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Ground Control

Ground Control

I had to wait far too long for it. A real-time strategy game that finally uses a full 3D world again, which can be viewed from all angles. No more flat maps according to the almighty Command & Conquer technique. Now it must be finally over, because from now on we want 3D. After all, it is not for nothing that we pay so much money for a 3D card. The guys from Sierra Studios have really gone out of their way for this wonderful display of 3D graphics. Ground Control is certainly a sight to behold, but the big question for gamers is: “Is it fun to play?”

The story
Before we start the game, it quickly becomes clear that there is also talk of a story in Ground Control. That often seems to make it all a lot more exciting and drags the player deeper into the game. Come on then, here it goes. We are in the year 2419. The Earth has just recovered from a terrible nuclear war and today colonization on distant planets plays a major role for humanity. Two important organizations are stepping out of the havoc wrought by the Third World War and are certainly not giving each other the light in the eyes. While there are so many planets and galaxies in the endless universe, man has never been able to share. The first missions take place on the planet Krig-7B. One of the organizations, called the Order of the New Dawn, is in the process of establishing a number of research centers. The Dawnies, as they are also called, seem to have found something worth huge investments and a lot of secrecy. Such secrecy naturally piques the interest of the opposing party, the Crayven Corporation. They try to reveal the big secret by means of a tough game. I can’t help it either, this story again sounds like big church bells to my ears.

The missions
Ground Control is divided into two campaigns, with each campaign containing fifteen missions. This way there is the chance to play with both parties and to go through the story with each one. The mission briefings remind me a lot of StarCraft. As with StarCraft, the orders are passed on using a visual means of communication. And also in Ground Control we are not always alone, but often the help of various other characters is called in. During the game, these characters are often central and they have to survive the entire mission. The nice thing about it is that even during gameplay the story sometimes resumes or other orders suddenly come in. That certainly makes the game more interesting to play and it doesn’t always remain predictable.

Not build?
What strikes me immediately is that the missions always start with a number of standard units. Of course every mission will offer a difference in vehicles, but I miss the management. Ground Control is typically a game that focuses only on strategic events. This means that there is no building, no need to search for resources or other income and can therefore fully concentrate on your units. Personally, I find this very unfortunate, although I will not judge this element negatively, especially for the diehard strategy gamers. Maybe I’m just someone of the old RTS stamp.

The units
Especially because the game is purely focused on the units, I have to admit that these are well developed and the lack of management makes you forget something. The units are dropped by means of one or more transport ships. In some missions it is even possible to select the units you want to take with you. As you progress through the game, the range expands. There are marines, tanks, UPCs, armored trikes, planes, you name it, that can be taken along to hunt for the opponent. A nice addition is that each unit can be equipped with a special weapon and a special ability in addition to its standard weapons. For example, you can equip a certain tank with mortars and the ability to quickly repair itself. Unfortunately, it can only be used a limited number of times, usually two to three times. The standard feature of the UPC is that it can not only transport infantry, but also has the ability to repair other units. Very handy to have around.

The graphics
I can briefly summarize my position on the quality of the graphics. It’s simply sublime. I’ve played the game with both a Voodoo 2 card, equipped with 12 MB, and a Viper II, equipped with 32 MB and the Savage 2000 chipset. Even with the Voodoo 2, the game looked brilliant at 800 by 600 pixels and 16 bit colors. While the environments may be a little bland, mainly set on the arid plains of desert landscapes, the explosions and lighting effects made up for a lot. I smoothly rotated the cursor keys around my units and could even view the moving tracks while zooming in. While driving, dust clouds of drifting sand and various tracks develop. And driving past some hills I was actually blinded by the strength of the sun. I have never seen such good graphics in any RTS game. I can hardly imagine what could be improved when I review everything on the system with the Viper II. I decide to start a new game under a resolution of 1024 by 768 and 32 bit color. I quickly put all the detail secretly on high. I fall backwards from my chair in surprise. Again I look at a barren plain, but I feel my mouth go dry as I look at the cracks of dryness in the ground. A number of trees manage to get enough water deep from the ground to survive, even the leaves on the trees can be distinguished. The metal of the units gleams in the sun and I forget that I am being attacked. I quickly crawl off the ground into my seat and try to control the fight. The explosions, the light effects of the weapons, it’s all overwhelming.

Ground Control is definitely worth it for the strategy enthusiast. The veterans have to forget about building and searching for the resources for a while. In the beginning it takes some getting used to that no units can be created during the mission. So be frugal and keep thinking strategically. For people with a fast computer in combination with a good graphics card, Ground Control is definitely worth a look.