Ground Control II: Operation Exodus Review
We hit the ground in this strategy game sequel.
Review by Darren Cartledge
Published 12th July 2004
Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
- Developer: Massive Entertainment
- Publisher: Vivendi Universial
- Release Date: 25th June 2004
The original Ground Control which was released four years ago failed to capture the eye of many RTS fans despite actually being a good game. When you consider that almost all RTS titles at the time were clones of Command & Conquer putting a large emphasis on base building, resource management and unit production across 2D maps you could say that the game was ahead of its time giving players a limited number of units making them use real tactics in a fully 3D environment.
Set 300 years after the events of the original game, Ground Control II: Operation Exodus follows the on going struggle of the Northern Star Alliance whose home planet Morning Star prime is under attack from the dominant Terran Empire. The story is spread across two campaigns each featuring 12 missions; the first campaign follows Captain Jacob Angelus as he tries to defend Morning Star Prime from the invading Terran forces. The second campaign puts you in control of the Viron forces, a strange alien race that utilises nano-organic technology to meld two units into a single more powerful unit. The Virons come in to the story as they are first allied with the Terrans and then later the NSA.
At the beginning of each mission you are given a set number of troops with which to complete your mission. In each mission you are given a set of primary and on occasion’s secondary objectives. Objectives usually consist of taking control of a certain area of the game map known as “Victory Locations”. Capturing victory locations simply requires you to clear the area of Terran forces and then place units over a marker until it turns green, once green you must then hold on to the victory location as Terran forces will more then likely try to recapture it. As you only have a limited number of troops at your disposal taking up a strong position is imperative and luckily in Ground Control II you can place units inside of buildings and put them in control of turrets which must be repaired by a field engineer first.
Holding victory locations is also important as it increases the number of acquisition points you acquire, acquisition points are spent on reinforcements which can be called on during missions as long as you hold at least one landing zone. Landing zones are captured and defended in the same way as victory locations and at the beginning of some missions capturing a landing zone will be the first order of the day in order to call on reinforcements. Reinforcements and equipment are brought to the battlefield in drop ships which can be upgraded during the course of a mission. Acquisition points are required in order to upgrade your drop ship and upgrades include improving your drop ships cargo hold, sensors, armour and weapons.
Your drop ship can also stay on the battlefield for a limited amount of time as a controllable unit. This ability can come in useful when your units are under pressure and really help to turn battles around. The only downside to this is if your drop ship is destroyed during a battle you will be unable to call on further reinforcements should you need them.
The game offers a pretty good range of units which include basic infantry, siege infantry, snipers, tanks and units such as field engineers that can be used to repair vehicles and heal the wounds of your infantry units. In addition to the range of units available each unit also has a secondary mode which changes the abilities of your unit. An example of this is that when your basic infantry switch to secondary mode they use rocket launchers to bombard enemy units.
Unit AI in the game is pretty decent although the game seems to suffer the usual problems with path finding. Also when switching between unit modes some units in squads will fail to switch back to their primary mode and when some units are unable to move in this mode it can usually result in unnecessary loses. The camera can also cause a few problems from time to time as you navigate around the maps it will sudden drop down slopes, ditches and various other crevices as you pass over them causing you to lose track of your units.
The campaigns in Ground Control II: Operation Exodus, are quite lengthy and some missions can last quite a while. However, this didn’t stop Massive Entertainment from adding more play options to the game and to compliment the campaign mode they included a multiplayer option for up to 8 players via MassGate. In addition to this the game also features the usual modes you would expect to find in any real-time strategy title such as a skirmish mode and a co-operative play option in which the single player missions can be played cooperatively over the Internet or a LAN. The game also comes complete with the actual editor used to create the game so you can get further life from the title if you are so technically inclined.
Graphics wise the game is presented in full 3D and on the whole looks pretty amazing, the camera can be moved around freely to any angle you choose, you are also able to zoom up extremely close to units making the game look like a third person shooter as the units remain of the highest quality and feature an excellent amount of detail. There are also quite a few nice graphical touches in the game, explosions look amazing while weapon trails look like those you would expect to find in a sci-fi shooter not an RTS title. Maps in the game are also nicely detailed with shadows and lighting both done well, however the environment doesn’t seem to hold as well as units when zooming in and the ground in particular can start to look blurry and pixelated.
Sound in Ground Control II is also good, music is fitting with the action on screen and sound effects are of the highest quality. Voice acting is done pretty well although some of the character accent are simply awful.
Making an impression in an extremely over crowded real-time strategy genre was never going to be easy, however although Ground Control II: Operation Exodus is in no way ground breaking it puts in a solid performance and its 3D sci-fi setting will be a welcome break for many from the now standard World War II setting.
Review Score: 8.4/10
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