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Ground Control

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Sierra Studios
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Media: CD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Real-Time Strategy/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Man. The graphics in Ground Control... well, they just blew me away. At first, I was expecting something relatively simple or mediocre, with either sprites or featureless 3D models. Then I zoomed all the way in on my marines. I watched them get into firing positions and jolt with each shot. I then zoomed all the way out and watched my aerodynes circle the battlefield in graceful swoops. This game is gorgeous, as in epic Homeworld-style gorgeous. You can get in and watch the battles up-close, seeing every bullet fired and feint made, or you can watch it like the dispassionate RTS god that you are. Either way, it looks great.

The sounds in the game are satisfying with nice weapons fire and quite satisfying booms when something big goes up. The voice acting is also quite good, never seeming all that over-acted. And is it just me or are the peopleís lips actually moving to the words that theyíre speaking? Itís about time!


Gameplay:

Ground Control is what people call a ďtactical RTS.Ē What this means is that you donít have to deal with the micromanagement of buildings and resource collection that you do with your traditional RTS. Donít let that fool you into thinking that Ground Control is a simple game, however -- itís not. Only shrewd thinking and good tactical decisions will keep you from getting your butt kicked on the higher difficulty levels, and careful configuration of your troops before sending them down on drop-ships can make a world of difference.

You start out the game as Sarah Parker, working for the Crayven Corporation and leading an assault on the Order of the New Dawn. Soon after starting the game, youíll be presented the option to stick with Crayven, or finish the game from the ďother sideĒ as it were, playing in the Order of the New Dawn. The units are quite similar, with differences more like the Arm and the Core from Total Annihilation than the three races in StarCraft. There are basically a few different classes of units, such as infantry or aerodyne (flying units), and each class has two or three variations on the theme. This allows for different types without the almost-humorous overkill of Total Annihilation, although a few different unit types would have been nice. Before each mission, you are presented with a briefing that tells you your starting objectives for that sortie, and you are allowed to customize just who you bring along. How you load your drop-ships can make a serious difference in the way the battles turn out, so pay attention.

The game itself is true 3D. The camera, although a touch confusing at first, soon becomes absolutely second nature, and youíll find yourself getting up close and personal with your troops and then zooming out for an over-reaching view of the action. This is done amazingly well, and should definitely be used as an example of a good 3D interface.

The battles themselves are very nice, with many factors coming into play -- line-of-sight, friendly fire, and even how dark the location of your units is. The darker the location means the harder it is for the enemy to shoot you. Zoom in close and watch the muzzle flares, and youíll start thinking that youíre really there. Enemies will pop in and out of view, depending on your line of sight, so itís often a good idea to keep a close watch at all angles to see if someone new is stepping on your toes.

The one major flaw of the game, and itís a biggie, is that you canít save in the middle of a mission. Iíve had to quit to go somewhere or because my computer spazzed, and had to start a long, arduous mission over again. Itís a serious pain in the ass, but thankfully, the game is enjoyable enough to make up for it.

Ground Control may not be the most unique RTS, but itís a terribly gorgeous and enjoyable romp.


Difficulty:

Man, this is what I like. Before each mission, you can pick the difficulty of the mission youíre about to enter. On the easiest setting, the enemy is weak and you canít hit your own units. The next setting balances the strength, but keeps friendly fire off. The third is standard; the fourth makes the enemy tougher than you. If you find one setting too difficult to complete, you can simply jack it down to the next setting and complete the mission a tad easier. This sort of configurability is definitely welcome.

Game Mechanics:

Iíve already raved about the camera control, and controlling your various units is just as simple Ė click on a button on the screen and theyíre selected, click where you want to move, hold the button, and drag a vector to show which direction you want to face. Easy and nice. Changing their formation and behavior is done just as easily, with buttons on the side of the screen that you can click to change. The menu system is clear and understandable, fitting in with the whole feel of the game. Ground Control is a fun game; despite its flaws (well, one major flaw), any fan of tactical warfare, futuristic or not, should definitely check this title out. Chances are, itís right up your alley.

And wouldnít Major Tom be disappointed if you didnít?

Sorry, I just couldnít resist.


-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:



P2 233, 32 MB RAM, 250MB HD Space, 4X CD-ROM, 4MB Video Card, Mouse, Sound Card, Keyboard
 

Test System:



Windows 98 running on a K6-III 450 w/256MB RAM, 6X/24X DVD-ROM drive, SoundBlaster Live!, Creative Labs Riva TNT2 Ultra w/32MB RAM

Windows Grand Canyon (for Flight Simulator) Windows Heroes Chronicles: Warlords of the Wasteland

 
Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated