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Published: Thursday, 4/1/2010

Game review: Metro 2033 is solid, Supreme Commander 2 OK for newbies

BY CHRIS CAMPBELL
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE

Post-apocalyptic shooters have been gaining steam, and some even compare well with the modern-day military games that are so popular. Metro 2033 is not quite up to par with its contemporaries, but it does enough things well to warrant a look.

Instead of taking to the streets of an American city after nuclear fallout, Metro 2033 plunges you below ground into the dark and dank railway lines of Moscow. Replacing familiar surroundings with this dismal atmosphere gives the game extra life.

Light is both your friend and enemy in the tunnels. Using your headlamp can uncover needed items, but it also can draw attention from mutated creatures and ticked-off humans. Shut off the lamps, torches, and the like, and you get the reverse — a gunfight or attack that goes from easy to life-threatening in no time. Seeking balance in stealth and run-and-gun keeps Metro 2033 fresh.

The visuals aren't the best, but lighting elements keep most of the quirks and issues at bay. The game is full of dull artificial intelligence and there are flukes in the controls that hinder play. These problems aren't severe enough to make you quit playing, but you may long for a more complete game.

Metro 2033 tries to balance among several genres — shooter, survival and the like — so it doesn't excel at any one thing. Instead, it finds success in simply being solid in many aspects, and that's enough.

Not every game is built to win awards or shatter sales records. That's not a knock on Supreme Commander 2, but you should know up front that you will get a decent game experience out of this title, but nothing earth-shattering.

You almost wonder if the developers made this game as an apology to fans for the original. That title was lacking on many levels, so betting that anyone with a memory of that game would buy a sequel is almost insulting. Developers may have figured that gamers would assume that if a sequel had been made the franchise must be decent enough to try.

That said, Supreme Commander 2 is worth a shot, with some caveats. First, make sure you are not a savvy real-time strategy (RTS) gamer. Chances are, even on the higher difficulty settings, you won't get much of a challenge. Second, keep your expectations in check. Visually the game can be bland and the audio is relentlessly spotty and poorly timed.

The game performs best when approached like a primer for those wanting to dip their feet into the RTS genre. The scale of the battles is encompassing, and the ability to play as three different factions provides a solid variety of robots and other tech to unleash in battle. Three factions — United Earth Federation, Cybran, and Illuminate — push the story along and offer a sense of place and importance in the collective battle against the Seraphim.

More experienced RTS players likely won't appreciate the game's improvements in scale, faction weapons and story, but newer gamers can easily access the changes. Supreme Commander 2 may be a sequel, but it definitely plays and feels more like a game for newcomers.



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