|The year is 2100 and
the world has been thrashed by nukes. Out of the post-apocalyptic ashes a few budding
colonies begin to form and rebuild the world. Youre in charge of one of them (The
good guys, as luck would have it). So do you start building schools and purifying drinking
water? Of course not. This is the video game universe, and if you want to rebuild the
world the first thing you have to do is build the baddest tank you can. Then you have to
build an entire fleet of them. Then you have to blow the crap out of everything and
everybody who gets in your way. Thats the premise of Warzone 2100, the new real-time
strategy game by Eidos. And if the story hasnt sold you on its literary qualities
alone, never fear. The game rocks too.
You have the usual assortment of real-time strategy features. You fund your operations by mining resources. You then use these resources to construct buildings, defenses, and of course, your army. This is where Warzone breaks away from the mold of real time strategy. Because before you can build your army, you first have to design it. You begin the game with only one design, but as you recover more technology more options quickly become available. First step is to pick the body type. Will you go with small, fast and cheap, or slow and expensive with hardcore armor? Next step is choosing the means of propulsion. You can choose from wheels, tracks and hovercraft, to name a few. The third and final step is picking a turret and choosing from the stunning array of weapons that become available for your vehicles. You have machineguns, rockets, missiles, lasers, cannons, mortars, flame throwers (again, to name a few) with multiple varieties of each type. This boils down to just an insane variety of carnage-dealing doohickies to do battle with. So many, in fact, that you wont be able to really try them all out on your first time through the game. The best part about designing your own units is that the changes arent just cosmetic. They make significant changes to how you play the game.
The weapons all have specific opponents they are good against--some are heavily armored and some are powerful but fragile. The body type and the means of propulsion function in much the same way. A unit of powerful tanks can mow down bad guys like blades of grass until they finally overextend and get taken out because theyre too slow to retreat effectively. A unit of hover craft cant deal as much carnage up front, but can hit and run all day-- gradually grinding your opponents to dust. Just dont get cornered or youll get swatted like a fly. This all adds up to a lot of fun and a heck of a lot more replay value than your typical strategy game.
Another innovation is the fact that your troops and commanders all earn experience as they rack up the kills. As they do so they become more accurate with their shooting and a little tougher to kill. A well trained force of grizzled veterans can mop up the floor with those young upstart rookies with their fancy new tanks. As new technologies become available you can retire the old machines and equip your elite forces with shiny new techno gizmos and start some serious havoc. On the downside, you leave your troops behind when you switch campaigns. Just when theyre getting really good, its time to move on and build a new base somewhere else. So while this feature is pretty cool, its not as cool as it could have been.
The graphics are excellently rendered in 3D, providing an exciting and interactive area to do battle in. There are three major campaign environments that you will do battle in: the desert, the charred remains of a city, and the snowy mountain tops. The AI will take advantage of the surroundings and adjust its unit design accordingly. Its hard to run from people in the desert, but when you hit the high peaks and twisting valleys of the mountains you'd better be able to keep up with the lightning fast hit and run attacks or youll get waxed as you ineffectively try to corner them and force a brawl. Hovercraft can skim across rivers and easily shake the lumbering pursuit of the heavy tanks that are forced to detour around water. Some weapons, such as the mortar, do not need a line of sight to fire so you can shoot them over hills and buildings to ambush your unsuspecting rival. Learning to use the lay of the land to your advantage is a must for any aspiring arm chair general. The excellent battle maps are complimented by fully rotatable and zoomable cameras that put you right into the action from whatever perspective you prefer.
Its not all this good, however. There are a couple of fairly serious drawbacks. First and foremost, there is no in-battle save. The game can only be saved between missions. Combine this with a time limit and you have a bad situation. There were a couple of times that I was about forty five seconds away from achieving my objective when the two hour time limit expired. Bam, back to square one. Start the entire two hour mission over again. I have to be honest with you, this just plain sucks and it sucks badly. If the suckage factor was a T.V. show it would be the Vanilla Ice hoe-down Christmas special, guest starring Jerry Falwell.
The next drawback is mild in comparison, but annoying nonetheless. The mission descriptions are occasionally unclear and poorly written, leaving you wondering what youre supposed to be doing. You may receive a mission to defend your base and loading zone from attackers. Sounds easy right? Not unless you figure out that what they really mean is for you to annihilate every enemy on the map so that you wont get attacked any more. So while Im building defenses, the clock is ticking and eventually runs out. Imagine my surprise, after successfully defending my base, receiving the, "You lose" message. And of course, since there is no save option during the battle you have to start back at the beginning of the mission. Other times I would be racing frantically to waste one bad guy or to blow up one structure because when they say defeat the enemy, that means all of the enemies. If you cant find one renegade unit before the time limit runs out. . . OK, you get the picture.
A final drawback is the lack of a multiplayer mode. To a large extent it is unavoidable for this type of title on the PlayStation, but its unfortunate nonetheless. A split screen format in a real time strategy game is just pretty dang unexciting, and use of the link cable seems to be falling out of fashion due to expense and inaccessibility. The Eidos home page claims this title supports the link cable, but the case and instruction book dont mention it and seem to imply that it does not. Unfortunately, they didnt get back to me in time to clarify the dilemma.
Nevertheless, sometimes you just have to toughen up and look beyond the unfortunate defects because the game is just so darn fun to play. Theres just something immeasurably satisfying about driving your big column of tanks into your enemy's base and pounding it to oblivion. It may be a Freudian thing, but what ever it is, its a hell of a lot of fun. Real time strategy might not be the genre of choice for everybody, but those who fell in love with it on their PC will find this a refreshing addition to their console collection. If youve thirsted for some real time strategy, but couldnt get in on the craze because you didnt have a PC, then the wait is over and this is for you. The bottom line is that Warzone 2100 is for lovers of strategy games, people who are looking for something different in the console world, and for people who just love to blow things up.