age of the 3D revolution is upon us for good now and for a while
i don't think people really knew what to make of it. Homeworld
paved the way for the 3D RTS genre and gave hope for the future...it
showed that 3D COULD be done in a game genre that had predominately
seen itself in a 2D universe throughout it's existence. And this
revolution didn't just apply to the RTS genre-the RPG genre was
also going the route of 3D and our first examples in Ultima 9
and Vampire TMR aren't disappointing. But, unfortunately, the
same can't be said for the RTS variety of games.
the inception of Homeworld, game fans have had to deal with titles
like Force Commander, which couldn't even hold a candle to most
2D games. Likewise, games that were bragged about as being 3D
RTSs like Star Trek: Armada, soon showed us that the 3D RTS genre
might have been going in a direction where 3D engines might be
used, but the 2D perspective was going to prevail seeing as Armada
itself had a 3D mode that was essentially useless, causing most
gamers to simply stick to the overhead view.
personally, i think that if one is going to create an RTS game
in three dimensions, don't just use a 3D engine and make the entire
game in a mostly 2D perspective with minimal camera abilities.
Also, don't bother making a 3D engine with a camera that is just
plain, hard to use.
Ground Control and Earth 2150. Here are the marks we gave them
before we start...
CONTROL-H2H REVIEW MARK AVERAGE: 85.5%
EARTH 2150-H2H REVIEW MARK AVERAGE: 88.5%
two RTS titles are arguably the biggest RTS titles of the summer
(note, Dark Reign 2 has yet to be released) and they both excel
at what they intended to do in many ways, but how do they compare?
Which one is the better game? And for whom?
let's begin with Ground Control.
its heated action, Ground Control can also be visually enthralling
squad based RTS with no base-buidling, but an excellent 3D engine
and camera with unlimited perspectives, although it is resource
hungry and without an AI skirmish mode. Not
to mention it has detailed and realistic moving vehicles and units.
It is also somewhat simplistic in terms of goals and tactical
maneuvers. To put it bluntly, it is engaging but still missing
a piece or two. This is as close to a terrain based version of
Homeworld as we have seen. As one of our reviewers put it, it
is what Force Commander should have been like.
in the other corner, Earth 2150. A pure RTS with base building,
researching and possible full scale army battles. Beautiful texturing,
a 3D engine, but
not a full 3D camera. Average to less-than-average voice acting,
unrealistically moving vehicles, but depth in the areas of base
and army expansion and creation.
2150 does indeed have some nice textures...and explosions
as much of a resource hog as Ground Control, but still a hog.
Again, this is a good game that feels like it is a piece or two
shy of being perfect. It's not as engaging as Ground Control,
but is a full scale tactical type-game. As one of our reviewers
put it, it is what Tiberian Sun should have been like.
with the pleasantries out of the way, let's evaluate everything
and see who wins where and why.
Engine and Camera-Both games are 3D RTSs, and both
make the use of the camera to varying extents. It can be argued
that Earth 2150 has nicer, more realistic textures, but it makes
limited use of the colored lighting (besides the headlights etc.)
that can make the game look so much better. Also, the 3D camera
movement can feel restricting at times, and the game might as
well be in a 2D mode through the entire game, hence our reviewer's
comment on the Tiberian Sun similarities. Ground Control's textures
are very sweet, but somehow lack a little in comparison to Earth
2150's. However, Ground Control's battles are far more beautiful
to look at and the smoke effects and colored lighting seem to
blow away the comparably simplistic ground battles of Earth 2150
(minus the mushroom cloud explosions for power stations.). And
more importantly, the 3D camera is simply perfect in Ground Control.
You can be anywhere at anytime and get the perfect perspective
of the battle from either up close beside a unit, or from far
away-all very quickly and intuitively. Very much like Homeworld.
Buildings, Building Options-Earth 2150 has units. Boy
does it ever. With a research tree as deep as Earth 2150, it is
hard to find another RTS that EVER had the building options for
units that this game does. The buildings and units alike are upgradable
and a lot can be done with them. Underground tunneling, teleportation
and varying defenses at one's fingertips will keep any RTS player
busy for a long while. Ground Control, doesn't let you build,
well....anything. Seeing as it is a squad-based game, GC just
gives you units as you progress from mission to mission-no building.
Although you CAN configure your dropships, that is about all in
terms of unit configuration and the units given are more practical
and realistic than imaginative and large in number. One of the
major setbacks of Ground Control-you can't even build a unit or
Sounds, In-Game Options-Earth 2150's soundtrack is
limited. Not that Ground Control's isn't to a certain extent though.
With that out of the way, we have the sounds to look at. Earth
2150's voice acting is dismal at times and the sound effects don't
overwhelm either. Ground Control has quite acceptable voices in
the game, but the movies are terribly grainy (unlike a lot of
Earth 2150's movies such as the intro cut scene which is quite
sweet). However, the sound effects of the weapons etc. in Ground
Control are somewhat beyond those of Earth 2150, but that is arguable
to a large extent. So it comes down to the in-game options. In
all honesty, both have close to the same amount of options to
choose from, neither disappoints, except in one category: multiplayer
skirmish. Ground Control has absolutely NO multiplayer AI skirmish-only
online skirmishes. Ground Control trips and falls on its face
come down to our last category and it is a tough one, so get ready
for a long deliberation. Earth 2150 offers what is generally,
the usual sort of gameplay one expects from an RTS-specifically
a 2D RTS. There is nothing exceptionally new here and the gameplay
is often hardly phased by the fact that everything takes place
in a 3D world-it didn't need to be 3D for this game to do want
it wanted to. Not to mention, units can often look the same and
be confused with one another. Selecting units using Earth 2150's
provided, 'grid' mouse box selection method is often a pain since
it might require a user to have to re-select the exact units one
wanted to select over and over to get it right. Luckily, the grouping
and platooning options were available so that once they WERE selected,
a group could be formed and worry subsided until the next group
needed to be assembled. However, the researching, deformable terrain
day/night effects and weather are all aspects that make Earth
2150 original in a most notable way. Ground Control on the other
hand does not have these features. No day/night changes, no weather
changes, no researching, no deformable terrain-hell, no building!
But, Ground Control DOES have redeeming qualities in the gameplay/originality
category. Between the 2 RTSs, GC actually deserves to be in a
3D engine-it needed it to accomplish what it set out to do and
thus the gameplay can get very exciting and up-close and personal
depending on how you want it. The camera, selection of units and
giving of instructions are all very intuitive despite the limitations
that inherently come with a squad-based RTS. But as for originality,
it now comes down to what original is. The only other major games
to have tried 3D engine games with full 3D cameras are Homeworld
and Force Commander. One broke ground and was voted 'game of the
year' last year by many. The other fell flat on its face. Only
one of those games dealt with terrain combat-obviously the latter.
Which means Ground Control makes the complete leap to a working
terrain-combat full 3D RTS that no other game could make before-unlike
Earth 2150 which greatly improves on very old ground but tries
to throw in a 3D element into the gameplay which is unnecessary
and largely ineffective. Ground Control breaks newer ground and
does it well despite its option set backs. So GC takes this one.
tie?! Many of you are probably thinking, 'this shouldn't be a
tie! someone has to win!'. Well, if you bought the game you thought
was better and are enjoying it, then the game you wanted to win,
did. But in terms of the RTS genre on the whole and its audience
as a whole, a perfect 3D RTS isn't going to appear until you essentially
combine what both Ground Control and Earth 2150 have to offer-the
best of all elements. Combine the two and throw in a new storyline
(and maybe even some more color-both games have a tendency to
appear bland at times) and you have what could be the first 3D
terrain combat RTS that has the ultimate package. Or you could
go out and buy Dark Reign 2 (which by the time this article has
come out, has been released) and see if that tickles your fancy
more than either of the 2 RTSs discussed today.