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Earth 2160 Review

Earth 2160 box art
Developer:Zuxxez
Genre:Real Time Strategy
Platform:PC
Official Site:http://www.earth2160.com/
Release Date:August 26, 2005 (UK)
Reviewer:Shane Lacey (Felon)
Buy now at Amazon.co.uk

It's been quite a long time since I've played what I consider a good RTS, not since the early Command & Conquer series and then Red Alert have I really enjoyed one. But the last 2 weeks of playing Earth 2160 have been great fun, in fact I have rediscovered my love for RTS games.

Earth 2160 is the third instalment in this successful series and follows on 10 years after it's predecessor, you've guessed it, Earth 2150. This time round there are 3 human factions to control and one race of Aliens, the human factions are as follows; the Eurasian Dynasty, the Lunar Corporation and United Civilized States, each of the four sides has it's own unique technologies and style of buildings giving Earth 2160 plenty of variety.

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Graphics

Graphically Earth 2160 is top notch, if you have invested in a high end PC Earth 2160 is an absolute delight to behold. Apparently, the game's engine utilizes shader model 3.0, while I wouldn't know much about that, I do know is that this is one great looking game. Quite frankly my fairly low detail screenshots don't really do it justice. Don’t be too disheartened though if you have a low end spec PC as it's still very detailed and you still get the same great sharp textures and lighting effects, in fact hats off to Zuxxez as even on the lowest setting the game looks great.

Environments in 2160 are spot on as well, hills and valleys are well made and the attention to detail is excellent. The little ponds and lakes dotted around maps look sleek and effective and not at all out of place. Buildings and units also show an impressive attention to detail both zoomed in all the way and all the way out, your grunts can be hard to spot when zoomed out this far though.

Another great feature of the Earth 2160 engine is the first person point of view, although I didn't use it that much it is very cool to be able to actually get a first person point of view from a unit, be it a ground unit or in the air. A good idea, fairly well executed I thought. Earth 2160 also features a continuous day/night cycle which mixed with the occasional sandstorm has a marked effect on the way the game looks, some units have lights at night for example, these shine quite realistically. Explosions and general weapon effects are also superb. Earth 2160 gets top marks for looks.

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Sound

The sound effects in Earth 2160 are not quite on the same level as the graphics which in my opinion is a shame. I'm not saying they are bad, it's just the game looks so damn beautiful that I wanted the sound and music to blow me away as well. Sadly they don’t, the menu music is very good though, haunting and eerie. Still, we're here to review the game so have to talk mostly about the in game music, which frankly ain't great.

While catchy and quite immersive, the music does begin to wear thin after a while, monotonous would be a good word here. Shame really, for some reason the developers seem to be massive orchestral/percussion fans, perhaps if they would have been a bit more diverse with the soundtrack it could of made a difference.

Voice acting now, this is the biggest let down, they are just down right plastic and poor, big thumbs down here from me, the unit acknowledgements aren't that bad though but I won't dwell on this subject, the voice acting is just not good at all.

Now I have that little rant over with, let's get on to the good stuff. Weather and general environmental sound effects are spot on, wind actually sounds like wind and does create the impression of being in a harsh and inhospitable environment, great stuff. Battle sounds are superb as well, the guns sound clear and sharp and the rumble from explosions had me rushing to tweak my sub woofer down a notch on more than one occasion, excellent in my opinion.

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Gameplay

Earth 2160 uses a tried and tested RTS gameplay formula, that being, build base, collect resources, research new weapons, build and army, crush your opponent. While it might have ben done many times before, it works and if done well produces a game which is a lot of fun.

There are three resources which need collecting in Earth 2160, namely water, crystal and metal, without out these essential items production will cease, the Eurasian Dynasty faction for example uses a ship for collecting these resources and it’s a simple point and click and you can leave that ship be on its merry way, as for your base building, this is where the fun starts, as soon as you have built your scientific research station you can then start researching more advanced technologies.

Each of the factions/races has it's own quirks, again using the Eurasian Dynasty as an example, their buildings all need to be linked together which can make base building a challenge. Earth 2160's plot revolves around the capture of an alien probe that has landed on the planet, of course all 4 sides are aggressively searching for it which inevitably leads to confrontation. The campaign missions can however be quite tough, I think I'd actually recommend getting used to the games controls and technology trees before diving in, as they can be a frustrating due to being difficult. That doesn't take too long in skirmish mod however and as there are 4 campaigns to go at your not going to be short on gameplay time.

One excellent addition to 2160 was the vehicle design screen, you will start of with all your vehicles basically as stock standard, but through research you could build them up and make them quicker or stronger, one of the upgrades I particularly liked was the auto repair option, I would of died many a time with out it.


Summary

As I was saying earlier I was a massive Command & Conquer fan, and while I don't think it's quite as good, Earth 2160 is a fine game which definitely reminded me of my old favorite. Once you get over the quite steep initial learning curve and have turned down the in game music it's very playable for a very long time, 4 whole campaigns, a great skirmish mode and multiplayer games await.

RTS fans will find lot's of things to like about Earth 2160, after a slow start I certainly did. Show this one a little patience and you'll get your rewards. I'd go as far as saying that I think Earth 2160 is a contender for RTS of the year.

Good stuff

  • Awesome graphics
  • Great skirmish mode
  • First person view option
  • Lots of content
  • Great fun

Not so good stuff

  • Some poor voice acting
  • Music isn't great
  • Steep learning curve


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