Review by Demonsedge
"A tedious and empty tactical bore"
I discovered Ground Control after I played World in Conflict, which is one of my favorite games of all time. I wanted to find other games that were developed by Massive because WiC was so good. This led to Ground Control, which was released in 2000. It was released for free a few years ago, and it's available online legally. You can think of WiC as developed from the principles of gameplay of Ground Control, like how you can follow Perfect Dark as a spiritual successor of Goldeneye.
That said, Ground Control is a real-time tactics (RTT) game, which differs from RTS by the removal of resource management and scaling down the numbers of troops. You will command from 1-12 units, although many more allied or enemy units can be on the field at one time to give the impression that you're one prong of a multipronged effort. This is what WiC does well, as for Ground Control... read on.
The graphics are rudimentary 3D. I actually prefer 2D graphics done well to 3D done shoddily. The environments are bare. Jungle terrain is just like desert terrain, but red and with a few trees. Tundra is just desert, but blue and with some snow on the ground. The models of your troops are mostly polygons. It's slightly better than N64 quality but not much better, and it doesn't show much creativity. They have cinematics, but they rendered the cinematics with an engine of similar quality and then inserted them as movies, which I don't understand at all. It's not like the cutscenes for Final Fantasy, where it's like, oh, this is what the game is supposed to look like. It's horrible and self-defeating.
The voice acting is relatively good, although it has that pattern where everyone has an accent so you can tell the kind of person they are. The artillery shells also make a nice woosh sound as they pass by your camera, and the sound is gradually reduced if you move further away, which is a nice feature. The guns sound really weak. The infantry's guns sound like the hard drive activity light.
You're a member of a galactic corporation fighting with a religious order for control over a planet with alien artifacts on it. It reminds me of Mass Effect. You fight battles on the planet surface, and the story bends over backwards explaining why you don't get to have full vision of the map even though you have a ship in orbit. I'm not really a fan of the mysterious ancient alien artifacts release sinister hidden power story archetype. It doesn't even really require writing, it's just like words magically come that match your preconceptions of what the story is going to be like. I got about 40% through the game before I was too frustrated to play it anymore.
This game is not fun to play. Most missions consist of attacking a defended and hidden enemy with a fixed number of units. You can't lose too many units or else you won't have enough to finish the mission, so you have to play very risk averse. This takes a lot of time as you slowly inch up your artillery and pummel enemy bases into dust before you're willing to send your forces in. This isn't a good example of real-time tactics, unless the tactic you want to like to use every time is Roman turtle. You'll need to turtle up and keep healed because the enemy has some seriously powerful units.
And if you lose your artillery, GG. The enemy has units scattered in little crevices and on top of hills all over the map. You could find them with your air units if their anti-air turrets weren't also scattered all over the map, making bringing air units completely futile. Some maps have undetectable mines randomly scattered in choke points. So as your entire army drives in formation over a minefield, GG. This kind of game isn't a challenge. A challenge pressures the player and forces him to make a choice. This just forces the player to memorize where the minefield is and clear it with artillery when he restarts the mission.
Finally, I have a gripe with the combat. From an overhead view, it looks pretty uniform in many places, but is actually at ground level filled with tiny bumps and grooves over which your troops can't shoot. But they will sit there and shoot anyway. And the friendly fire, oh god the friendly fire. Your troops can't fire through one another, but they won't stop attacking even if they're killing their allies. A squad won't damage itself, but it'll damage any other squad.
I weight gameplay very heavily in a game that's too old to be judged for graphics, so that really tanked the overall score of this game. I would advocate avoiding this game. It's just a waste of your time. Don't play it, even if you really liked World in Conflict. I know this score is significantly lower than what others have given the game, but I'm not judging the game in historical context. Maybe it was good for its time, and maybe nostalgia gives the game brownie points, but speaking eleven years after the game was released, it no longer stands the test of time.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 01/06/11
Game Release: Ground Control (US, 05/31/00)
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