Real Time Strategy games have always had a notoriously rough ride during the transition from PC to home consoles. It isn’t hard to understand – the entire genre was born on the PC format, and as time has progressed RTS games have expanded in ways that only a PC would have been able to accommodate. The wealth of options and (most importantly) the speed with which you were required to access them, has meant that consoles have been unable to keep up for one primary reason – there are never enough buttons.
Some snide PC gamers have always been keen to insist that console gamers lack the attention spans to fully enjoy an RTS title rattling along at full pelt anyway, and although such a petulant claim is easy to dismiss as rank fanboyism, nothing has yet come along to challenge it. Halo Wars was a pretty glorious success, but the mechanics of play were condensed so much that hardened genre fanatics never went anywhere near it. The original Supreme Commander was a terrific PC game that didn’t have much muscle put behind the Xbox 360 port, but this new sequel appears almost to have been optimized for the platform.
Because it really is quite something. The revamped interface has made multi-tasking almost as fast and intuitive as it is on the PC version, and a beautifully streamlined tutorial mode – which is essential by the way – performs the miracle of making a game that is so complex and busy, seem simple and immediately edifying. Combat does take precedence over base building, and the structure of the levels is obviously geared towards the quick-fix desires of traditional console gamers, but nothing dilutes the experience. Supreme Commander 2 really is the real deal.
The game does away with cutscenes entirely, and the game’s plot (or rather, its three concurrent plots) is largely familiar but not entirely bereft of a few genuine surprises. There are three available factions, each boasting six (large and lengthy) levels apiece, all of which feature primary and secondary objectives. There are a bevy of hidden objectives too, many of which are very likely to inspire multiple playthroughs. The amount of content on the disc is pretty stellar, and with three difficulty settings and the aforementioned hidden objectives, this is one RTS title that has clearly been built to last.
It also runs faultlessly. One of the main problems that the Xbox 360 port of this title’s predecessor had was that it was far from smooth, the framerate occasionally stuttering drastically when things got hectic. None of those problems plague this sequel, even during online matches, which may possibly be (Halo Wars aside) a first for a console RTS. There are plenty of compelling online modes to get stuck into too, with 1v1 and 2v2 bouts keeping things serious, and the frankly mental 4 player free-for-all mode making for a fresh and often hilarious diversion.
Supreme Commander 2 was designed by the near-legendary Chris Taylor, most famous for creating the classic double whammy of Total Annihilation and Dragon Siege. His main triumph here has been to craft the best RTS control scheme in console history; a system that you’ll probably be seeing a whole lot more of in the future. Amazing as that is, it would be all for nothing if the other aspects of the game’s design weren’t equally polished and accessible, but they are. The game is also deeply challenging, but never loses its sense of boisterous fun. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, Supreme Commander 2 has a dauntingly large list of things to recommend it.
Watch the Supreme Commander 2 trailer here…