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Earth 2160

Score: 69%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Midway
Developer: Reality Pump
Media: CD/3
Players: 1 - 8 (online)
Genre: Real-Time Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

The look of Earth 2160 is absolutely stunning. The level of detail on the graphics is one that few other RTS games have even come close to. The home-brewed engine the developers used affords them the ability to create such a level of depth, as well as being able to handle tons of units on screen at once. There will be many times when you fight out a battle that involves literally hundreds of different units. Not only are the graphics powerful, but the visual style is excellent as well. Each of the four sides is absolutely unique from one another, which not only helps in making the game just that much more enthralling, but it allows you to easily differentiate between the factions when the fighting gets thick.

The sound and music are equally as powerful as the graphics. Until, that is, you come to the voice acting. This is one part of the game you will wish you could turn off. The written and spoken dialogue are downright ugly, but thankfully it is prevalent only in the Single Player Campaign, leaving Multiplayer (mostly) untouched.


Gameplay:

Earth 2160 is the latest RTS in a long running series of games from Polish developer Reality Pump. Their games have always been a bit ambitious and different when compared to other RTS titles, and this one is no exception. Featuring four extremely different races (and not just in appearance), Earth 2160 has one of the most complicated tech trees and unit construction features out there. Needless to say, it is going to appeal largely to hard core gamers.

Despite this wild ambition, Earth 2160 starts off poorly. The Single Player Campaign is one of the worst in any RTS Iíve ever seen. All of the levels are much longer than they need to be (even the short ones), and you get little direction on how to actually play the game. The story also suffers along the way, as it is mangled by bad writing and horrible plot exposition.

The developers have almost made up for this in Multiplayer. This is where the core of the game rears its head. Depending on what type of gamer you are will determine whether you think itís an ugly one or not. Earth 2160 handles unit construction much differently than other games. Aside from the one "alien" race, each side has a set of chasses that can have various modules added to them. There are literally hundreds of combinations that you can come up with to handle almost any situation. This is the part that will weed the casual from the hard core; the joy of the game comes more from adapting to and outsmarting your opponent, but in order to do this, you have to have a strong understanding of a very complex architecture.

On the upside, this makes for a very "organic" path up the tech tree. Your research decisions will be different almost every time you play the game, and as soon as you discover what the enemy is using, you will invariably have to tweak your research plans. Unfortunately, identifying what your opponent is doing is very difficult, as there is little room for espionage and the only way to visually identify what weapons he is using is through the graphical effect of shooting them.


Difficulty:

Needless to say, Earth 2160 is a very difficult game. It can be challenging to those who have the fortitude and preparedness to tackle a game of its depth, but to all others, it will be a nightmare. Even to those seasoned few who can cope with such vast amounts of information in a game, things will not be easy. As I said, espionage tactics are not catered to, and the interface is not one that always likes to work with the player. There is also plenty of room for imbalanced units to be created in Multiplayer, but for some, figuring these units out is just as much a part of the game as anything else.

Game Mechanics:

The interface in Earth 2160 is probably the biggest negative factor the game has going for it. At times it can be great, but for the most part, there is a severe lack of explanation for what everything does. This doesnít just hurt at the beginning of the game either; youíll need this information down the road as there is so much of it, and committing it all to memory is nearly impossible.

The occasional tooltip may spring up, but at times the information they relay is just wrong. Other interfaces donít explain prerequisites for constructing units, nor do they tell you what abilities you will unlock at the end of certain production queues. Again, this is another reason why only those willing to dig, and dig hard, will be able to extract anything even remotely considered fun.

Itís good to see games pushing the limits of their respective genre. Itís bad to see games losing focus on the entire project and instead creating something great that is totally inaccessible. Again, the mantra of "software first, game second" was obviously overlooked here. However, for those who are willing to wade through it all, there is a gem waiting on the other side.


-Snow Chainz, GameVortex Communications
AKA Andrew Horwitz

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 2K/XP, 1.5 GHz Processor, 512 MB RAM, 64 MB Video Card, 1500 MB Hard Disk Space
 

Test System:



Windows XP, 2.4 GHz Processor, 1GB RAM, 256 MB GeForce 6800 GT Video Card, 160 GB Hard Drive, Cable Modem Internet Connection

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