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Written by  :  Brandon Tabbert (19)
Written on  :  Jun 30, 2008
Platform  :  Xbox 360
Rating  :  2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars2.57 Stars

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Best RTS Attempt on a Console? Yes. Worth Buying? No.

The Good

What’s that? Petroglyph thought they could make an RTS work flawlessly on the console? Psh… I’ll believe it when I see it. I just don’t see it with Universe at War: Earth Assault. Is it the closest that a studio has come thus far? Yes – no question. Does it suffer from significant flaws? Yes – no question.

Let’s start with the good about UAW. There are so many completely different units and development buildings that it’s astounding. Each race (robots, aliens, and gods) has substantially different paths to take and units to make. The balancing of the races/factions is fairly even, with no particular side screaming easy-mode, and there is something overly awesome about each of the groups. For the Novus (aliens), you’re Zerg-style speed is key. The Hierarchy faction is the robot race of the galaxy, so I guess they’re basically the Protoss. And the Masari are as well-rounded as a faction can get. I suppose that would make them Terran.

Right – back to the good. The actual control mechanics and gameplay of UAW are as good as anything that has been achieved on the Xbox 360, to date. Petroglyph made tremendous use out of the right trigger, as it enables the world map that you can easily scroll through to locate areas or units. The controls make creating and utilizing groups of units very easy and selecting specialty attacks is just as painless.

Another strong asset of UAW is the sheer joys that are the innovative factions and their units. I had the most fun as the Hierarchy robots. They come prepared to fight with giant spider robots, and that’s rad. I spent the majority of my time customizing my various ‘spiderbots’ for different tasks and combat styles and sending them off to lay waste to Earth.

All in all, it was a lofty attempt at a genre that is continually seeing improvements in the console arena. Rumors are afloat that Petroglyph is turning it into a saga, so hopefully the poor level of Quality Assurance is corrected and we’re treated to something revolutionary. Next time.

The Bad

Holy cow this game is Starcraft.

… only not as good.

Well, not quite. Starcraft is, however, the RTS that all other RTS games will be measured by for the rest of time. There is no other way to review a strategy game outside of comparison to the best, so that’s what will happen.

Starcraft had…

3 very well-balanced races Specific units that were awesome (carriers, tanks & crabs) A great single-player story and campaign Blizzard’s top notch voice acting and dialogue Cutting-edge cinematic sequences and cutscenes Good variety among skills and abilities

Universe at War has…

3 very well-balanced factions Specific units that are awesome (Hierarchy spiderbots) A story that has been done many times before. Better. Dialogue that the staff of LoadingReality could easily best Cutting-edge cinematic sequences and cutscenes. In 1998. Fantastic variety among skills and abilities

On to the flaws, of which there are a few handfuls. First, and most importantly, framerate. During large-scale battles, it was commonplace for the game to stall for seconds at a time while it tried to catch up to the visual action. While there are pretty explosions and cool particle effects, the game itself is not graphically intensive at all. In fact, it’s the opposite. The texturing, world environments, and 3D graphics are sub-par for this generation of titles. It’s tough to understand the framerate, as there couldn’t have been any strain on the hardware. A few other key points of “not awesomeness” include the voice acting, dialogue, and story. The presentation of the game was just poor. The voice acting was stunted and amateur, the dialogue was forced and not well-written, and the story was put forth in a way that was reminiscent of every science fiction aliens vs. robots story, ever.

The Bottom Line

Presentation: The same story that’s been done in every medium combined with baffling framerate drops and amateurish makes for a bad time. The only saving grace is the astounding variety of units and faction balancing.

Gameplay: Probably the best control-scheme of a console-based strategy game, to date. With easily maneuverable maps and top-notch controls, the gameplay is the best thing about UAW.

Graphics/Sound: Poor texturing, static environments, rough 3D work, and weak cinematic scenes. As for the sound technician... well, you could have done better. Yes you.

Value Factor: It’s worth a play simply to see how far the controls have come since Starcraft 64. Rent UAW if you love strategy games, buy it if you can stomach the technical problems.

Bottom Line: For me, the good did not outweigh the bad. If you are able to get past the story, graphics, and overall presentation then you’ll enjoy the faction balancing and unit differences. The Conquer the World game mode is a blast, but no other mode is as much fun, by far.