Phantom Doctrine

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Phantom Doctrine Game Poster Image
Deep strategy, engaging Cold War spy tale will hook players.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Positive messages revolve around completing assignments and ending a global threat. No obvious demonstrations commemorating success, though there's the positive aspect of accomplishing goals without wiping out your team of operatives. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters are fighting to save the world, but little is known about each.

Ease of Play

Even the easiest mode can be challenging due to the real-time strategy/turn-based strategy play. Sessions move from being forgiving in terms of triggering alarms to feeling like even the slightest movement will bring the house down on your field team. Control scheme has a wide range of movement options and drop-down menus that give players deep access to tactical elements. 

Violence

While there are nonlethal ways to take down an enemy, when players embrace their violent tendencies, the game can become a bloodbath. From a variety of pistols, rifles, heavy weapons, and airstrikes, the body count can amp up quickly. When enemies are shot, they bleed and bodies will litter the battlefield. 

Sex
Language

Frequent use of "s--t," other swear words in dialogue.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarettes are seen smoldering in ashtrays on tables, characters may actively use tobacco products, and there are drug references in documents.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Phantom Doctrine is a downloadable strategy game for Windows PCs. It frequently contains swearing, with "s--t" used most often, as well as characters using tobacco or uncovering drug references in documents. Players can try to go through the game without using violence, but sooner or later missions will come down to a gunfight, and players can use everything from guns, rifles, and explosives to calling in airstrikes on targets. Enemies go down in bloody heaps, and bodies remain on the battlefield. Also, even with the game's three difficulty settings, play is challenging and unforgiving of mistakes, requiring a solid grasp of tactics.

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What's it about?

In PHANTOM DOCTRINE, a global conspiracy requires the talents of an international team to combat a threat to global peace that could pit leaders of countries against each other. Phantom Doctrine allows players to take on the role of either a KGB or CIA operative commanding a team on a series of missions. The overall theme to each turn-based scenario is rather simple: infiltrate, accomplish a task, and extract. But skirting alarms and deciding between a gun-blazing bull rush or a stealth approach (or more often than not, a combination of the two) will test the planning and tactics of your squads. The game will also feature head-to-head online battles or team multiplayer matches with spy teams.

Is it any good?

This deep strategy game provides a unique experience thanks to its evolving espionage story, rich customization, and gameplay that keeps players hooked. A standout feature of Phantom Doctrine is its deep customization options: Players can tailor characters, field teams, and weapons to suit their play style. You're also given freedom to work through missions slowly and methodically, or kill whatever moves. These options may seem like common sense, but your choices can be the difference between successfully completing a scenario or horribly failing it. Along with the deep mission play, the game is visually incredible, and its use of voice-overs, as well as documents to drive investigations, sets an amazing tone for an espionage thriller.

Where the game stumbles is that it borrows too heavily from standard strategy features. Players have to tactically plan their attacks because of movement restrictions and limited action points, which hampers the ground characters can cover and what they can do  once they arrive at their destination. This can be a bit frustrating when you're trying to save a teammate, only to find that action points are exhausted, leaving a character out in the open in a gunfight. And some other elements of combat were strange. For example, a character could be hidden by objects or even tucked into a doorway, and yet some enemy soldiers could seemingly bend bullets around corners or through cover to inevitably hit your team. Overall, though, Phantom Doctrine is a deep espionage game that's long on strategy with a solid story, as well as great graphical elements and environments that should give gamers lots of reasons to dive in and stop this global threat. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about violence in video games. How is the impact of violence in Phantom Doctrine affected by the frequent combat that you engage in during missions? Is it lessened because you have the option for nonviolent confrontations?

  • Could you use the strategy and tactics from Phantom Doctrine in everyday situations? What are the advantages of planning before acting?

Game details

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