Publisher: Midway Games
Developer: Reality Pump
Release Date: November 14, 2005
Buy 'EARTH 2160': PC
There's been little to get overly excited about in the real-time strategy genre as of late. The hyped-up Age of Empires III was good, but far from the huge leap forward that was expected from the series, but didn't satisfy the gamer looking for something more along the lines of a science fiction masterpiece. The only other game in the science fiction genre for real-time strategy fans has been Dawn of War, and that was a good one. Now we have an anticipated title in Earth 2160 to give a go, and since the Earth series has been a great one in the past, it's easy to see why fans would get excited about the latest entry.
Featuring four races, each unique and interesting in their own way, Earth 2160 has an average storyline that doesn't really enthrall or engage in any way. There are three groups left from Earth who are fighting it out and trying to maintain a foothold in the future of mankind. Add to that an interesting alien race that has some especially unique features, and you have a recipe for a fun game. Earth 2160 has a campaign for each of the four groups: The European Dynasty, Lunar Corporation, and Union of Civilized States represent the groups from Earth, and the aliens representing the fourth playable race. If you're looking for a deep single-player experience, you're sure to find it with Earth 2160, as it takes time to work through the campaigns for all four groups.
During the campaigns, you'll find out that each group really is different and depends upon a certain strategy to achieve victory. Another great aspect is the ability to research and create new units to combat the enemy tactics you encounter. Unfortunately, if you find yourself up against a unit that your newly created and research units are ill-equipped to defend against, you'll quickly find yourself on the losing side of the battle. Relying on a single strategy, weapon, or defense type will quickly lead to defeat. The key in Earth 2160 is to maintain a constant vigilance and be on the lookout for what sorts of technologies your enemies are employing, and work to create your own units to combat them. There is a ton of strategy involved in this, and it works to great effect.
The interface for getting around, controlling your units, building your bases, and handling other options is a bit clunky. There are icons that have convenient tool tips that appear, which makes things a lot easier, but when you're looking for a specific action, you don't want to have to hover your mouse over each icon to find the one you are looking for. With time, of course, you'll know which ones you want and get to them quite quickly, but there are a plethora of options and buttons to click on, which makes it difficult to learn. When building items or your base, it's also a bit clunky to choose what units you want to build, as they all look similar in the menu. This takes some getting time to become adjusted to, but again, if you play this game enough, all of the icons will become familiar and second nature. That doesn't mean the menuing system is convenient or easy to navigate, however.
One of my favorite things to do in real-time strategy games that have the option is to build a huge base with gigantic walls that bristle with defensive weaponry. There's definitely that option here, and it works extremely well. Almost too well, in fact. The defensive aspects of bases are extremely powerful, and as long as you have the resources, you can beef up the security of your home base to the point where it's almost impossible to break through. This goes for your opponents as well, so it often leads to a drawn out battle to take out the enemy defenses before you run out of resources. There are strategies that you can employ to prevent this from happening, but it can be annoying if you find yourself in that situation.
Graphically, the game is one of the best looking real-time strategy games I've ever played. You can zoom in to insane levels, and each unit looks as good up close as it does from a distance. Battles between groups of enemies are fantastically exciting and explosive looking, providing a brilliant show that almost overshadows the results. The environments are large and pleasant to look at, and once you've gotten your bases built up and lined with defenses, it's like gazing at a landscape straight out of a science fiction movie. One of the coolest things is the transition from day to night; watching your units light up the night is extremely cool. Another great graphical aspect is the trails that your vehicles leave on the ground. Tire treads, steps, it all looks amazing and comes together to form a fantastic-looking experience.
Sound, on the other hand, is a mixed bag. One of the worst aspects of Earth 2160 are the voiceovers. At times I found myself enjoying them, and at times, I found myself wondering why I was hearing a horrible impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's certainly an issue, but honestly doesn't do much to detract from the game. Since the text is all displayed along with the voices, you can just turn them off if it bothers you too much, without missing out on any of the other sound effects or music, which are done quite well. Wind whistling, weapons firing, explosions – they are all done wonderfully, and it's fun to get into a huge battle and experience the chaos through your ears. The soundtrack is pretty good, and changes with the action, which is nice. It's nothing really excellent, but it does provide ambience and helps with the suspenseful atmosphere.
There is a skirmish mode as well as multiplayer, and if you get tired of the lengthy campaign, you can always find a friend to play against or take on the computer in the skirmish battles. This is where you'll probably be spending most of your time after the campaign, and it's a lot of fun to take on the computer in a skirmish match, and multiplayer battles are also well done. There's a lot to like here, and you'll definitely be playing for quite a long time, especially once you realize how deep the strategy actually goes. Earth 2160 has a lot of legs.
Earth 2160 is an extremely lengthy, deep, and beautiful strategy experience. From the very start, you'll find yourself drawn in and playing for quite a long time. There are some minor details that can be annoying, like the amount of time it takes to complete each campaign mission, or the average voice acting, but for the most part, Earth 2160 is an excellent title that is sure to stand the test of time for real-time strategy fans. It's a difficult and fun experience the whole way through, and the satisfaction that comes from a successful strategy just can't be beat. I would encourage anyone looking for a slick science fiction strategy experience to take a long look at Earth 2160.
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