Starcraft 2 Review
|Genre:||Real Time Strategy|
|Release Date:||July 27th, 2010 (UK)|
|Reviewer:||Andy Hemphill (Bandit)|
Before I start this review, let me state categorically that I have never played StarCraft. At the time the game was hitting it big I was immersed in Total Annihilation and ignoring everything else. So this review is entirely free of rose-tinted glasses syndrome.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty, is the long-awaited sequel to the still popular RTS staple StarCraft (which has a following of millions worldwide - mostly in South Korea...) The game itself is a return to the dystopian future of our galaxy, and to the three battling species fighting to reclaim what's left of the galaxy: the scrappy and adaptable Terrans (humans), the hideous Zerg (everyone's worst bug-ridden nightmare) and the mysterious Protoss (psychic sociopaths.)
The story picks up four years after the end of StarCraft: Brood War, and centres around the life and times of Jim Raynor - galactic outlaw, revolutionary and all around badass. So badass in fact that he has his own twangy musical accompaniment, and is almost always sat in a pool of shadows - he's that sort of guy.
The game's single player campaign - which only features the Terrans as a playable race (expansion packs ho!) is a good 15+ hours of blasting, and has a surprising variety of missions on offer.
Ranging from standard escort missions to rescue mission and one or two random adventures thrown in for good measure, the campaign is great fun and is backed up with a simple but effective plot - and one filled with a lot of exposition for the StarCraft devotees amongst us.
For those of us who haven't played the original however, the game does an excellent job of explaining the various races and characters who inhabit Raynor's life - including the power-crazed Emperor Mengsk, whom Raynor wants to overthrow, and the return of the self-styled Queen of Blades, Sarah Kerrigan - Raynor's squeeze, turned psychotic Zerg queen.
The battlefields themselves range from lava planets (which periodically erupt and can reduce your carefully built base to ashes) to ice worlds, a planet full of mesas and a whole variety of jungles.
The missions play out at a steady pace, and the player can choose which missions to tackle in what order. This allows the gamer a large degree of choice, as completing certain missions unlocks new units and abilities, as well as upgrade points which can be spent onboard Raynor's battlecruiser, the Hyperion.
Between missions the game goes a bit point-and-click. Raynor and his scrappy bunch of outlaws live and work on the Hyperion, and the player can click on the various different crew members to initiate short conversations or admire the various battle trophies that adorn the walls.
The Hyperion is also home to the upgrade screen - the bread and butter of the campaign. As intergalactic scavengers, the Terrans are adept at turning Protoss and Zerg technology to their cause. Using research points unlocked by completing objectives, the player can choose to evolve units as you see fit, making them all the more deadly in combat. This adaptability keeps the campaign feeling fresh and interesting, despite its relative short length.
Even after the main campaign is over, the game is stuffed with a bunch of other things to do - from individual challenge missions which try your tactical thinking to a variety of minigames - including a half-decent top-down shooter which is a great little distraction. The real meat of the game is, however, the multiplayer.
Built on the same lines as the original StarCraft - a rock/paper/scissors dynamic between the three races and their various units, the multiplayer is varied, fast-paced and great fun, even for StarCraft noobs like myself.
Running through Blizzard's Battle.Net system, the play is lag free and simple to get to grips with, though new players are advised to try the game's skirmish modes at first, to get to grips with the other two races not playable in the main campaign, and then to hit the beginners lobbies to get up to speed.
Don't do what I did - jump in at the deep end, in the 'expert' matches, get Zerg-rushed in five minutes and vanish in the ploom of a nuclear explosion.
There is a lot of fun to be had in the multiplayer, especially with Battle.Net's achievements and social interactivity. Though you need to sign up and get an account - and indeed need to be online if you want to unlock the achievements - the game takes pains to link Wings of Liberty to your life - even asking to connect to Facebook so it can upload your achievements as you get them - though, of course, that's your choice.
Graphically the game has clearly been designed to run on as many systems as possible, so don't worry too much if you don't have a nuclear-powered PC.
On my rig the game looked pretty good, with decent textures and lighting and excellent animation on the various warriors and bugs as they engaged in combat. There was no graphical slowdown when the action got intense, despite the hundreds of marines mowing down ream after ream of zerglings.
The gameplay is also nicely complimented by the cutscenes, which are as intense and well directed as any Hollywood movie, and the brilliant voice acting which - while often taking a walk towards Van-Dammeville - is really well done, and sets a great undertone to the game's events, even in combat.
And, if you get bored of the campaign, challenges, minigames and multiplayer, there's also an in-depth level editor on offer, and a rapidly growing selection of new maps to explore and blow each other to shreds on.
StarCraft 2: Wings of Liberty is a brilliant real-time strategy with a great single layer campaign and all the multiplayer a StarCraft devotee could want. While it doesn't seem to have broken the mould of its much-loved predecessor, the game's updated just about every aspect, from graphics to gameplay, and features units old and new that constantly keep you on your toes. While only having one campaign is a bit cheap, the game is an excellent addition to a StarCraft newbie's collection, and is bound to tick all the right boxes for a StarCraft devotee.
- Good single player campaign
- Intense and enjoyable multiplayer
- Great voice acting
- Lots to see and do
Not so good stuff
- Only one campaign
- Not really a massive change from the last title
- Isometric perspective seems a little outdated