|System: X360, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Hellbent Games / Gas Powered Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Aspyr Media||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 23, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (1-4 Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jason Lauritzen
When Chris Taylor's Supreme Commander was released on the PC over a year ago, it received a warm welcome. Its main characteristic was its unbridled ambition. Most real time strategy games are overly concerned with resource management and creating specialty units, but for Gas Powered Games the key was replicating total war. In order to do this, you need a proper sense of scale - preferably more in the direction of big rather than accurate. The two key factors to making things feel big? Hundreds of on-screen units and a camera that trades in the typical bird's-eye view for that of a satellite. Combine those two components with massive maps and you've got a game with a very distinct identity.
At launch, the game was doing a lot of PC firsts - such as supporting dual and quad core processors as well as enabling multi-monitor support. But, does that experience scale down appropriately for the home console? The effort is appreciated, but the execution is not. This Xbox 360 port suffers from constant technical hiccups and a control scheme that just can't match its PC brother.
Like many RTS games, Supreme Commander tries to keep you interested in its story by stringing together the tale of three different factions. The United Earth Federation is made up of humans; the Cybran Nation is composed of symbionts - humans with computerized brains; and then there's the Aeon Illuminate - an alien race. They're all engaged in what the game terms "The Infinite War" and it's your job to bring it to a close. Quick question: if the war is infinite, how can you stop it? Doesn't the word "infinite" imply it would theoretically go on forever and ever, no matter what you do? Oh well. The game's main story is composed of 18 missions, but you have to pick a particular side, splitting the game into six missions per go-'round.
Let's be honest; most strategy games aren't about great narrative - it's merely a means to carry the actual gameplay forward. Before you dig into the game's tech tree, we've got to get some basic economics out of the way. Two resources rule the day: mass and energy. Mass helps build structures and units, while energy powers the aforementioned groups. Once you start raking in these two resources, you can finally get to building units and deploying your force. Only one problem: this is when you encounter the game's clumsy controls.
It's truly hard to beat a keyboard and mouse setup for RTS games and Supreme Commander illustrates this quite well. To be fair, the game does attempt to implement a wheel system for queuing up units and structures, but it never feels comfortable. The majority of commands are mapped to the D-pad and it works well enough when you're at the first tech level, but once you get beyond level one, it becomes a cumbersome process. EA LA's console RTS approach (used in games like Command & Conquer 3: Kane's Wrath) just feels better - their idea of using the right trigger combined with a thumbstick feels more solid and, in turn, swift. In Supreme Commander's case, relying on the D-pad in conjunction with the thumbstick never feels second nature. Plus, you have to select each building before you can build the appropriate unit, whereas with the EA LA setup, you can build any unit from a main menu. Supreme Commander does get one control idea right: its waypoint system. Using the right bumper, you can setup a series of points for a vehicle to follow. It's a comfortable mechanic that helps quite a bit.