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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Supreme Commander 2 on Xbox 360 Impression

Real time strategy, RTS, games are excellent on PC but to data sub-par on console. Halo Wars, built from the ground up for Xbox 360 served up a very good RTS experience build around the console and control scheme but this is the exception to the rule. Supreme Commander 2 for Xbox 360 is a good PC RTS done right with keyboard and mouse but one which has faced the same challenges as others due to the controller and scheme presented by the 360. Simple question; will Supreme Commander 2 fall into the Halo Wars category and get it right or will it follow every other Command & Conquer, RTS experience on console that just misses the mark. Let’s take a look …

Gameplay – Three factions, three storylines all converging on one larger tale of war. Take control of an army; manage its base construction, resource harvesting, unit construction and deployment to defeat the opposition. The three factions, United Earth Federation, Aeon Illuminate and Cybran Nation all have unique strengths and weaknesses to explore and exploit. Gamers can also take the battle online or start a quick skirmish. The challenges get tougher as gamers progress and are provide more advanced units and scenarios but this is standard RTS fare. The challenge faced in Supreme Commander 2 comes in the control scheme; all mapped to the Xbox 360 controller. All moves, navigating the map, moving units is light years ahead of past RTS offerings and for this fans should cheer but, no fault of SP2 is there is no true substitute for a mouse and keyboard.

Graphics – With tons of units on-screen the action still keeps up at a decent frame rate and zooming in will reveal detailed unit models, terrain and buildings. The lighting effects, particles look outstanding, it’s just one good looking title … we’ve come a long way from Herzog Zwei.

Sound – Voice work is decent and serves it purpose. The various battle sounds, weapons and explosions are fantastic and change as gamers move in and out of battles, very nice. The soundtrack is a mix of well paced tunes to keep the action moving. Ignore the voices, the sound shines in battle.

Design – Units are a pleasure to unlock and are as varied as any RTS. The branching campaign modes are well done but fans of the genre will still need to sit through tutorial levels which are always a pain. The design change to make control, building more console friendly is to be applauded and help to separate SC2 from other RTS titles, especially since it’s a PC title first.

Miscellaneous – The choice to make Supreme Commander 2 a bit more Xbox 360, console friendly. There are a ton of options when building units but due to control schemes it was scaled down to make upgrades all the easier, so more in line with Halo Wars than the original Supreme Commander. Veteran RTS fans may think the controls and options too simplified and really, they are right but the changes made show that it’s no longer a ‘just-port-it’ world but rather one where developers are thinking about new gamers, new arenas of play.

Overall Supreme Commander 2 is a solid RTS on the 360. It’s a bit deeper on options than a Halo Wars but a great next game for fans of Halo Wars. The downside is RTS vets may not dig the simplification of controls and upgrades. All this will be forgotten once online where all bets are off and gamers can enjoy a quick and engaging battle with buddies or strangers. For a console RTS it looks good, sounds good, controls better than others and is one of the better real-time strategy titles on a console to date.

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