Dealspwn Rating: 7/10
Developer: Gas Powered Games
Hanging over nearly every single review of a console RTS that has a PC counterpart is the oft unspoken, yet always present analysis of ‘Sure, it’s okay...but it could do with a mouse’. It’s a testament to Supreme Commander 2’s development team that the console port wasn’t simply a lazy affair, it’s clear that a certain amount of work has gone into making what is a pretty engaging RTS experience not only workable, but enjoyable too, on the Xbox 360.
Taking place roughly twenty-five years after the end of Forged Alliance, the game starts with the assassination of the President, Franz Ferdinand-style, and the tenuous peace between the United Earth Federation, the Aeon Illuminate, and the Cybran Nation erupts into global warfare. There are 18 missions in total, 7 for each of the factions you can pick to lead, and to be honest the various story threads are pretty silly and overblown.
Considering the sheer spectacle of Square’s last outing, you might have expect SC2 to kick off with something truly epic, some fireworks and razzmatazz to draw you in. Only it doesn’t. The game’s beginning is something of a wet blanket, and you find yourself with only a handful of tank types and futuristic pieces of Airfix to help stave off enemy forces. It’s a tactic that works fairly well to initiate newcomers to the series – and it should be noted that the tutorials are actually fairly solid – but there’s not much spark here, with very little to differentiate SC2 from any other futuristic RTS to begin with.
There are a variety of land-based, naval and airborne units to choose from, with each unit growing stronger and more durable the more battles they see, meaning that it pays quite often to be prudent and keep your stalwarts alive. I often found myself becoming quite attached to my little band of elite tanks, and it certainly helps in terms of gameplay immersion. There are two types of precious commodity in SC2: mass and energy. Energy production structures can be built absolutely anywhere, but the mass extraction mines can only be set up on specific sites, meaning that eventually you end up expanding your base or deploying protective forces to watch offer your precious commodities.
Your forces are supported and further fostered by the Research Lab, a sprawling mass of tech trees that allow for you to upgrade existing units and build new unit types, with research points earned over time and boosted through combat. It’s through the Research Lab that the game really comes alive, and about halfway through the game you’ll suddenly gain access to a bunch of oversized mechs called Experimental Units, and you’ll wonder why the hell they weren’t there from the start.
The Experimental Units, along with the relatively intuitive control system, are what elevates this game from simple mediocrity. The Quantum Disruptor Cannon will make you cackle with glee and, when you eventually upgrade to the Unit Cannon, you'll be able to fire actual tanks at enemies. But it's not just in defence that the Experimentals make a difference, you can get power mechs too: The first time you see one of the massive things clomp its way across the battlefield there’s a little shiver of excitement as it busts out its cannons and decimates the enemy forces that were hounding you beforehand. When the aptly-named Cybranasaurus Rex eventually shows up it’s incredibly difficult not to beam like a Cheshire Cat at the thing’s sheer ridiculousness and awesome power.
Halfway through the faction campaigns the game really takes off, with you marshalling large scale forces on several fronts, commanding hordes of mechanical forces over land, sea and sky, but the ultimate success story of this title is actually the multiplayer. Freed from the rather uninspiring mission objectives of the campaign mode, and with research access to anything you like, the online modes are where it's at, quite frankly. Although the maps have been scaled back in size somewhat, it's still possible to be fighting on multiple fronts, issuing orders to hundreds of units and maintaining your production line with ease thanks to the zoomed-out Strategic Map view and automation. It's an absolute cinch to have a small troop patrol the perimeter of your base and queue up a load of building commands to your Engineers whilst you fiddle about with the Research tree.
Essentially what made the first game great – having enormous groups of robots blowing the hell out of other large numbers of robots – is back, only slightly more focused and streamlined this time around. The Experimental units are incredible to say the least, the control system for once doesn’t make you immediately wish you had a mouse and keyboard and the multiplayer skirmishes, finally freed of the shackles of the rather banal mission objectives, really bring the positives of the fluid control system and refined strategic mechanics to the fore. This, then, is an RTS that comes strikingly close to being just as fun to play with a gamepad in hand as a mouse, one that lets the player enjoy the game to its fullest with a huge amount of depth and cerebral gameplay.
- Accessible, intuitive control system
- Fantastically ridiculous Experimental units
- Cracking multiplayer
- Takes a while to get going
- Fairly unremarkable single-player
- Pretty average presentation
The Short Version: Some excellent console RTS controls, deep strategic core mechanics and a hefty helping of robotic ridiculousness helps Supreme Commander 2 stand out from the crowd with both versions proving to be hugely enjoyable. There are some issues with pacing, plotting and presentation, but overall this is a worthy addition to any RTS fan’s library, especially if they want to exercise the grey matter.