Hmm. I can see this game getting huge marks in other mags simply because it's big and looks good, and reviewers are prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. However, I've played it for four days now and still find it confusing, and no game should be that user-hostile.
I'll concede that it's big and that by only completing about a third of the 20 odd missions, I'm bound to have missed out on loads of exciting things that happen later on, but the simple truth's that I find it infuriating to play.
I hate designing something and the being told here aren't enough minerals to build it. I hate having to find the EACT point of an enemy base to park my tank so that it'll have been captured by my side. What's wrong with just getting armour into the general area ( you know, within a yard, say)? I'm annoyed by the constant air presence of the enemy. If they've got so may planes, why don't they just bomb me into oblivion? It looks good, it's vast, and I'm glad that I'll never have to play it again.
Picture the scene - it's the post-apocalypse year 2083 and an uneasy peace exists between the horribly mutated surface survivors and the clean skinned bunker-dwellers. As you can imagine, the mutants hate the underworlders because they haven't had their DNA ravaged by the nuclear holocaust of 1997, and the underworlders in their lead-lined bunkers hat 'them upstairs' because they're icky to look at, with hands growing out of their heads and teeth running along their forearms, or should that be four arms? Hoo-hoo, nothing like a good mutant gag. I always say.
The original Armour-Geddon (AP1, 87%) was based around the first conflict between these two, and you had to race against the clock to pick up the parts of a neutron bomb to use against the mutants, otherwise they'd unleash particle beam death from the Hellfire SDI satellite orbiting the planet. The sequel's set 70 years later, when it's just been discovered that the Hellfire satellite's still up there and just needs a battery charge and oil change. Once again (ta-da-da-da-daaaa!!!!) the race is on.
But wouldn't you just know it? Your people have been on a constant war footing for seven decades, but they haven't got enough weapons or factories to launch a full scale attack. In all that time, they haven't got round to developing vehicles past the 'lightly armoured, poorly armed, gas guzzling' stage or worked out how to manufacture cannon shells that do more than plop pathetically into the strontium-laced sand 30 metres in front of your tank.
So you not only have to grab enemy factories, but also develop and build weapons against the clock. It's a crap premise, and the review clock starts ticking down from this point.
You start off with a base and a few feeble vehicles. The game's mission structure starts you off on a simple task and builds up to all-out combat and space rocket construction. Along the way, you capture enemy factories and mines, build more weapons and expand across the map. Mission one's simply to capture an unguarded enemy base, but even this highlights many of the strengths and nearly all the weaknesses of the game.
If you want a vehicle to have a chance of surviving on the surface, it needs to be well developed with powerful weaponry, so R&D is task one. You just choose an item (e.g. light tank, teleporter, mini-missiles) assign some scientists to the job and then wait until they get developed from stage one (low range, power draining, heavy) to stage three (light, fuel efficient, powerful) before going on to build it. It's easy to sue, and it's also completely boring.
Another task is to supply the production plant with raw materials from the mines. Looking at the tactical map, you can see the position of the main base/factory complex as a green blob, but it took me ages to realise that there's amine right next to it. Wouldn't it have been sensible to colour mines and bases different colours? I think so. To fix a supply route you drag the mouse from mine to base (a distance of some two pixels in this case), and they link with a pulsing line. Fascinating.
Particle beam death from the Hellfire SDI satellite
LAST OF THE V8S
You can then manufacture anything you've researched (providing you've got enough raw materials, of course) and launch up to six vehicles onto the battlefield at any one time. Each vehicle has equipment mounts onto which you can bolt weapons, night sights, cloaking devices or fuel tanks, and then you're ready for war...
...in an extremely pretty 3D polygon desert. If you're in a tank, you trundle across it, if it's a hovercraft you rise slightly as you start the engine and the cruise across it, and if you're in a plane, you can sail over it and frequently crash into it, so top marks for the 3D modellers.
What do you do in this terrific 3D landscape? Well, you drive around (obviously) and marvel as the colour fades from the scene and night falls. Then you either switch to your night sight and continue to drive through an eerie green darkness, or you curse your lack of image intensification and sit in the darkness getting bombed until dawn.
If you've got your missile systems select, then they automatically blast away at air threats, which leaves you free to zap ground targets with lasers, shells (which are a bit useless) or rockets. If you're in the air, you can strafe enemy amour with unguided rockets, or bomb them, although I found this terribly hard.
The combat's sort of souped-up Battlezone, but the added complication detracts from stalking your enemy rather than adds to the enjoyment. It's just so full of targets that I was left thoroughly confused. You're never sure which enemy to shoot at next, there's just so many of them out there.
Come to think of it, I was confused by the entire game, as it really doesn't seem to know what it's supposed to be. The R&D and mining elements make it seem very strategic, but you can't implement these strategies without battling your way across the surface in the 3D sections. The fact that you've got six vehicles to control's baffling as well mainly due to a particularly ineffective waypoint-based automatic pilot that's supposed to allow six craft to function simultaneously.
The waypoints are hard to use because there's no clear map of the game area, only the horribly cramped tactical map I mentioned earlier, and a pretty rotating map showing enemy armour and planes. Pretty useless that is. Like I said at the beginning, expect other reviews to make it high because they think it'll be good once you get into it but ignore the fact that you probably won't want to. Trust us on this. We're professional.