PC games preview: Ground Control II: Operation Exodus

Launched in 2000 by Massive Entertainment and hailed as an innovator in the real-time strategy genre, Ground Control had a number of fresh elements. The impressive 3D graphics, immersive audio and free-flowing gameplay proved to be a huge hit with RTS fans. The latest incarnation, Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, is slated for release in mid-June and has several new features that make it stronger than its predecessor.

Based approximately 300 years after the first title, GC2 depicts the ongoing war between two factions: the Northern Star Alliance (NSA) and the Terran Empire. After losing the fight in space, the NSA retreats to their homeworld to regroup and engage the enemy on the ground. You assume the role of Captain Jacob Angelus and must lead your men to victory by defeating the brutal Terrans in any way possible.

The two factions have different technology and different styles of fighting, and must be combined with other units to be effective in warfare. The individual units, incorporating 16 different types, all have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, an urban environment may require the special skills of foot soldiers to secure an area, but if they come under fire from distant artillery you’ll find that tank regiment you chose to have tag along will come in handy.

In single-player campaign mode there are 24 missions plus two tutorial maps. Multiplayer is where this title’s strengths lie, and the inclusion of cooperative and drop-in multiplayer is a bonus. The latter is similar to FPS multiplayer — no longer do gamers have to wait until someone emerges victorious before they can begin; gamers can drop into any map during an ongoing match and play for as little or as long as they desire. Enemy AI has been improved since the original, and opposing forces can now set up traps and ambushes and wait for you to stumble into them. Gamers can concentrate solely on obtaining victory through tactics and quick thinking, with no need for resource collection or base building. Making full use of the 3D battleground and addictive storyline, GC2 is proving to be a surprise hit in the RTS genre. If RTS fans find that current titles are failing to scratch that combat itch, this is definitely worth a look.

[Preview version, not scored]
Developer: Massive Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
URL: www.groundcontrol2.com

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