Review by EEEECHUTA

"BEST GAME OF 2002 (so far)"

When it comes to delivering a polished gaming experience, nobody delivers the goods better than Blizzard. They are responsible for turning PC games into a true art form rather than letting it degenerate into crude, mass-produced entertainment. From the first two seconds of War3's opening video you just know that you're in for a real treat. The graphics, music, sound, and artistic direction blend in such a perfect harmony rarely seen in the world of video games. I have played Warcraft 3 since the Beta, and I was stillblown away by the final version. It is simply that good.

Graphics: 10/10

Polish, polish and polish. It's not the technical aspects that are impressive, but rather the masterful application of modern graphics technology in a meaningful way. In other words, you're not going to be able to show off any new special effects to your friends, BUT, you're going to be subconsciously attracted by how well the whole package is put together. In other words, the graphics in War3 are more about keeping your long term interest rather than blowing you away the first time you see it. They are bursting with refined artistic excellence.

Much like Starcraft, every race has it's own distinctive look and flavor. This is undeniably the result of thousands of hours spent with concept drawings of each race and their various attributes (build, size, color, stance, clothing, etc). They are all refined to perfection. Also, Blizzard has done an INCREDIBLE job with color balancing. In this game, they've opted for a more colorful & cartoony look which works extremely well with the fantasy theme. It truly stimulates the visual senses. You cannot appreciate just how important color balancing is until you've seen it done wrong - eg Neverwinter Nights.

Now, if there is anything that's mind-blowing in this game, it's the FMV. I cannot begin to imagine just how much money and effort they spent on making these delightful masterpieces. Every short clip is like a bottle of $1000 wine... you feel like every tiny bit must be savored as much as possible, otherwise it goes to waste. In my opinion the FMV even tops the mighty Final Fantasy series from Square, which is no small order.

Sound: 10/10

I usually don't like to comment about sound for most games because there's nothing really exciting to talk about. But in War3, the sounds are saturated with artistic excellence just like the graphics. The most incredible thing about Blizzard's sound effects is that you seem to REMEMBER them very easily. For instance, if you played Starcraft for a decent length of time, you could instantly recognize the sounds of a dying hydralisk, a dying zealot, a mutalisk attack... etc., simply because they were so unique. If you've played War2, I'm sure you remember that strange chant when you clicked on the church, or that distinctive ''Ruuuuah'' sound when a Ogre is bloodlusted.

The sound effects in War3 continue that very same tradition. There are different sound effects for just about everything: clicking on units, moving units, clicking on buildings, constructing buildings... etc. You're probably not going to say to yourself:''wow, these are mind-blowing sound effects'', but play this game for a week and you can probably distinguish between the activities of a night elf base and an orc base just by ear. Once again, pure artistic excellence.

Music: 9.5/10

Matt Uelmen comes through with a masterful score that simply screams professional film music. He uses a beautiful exotic violin sample that often gives me the goosebumps. The FMV music is sweeping and dramatic, while the game music is more ambient and tries not to attract attention to itself. Some of the tunes could have been slightly more memorable.

Now, I must thank the heavens that Blizzard understands that music must associate itself with a particular game element! I don't understand why so many games these just throw in music as an afterthought and mix up the tracks like a winamp playlist on random mode (eg Morrowind). In War3, every race has their own unique theme. The humans have a military march theme, the orcs a tribal theme, the night elves have a ancient/mystical theme, and the undead have a subdued, sinister theme. The distinction is far more apparent than with Starcraft's division, which in terms represents a huge step forwards in terms of artistic excellence.

Single player Gameplay: 10/10

War3's Single Player Campaign mode has just about exceeded my highest expectations for single player modes in RTS games. It has all the right elements, a dramatic storyline, great cutscenes, interesting scenarios, and of course the mind-blowing FMV that makes playing through the four different campaigns well worth the effort. The storyline is especially well done, and is presented in a manner that is easily digestable by even the shortest of attention spans.


Multiplayer Gameplay: 6/10

Finally, we have reached the main reason why this game gets a 9 out of 10. No doubt that this game will invite thousands of comparisons to Starcraft, which is legendary being able to delicately balance three fundamentally different races. Terrans had strength in ambush, Protoss had strength in quality, and Zerg had strength in quantity. Every race had some unit you might think was ridiuclously powerful until an expert showed you how they could shut that tactic down with impunity. This kept the core strategy element exciting and interesting.

War3 seems to have an even harder task because it has to balance 4 different races. Unfortunately, it shortcuts this task by making every race fundemtanlly identical. Every race's units are divided into the following categories: melee, ranged, spellcaster, support spellcaster, and air. As long as you build the right mix of each category, you can play any race you want and still be successful. There's no race that truly excels at base defence. There's no race that truly excels at sneak attacks . There's no race that truly excels at swarming opponents with an overwhelming number of low quality units. There's no ''killer unit'' for any race. All of this results in a very flat and boring strategy game. It would have been much more interesting, for instance, if the night elves were able to ambush opponents by hiding in the trees. In reality, the night elves are just as tough as the orcs when fighting on open ground. YAWN.

In short, the multiplayer gameplay is nowhere as deep as Starcraft, and actually feels like an add-on to the single player campaign (rather than the other way around, which is usually the case with Blizzard games)

Conclusion

Without a doubt, this is the game of the year for 2002 (so far at least). There is simply so much class and so much quality in this game that it would be a crime to pass it up, especially for RTS fans. I am so sick and tired of watching PC game companies trying to make a quick buck by polluting the video game scene with overhyped, unpolished crap. Blizzard is one of those last few companies who still knows how to do things the right way.

Overall - 9/10


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 07/08/02, Updated 07/08/02


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