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SummaryAn almost unheard of gem.
The GoodA lot of people hate the "real-time strategy" genre because when you think RTS, typically the first thing you think of is Command and Conquer and the dozens and dozens of clones that have come out since then. They've gotten prettier, and in all aspects they've improved over the years, but they're still all the same premise behind them: build base, gather resource, overwhelm the enemy with superior numbers.
Ground Control fits into the real-time strategy by its very basic definition. It is a real-time strategy, but it is NOT a typical RTS. There IS no base-building, there's no resource management, there is no "overwhelm the enemy with superior numbers". Instead, it's all about strategy and making key descisions in the heat of battle. There is also no saving in-game, making those key descisions all that more critical. This is a great game that is sadly almost unheard of.
I think the gameplay can best be compared to that of the Myth series, in that the idea is exactly the same: you begin with a set number of troops, and you have to use that to win the battle. Only in certain missions will you have reinforcements available, so you have to resort to that pesky little thing called strategy. You can't just select all your units and move them into the enemy base.
The strategy used in this game is wonderful. I just get a thrill of successfully laying down an actual trap for the computer that wasn't some scripted in-game event. How many RTS games can you actually set up an ambush in? Almost none, since quantity of units is usually the key strategy. Quantity won't matter much (though it doesn't hurt) in Ground Control - it all depends on how you use them. You can set up your snipers on the top of a mountain to shoot down any of those pesky torpedo troopers who would set off to blow away your artillery, who is busy bombing the hell out of the enemy's outpost, meanwhile you have some tanks guarding the artillery's flank, and airborn units hovering above in case they come from the air. You will use several different types of units and combinations of strategies in the game to ensure victory, and there is such a sweet thrill of finishing a missions with zero casualties all because of the way you handled each critical descision.
The graphics are also supurb for its time, I think. The entire game world - every bit of it - is completely 3D, and the mountain ranges never look jagged or at all phony. Tanks leave tracks in the dirt that don't vanish half a second after creating them, shadows actually work, and every bump and hill in the road your vehicles will drive (or hover) over realistically. Up until that point, I'd never seen a game run so smooth and look so good and be so playable all at once. The turrets on the tanks and vehicles even turn and fire on their own - even when the tank is in motion.
The voice-overs and dialogue are perfect. This is one of those few games where upon hearing the voice overs, I didn't cringe and bite my tongue. The story is also original, and involving enough that you'll get a feel for the characters in the game, and half way through the game everything changes (won't say what it is) and everything is all that much cooler.
The BadOkay, there is one thing I didn't like.
I don't really mind that there's no in-game saving. To me, that's just fine. It forces the player to use actual strategy in battle, rather than the quick-load-try-this-quick-load-try-something-else bullshit that is so readily available in other games. It also makes the skirmishes so much more exciting. When you watch in horror as an unseen artillery suddenly blows away three squads of jaeger infantry, your blood gets going and you want to seek VENGENCE and know that you'll have to go on without them.
HOWEVER, when a single mission can take as long as TWO HOURS, a save option is not a luxery, it is a NECESSITY!! When you put in TWO HOURS of work into a mission, only to have some sort of household emergency occur just as you're assaulting the final mission waypoint and have to quit...it's just not fair! And there was one time in the game where it crashed four minutes until the mission's end! AGGH!!!
The Bottom LineOther than a lack of some sort of save game feature, this game is perfect in my book. Yes, there are things that could be improved on, but they're small things and not much really comes to mind.
This is a great game too often overlooked. If you're looking for a RTS that actually makes use of the S (strategy), this game is exactly what you want.