Review by mutant_vermin
Reviewed: 06/13/07 | Updated: 06/14/07
Ground Control to Major Fun...
When I first saw this game, I was trawling through various RTSes, being something of an RTS junky myself, to see what my next acquisition was going to be. Universally, this game cropped up, getting superb scores. Gamespot gave it an 8.5. Even stingy Gamerevolution gave it a superb A-. It became certain. I had to have this game. I was not disappointed.
Ground Control 2 is set in the distant future, and seems simple and clear cut at first. The Terran Empire (bad guys) are laying siege to the final world of the Northern Star Alliance (good guys). You play as Captain Jacob Angelus, in an attempt to swing the war in favour of the NSA. However, without spoiling the plot, the involvement of a race of aliens called the Virons, and the hunt for technology that could save the NSA, spice things up a lot. There are more twists and turns than a cow's colon, and is never predictable. The voiceovers for the various characters is a little weak, but that doesn't stop you loving all the characters. If you're tired of the silent, boring Master Chief, then this may be up your alley. Best of all, there are more than thirty missions, spanning two campaigns that let you play as both the NSA and the Virons. Its just as much fun to watch the story unfold as to play the missions themselves, which always manage to be great fun, whether its sneaking into an enemy base with an elite team of Commandos to spy on the Imperials, or Frantically trying to defend a research lab that contains information critical to your survival, or desperately searching the swamps in search of a resource just to stay alive, while the Imperials likewise desperately try to blow it up.
This is a new spin on RTS. There are no bases, and you get units by controlling landing zones, that you can use to call down your dropship and deliver you new units. The only resource is Acquisition points, that you gain by controlling important points on the map and killing enemy units. However, the twist is, the more units you have on-field, the slower your AP comes in, to the point where you don't get any. This forces you to make as best use of your existing units as you can, instead of just spamming fifty Mammoth Tanks and rolling over the opposition. The battlefields range from massive epic affairs on huge, wide open battlegrounds, to gritty, close-up battles in the ruins of a war-torn city. Combat is multi-faceted, and is detailed at all levels, from the use of formations, artillery and off-field support, to the use of line of sight, high ground, fortifications and directional armour. The Virons can even meld two units of the same type together to make a new, more powerful one. For example, you can send two engineer centruroids to repair a battle-scarred unit of your troops, then meld them together to create a mortar centruroid to bombard a distant enemy position, then unmeld them again to continue to provide support for your units. Controlling your units can, however, be a bit of a pain sometimes. You'll get tired of giving a move order, only to hear "not possible, sir." Why don't you move to the nearest point? Use your initiative soldier! However, its always a pleasure to play, with the campaign missions being varied and fun, and the skirmish and multiplayer maps are fun to play on as well. As for multiplayer, this game enjoys great support through Massgate, that makes dropping into a game as easy as 1-2-3. Testing your mettle against cunning human beings, who can best make use of the extraordinary room for tactics and strategy that this game allows, is the ultimate test of your RTS skills.
The graphics in this game are simply awe-inspiring, and well ahead of their time. The detail in the environments is precise almost to the point of ridiculousness. The street signs can be read, the plants are varied, you can see vines growing up the side of an abandoned building in a swamp. The camera is free-looking, so that you can even look up into the sky, where you are often greeted by the sight of the moons of the planet you are on, the blaring sun of a desert planet, sunspots and all, the rings around a gas giant. And none of this even influences the game in any way. The developers took the time and effort to put it in just so you could look at it. An that's not even getting started This same detail goes into the units. You can see the details of what is written on the side of your tanks, and their commanders poking their heads nervously through the hatch to take a look around. When combat heats up, its even more impressive. Artillery shells arc up over the battlefield before smashing down. When an enemy unit explodes, it does so in a fireball. The time and effort spent on all this must have been simply staggering, and it can all be viewed from any angle you care to think about. Best of all, even on my mediocre rig, it runs along in all its glory with nary a hitch.
The game has some great ambient sound effects, from the growl of a tank's engines, to the cawing of birds, to the clicking made by your Viron units. Music is also great, delivering a sense of mystery and awe when appropriate, or thumping heavy metal scores to get you pumped up for a battle. The rousing military theme in the main menu is particularly notable, and has become stuck in my head now. However, the unit quotes are less than inspiring. They aren't very varied, and some are just downright bad. After five minutes of playing, you'll want to kill Sergeant Rho for his repetitions of "Sarge does what Sarge does best," over and over again. Oh forget it, we love you Sarge, really. On the upside, the units do let you know when they've killed an enemy, or if their being fired upon, or if they spotted enemy units, so brownie points to Massive for that, as unlike most RTS's generic "enemy unit sighted" you can get some sort of idea where this new enemy is, as you can get some kind of idea of which unit just did the spotting for you.
Overall, every self-respecting RTS fan is a fool for not getting this, especially as you can get it dirt-cheap now. Just go do yourself a favour. Lead the Northern Star Alliance to victory. Godspeed Commander.
Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
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