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Platform

PC

 

Genre

RTS

 

Publisher

Vivendi

 

Developer

Massive Entertainment

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

June 22, 2004

 

- Lovely Graphics

- Weather effects affect gameplay

- Environment can provide armor bonuses

- Good storyline and voice acting

- Streamlined action gameplay

 

 

- Annoying Camera

- Only passable AI

- Little variety in campaign

 

 

Review: Impossible Creatures (PC)

Review: War Times (PC)

Review: Rise of Nations (PC)

Review: Rise of Nations - Throne and Patriots (PC)

 

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Ground Control II: Operation Exodus

Score: 7.0 /10

 

Ground Control II (GC2) has some excellent production values. Just take a look at some of the screenshots if you donít believe me. Having only had a very brief encounter with the demo of the first Ground Control, GC2 surprised me in many ways. It did so both for what I was expecting after the initial wow factor and for what I wasnít expecting as a newcomer to the series.

 

ground control 2 preview          ground control 2 preview

 

The game has an extensive background story laid out in the manual and the game has the story developments through high res talking heads in a box a la Starcraft. The voice acting is very good and the story, although not that original, is fairly engaging and did make me want to continue playing to find out more. You start out playing as a Commander of the NSA forces, defending and completing strategic military objectives. In this future, mankind is at war and the two warring factions have taken to the surface of one planet in dispute to try and turn the tide. Huge planetary shields now prevent bombardment from space, which has already devastated the planetís cities. As such, war must now be waged on the planetary surface.

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This sets the stage for what comes down to a real time strategy game where the strategy is focused completely on the combat. Troop movements and vehicle support become critical to success. GC2 has no resources. There is no base building and no harvesting of ore etc. As such, units can not be created. Throughout the maps, there will be victory locations. Capturing these locations shows your superiors that new units can justifiably be given to you. This is measured in 

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Acquisition Points (AP); the more Victory Locations that you capture, the quicker AP is awarded to you. To call in more units, you will need to call down your drop ship. Each unit costs a different amount of AP and they also take up a certain amount of space in the cargo hold of the drop ship. Your drop ship is on e of the few units that can be upgraded and this costs AP.  Some of the ways it can be upgraded is to hold more troops, to have stronger armor, and to stay on the battlefield longer.

 

Your drop ship is very important in the game as it can be used to attack, but is also the lifeís blood of your military force. Its attacks are fairly powerful, but it can stay on the battlefield only for a limited time before it runs out of fuel and returns to base. Although very tough, if your drop ship is destroyed, you will not be able to call down more units. Units in the game are not meant to be used lightly either. Units can gain experience with the more enemies that they dispatch. As such, there is also a heavy strategic element in preserving your units. Each unit has a primary and secondary mode of fire. The secondary modes are all very well thought out as well. Both modes create a unit with a very balanced unique characteristic. While the NSA units are human units that have the general infantry and vehicle units that are fairly standard, the Viron units are a little bit more unique. Viron units can be melded together to create new, more powerful units. The strategy of playing as the Virons is different enough to justify having only a couple of race options when playing.

 

The environments that you will be trying to gain control of in the game have bonuses that they can award and that can be taken away from your forces. For instance, environments are generally very hilly and can in many cases be heavily wooded. In a forest like environment, troops in high positions hidden in trees, gain armor bonuses as they are harder to hit. Likewise, attacking uphill is always more difficult. Some of the destroyed city environments also afford many strategic opportunities. Troops placed in buildings are also harder to hit. Having a fleet of snipers in a building can be deadly to an unsuspecting patrol of infantry.

 

While the streamlined nature of the game is refreshing, there are some things about the game that I found that made me wonder if there were design decisions made to dumb down the AI so that players had more to do during game play. For instance, your troop movements can be configured in a formation, but will not move in that formation one planet in dispute to completing strategic military. Often if you click to move your troops to a location fairly far away, your troops will split up and take different paths, leaving themselves open for easier attack as they become isolated. Troops can be moved using waypoints to prevent this, but improved AI path finding would have been a welcome addition in my mind.

 

Additionally, troops placed in buildings generally face in one direction. They can only fire at enemies in the direction that they are facing. However, in some bunkers, your units can still be shot at from a different direction and will be unable to fire back, unless they are moved to face in that direction. While troops can be placed facing in all directions, generally this weakens their overall attack as only the troops facing a given direction can fire in that direction. I would have preferred not to have to micromanage this aspect of the game.

 

Also, your troops will not move or take cover when being fired upon. Some artillery units can fire at other units without their being able to fire back. As such, they will simply stand there and take damage. The above points are the same for the enemy AI as well. As such, having the right units take out the correct target, the enemy AI will just stand there until they are destroyed.

 

Iím not certain if these were conscious decisions made to force the player to manage their units. I do see it as a possibility because, were the AI very good, there would be little for the player to do. The objectives in the campaign are fairly singular in that you must gain control of victory locations. The reason may differ, but the end objective is generally the same.

 

The final minor hindrance to the game I found was the camera. While the camera can be freely rotated in any direction, it will remain at a fixed level above the terrain that you have set. For instance, if the camera is set at half zoom above the terrain, and you pass over a large cliff, the camera will dip down into that cliff to maintain the amount of zoom. While this is generally welcome, this can be very annoying when a battle is raging on a bridge over a deep ravine. Moving back and forth over the bridge, the camera will dip wildly and sink if the exact center focal point of the camera is not fixed on the bridge.

 

ground control 2 preview          grond control 2 preview

 

Ground Control II is quite enjoyable. Despite having to baby-sit your troops, and play with the same objective over and over, the game still had me coming back for more. There is of course the requisite multiplayer option, and the game design lends itself very well to this. With no base building and no resources to harvest, the focus of the strategy on troop movement and placement is streamlined to provide gamers with action oriented gameplay. The gameís graphics are beyond gorgeous, and the single player campaign is engaging. While not a perfect game, it is good, and deserves a chance from any real time strategy fan.

 

- Mark Leung

(June 22, 2004)

 

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