facility and look more like clotheslines than what we would know as solar panels. We are are in the heart of Matriarch country after all.
The levels look nice enough, with an isometric viewpoint and pleasing pixel art, but you'll soon find that there's a lot of repetition. Rooms will often look similar, if not the same, and when the level is designed to be something of a maze, it's very disorientating. There are two viewpoints which can be switched on the fly by pressing R. It was programmed to accommodate different PC specs rather than as a game option. The low-res 320x240 put the camera far too close to the action, making it almost unplayable. Thankfully the default is hi-res 640x480, with a zoomed out view of the isometric landscape. Smaller details are harder to make out, but it is the preferred setting. Almost everything can be destroyed in a satisfying explosion, but it's not easy to make out what everything is. I had a lot of trouble trying to find the communications equipment in one of the female missions. So much so that I thought I'd destroyed it by accident.
Another gripe I have is that the AI is very dumb, even by 1996 standards. You can shoot an enemy from a higher level, but they'll sometimes stand still until they're dead. The room could be filled with screaming civilians running around and flailing their arms in panic while the armed enemies hold their positions and do nothing. You're squad isn't much better. While they're good at branching off to mow down anyone with a penis/vagina (delete depending on the campaign), they can often get stuck and unknowingly be left behind. Lifts - a common means of transportation it seems - will become a nightmare for this. You can only fit so many on each platform at a time so any remaining crew will have to wait for the next one. And it could take some moments, that is if they'll actually do it. You can manually control each member using the numerical keys, but it gets tedious and fiddly. I found briefly controlling the problem member then going back to the leader will give them a kick up the arse and they'll behave again.
For a game aiming to be humorous, the levels themselves have very few laughs, though considering what the developers think passes for a joke that's probably a good thing. This does give Gender Wars something of an identity crisis - ironic considering the subject. The levels, as good and large and frustrating as they can be, could easily be appropriated to any other game of this type. The sexual spat that makes up the game's unique selling point is not really played with. The female missions play out much the same way as the male's, except with a few extra lumps on the character sprites. Both sexes are the same, though I very much doubt that this was a deliberate political statement. With the cut-scenes playing up the stereotypes, the game itself could've done something similar. Perhaps beer and beauty products could be implemented in the game world? How about a difference in strength and stamina? Or characterize the female campaign by offering real stealth over the testosterone driven action?
Beyond these negatives, Gender Wars is still a somewhat enjoyable game, if you can get past the blatant misogyny and misandry (can you call it sexist if both men and women are equally targeted?). It won't surpass Syndicate but there's enough satisfying gameplay in there to make it worth your while.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Manual included. Tested on Windows 10.
File Size: 164 Mb. Install Size: 185 Mb. Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ
Gender Wars is © The 8th Day
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me