Published on February 14th, 2010 | by prime0
Supreme Commander 2 – Preview
The perennial discussion point with console RTS games? The controls. It’s an argument that’ll never go away, and even though modern consoles have the grunt to run the sorts of algorithms and equations necessary to chart huge open-ended battles, it’s no use if you can’t play the damn things.
Halo Wars managed to make real-time strategy playable on the consoles, but did so in exchange for real depth or purpose, instead plumping for an ‘action RTS’ that amounted to little more than a fun but unfulfilling victory march.
Supreme Commander 2 – or SupCom 2 to its friends – is looking to change all that. From the mind of Chris Taylor, head of Gas Powered Games and the brain behind the fantastic Total Annihilation and the well-received (on PC, at least) SupCom original, Supreme Commander 2 lets you deploy troops in the most ludicrously enormous battles ever conceived in a real-time strategy. We’re talking real-time war on a global scale, here.
If you’ve never seen SupCom’s most famous trick, then you’re missing out. Being able to scale back from the battlefield so far that you can see the entire planet is quite something. It was part of the first game too, but that fell foul of the old argument (control? Keep up) and in truth, suffered on a performance level as well.
With considerably more time for optimization though, Supreme Commander 2 suffers no such ills. It’s smooth and convincing on 360, showing off its immense battles with no technical hiccups.
Supreme Commander 2 lets you deploy troops in the most ludicrously enormous battles ever conceived
Work has gone into the control scheme, too streamlining the troop selection and cursor movement for console. Of course, this is the type of thing that can only be truly judged after significant play time, but it’s moving in the right direction.
More interesting than bleating about controls schemes though, is SupCom 2’s promise of a more ‘emotional’ RTS experience. Typically, the only emotions that any RTS player will feel are immense frustration, stress, tension and then a euphoric sense of relief, but Supreme Commander dares to be different. Well, not that different – those emotions will still play an integral part – but the 18 story missions aim to deliver a narrative that actually gets under your skin and makes you question your actions on the battlefield. Don’t expect something as existential as Mass Effect, but it should offer a little more gravitas than, say, Red Alert 3 managed to achieve.
Players take control of one of three ‘enigmatic’ (their words, not ours) commanders, who each lead the game’s three rival factions into interstellar war. It’s not Hemingway, but it adds a little color to the battles. Not that SupCom necessarily needs it, because you can see from the Halo-looking screenshots, it’s a fine-looking game.
All the components are definitely there, with all of the parts nearly slotting into place for a run at the ultimate console real-time strategy title. If Gas Powered Games can really nail those controls, then this could become a cult multiplayer offering over Xbox Live too – simple enough to appeal to the masses but with the depth and know-how that all RTS game demand. Supremely interesting indeed.