Wiping Out Rebel Scum
By Jim Bray
George Lucas' new
"real time strategy game" for Windows PC's turns the tables on the plucky
rebel alliance of "Star Wars" fame.
lets you live vicariously the life of Brenn Tantor, an Imperial officer
sent to root out and destroy those pesky but tenacious rebel scum. Along
for the ride is your brother, Dellis, and in the levels I've completed
you automatically lose if he gets killed.
The two of you aren't
sent down alone, of course. You also command Imperial Walkers, Scout Walkers,
speeder bikes, TIE Fighters, and a whole assortment of other bad guy tools
we've come to know and love over the past couple of decades.
Oh, sure, you can
choose from missions that let you play as a rebel commander, but why face
overwhelming and hopeless odds when you can fire up a few Walkers and
crush your enemy ruthlessly?
Besides, it's kind
of neat to see how the other half lives
follows the tradition of games like "Starcraft," "Command and Conquer"
and "Dune 2000" but LucasArts has thrown in a few new wrinkles. In other
games, for example, you have to build your base and set up supply lines
that keep bringing resources to your side, but "Force Commander" simply
doles out "Command Points" you can spend on new hardware or personnel.
Points are allotted
based on how well you do in combat, so you can't just sit back and wait
for your coffers to fill; to have any chance of success you have to actively
engage the enemy.
This lack of resource
gathering takes one major component out of the equation and, while it
does allow you to concentrate more on making mayhem than on managing minions,
I think it makes the game a little less interesting. Only a little, though.
You can play in "Campaign"
or "Scenario" mode; you can also choose "skirmish" but, if you're as good
at playing games as I am, it'll be very short lived because the enemy
will wipe the planetary surface with you.
"Campaign Mode" offers
a vital set of tutorials that walk you through the controls and the interface,
and then pats you on the head and sends you off on a couple of minor missions.
These missions actually turn out to be pretty neat for "Star Wars" fans,
because they put you in charge of the Storm troopers sent to retrieve
the "Death Star" plans that Princess Leia stole and hid inside R2D2 in
the first (well, fourth) of the "Star Wars" movies.
You'll want to complete
these training missions, too, because the game's interface (including
your "camera angles") takes a bit of getting used to. You can swing your
view to nearly any angle and various heights, though you never look down
from directly above, which means there's always a 3D look to "Force Commander."
- and you have to successfully complete one before you can sally forth
further - get increasingly difficult.
Imperial troops are far better shots than they were in the movies.
Graphics quality is
very good, with nice texturing of landscapes and pretty good animation
- but if you don't have heavy duty video hardware you'll be in real trouble.
Audio quality is wonderful, and if you have a set of PC speakers with
a good subwoofer you'll be very happy.
The game will use
as much hardware as you can throw at it; LucasArts says 3D hardware acceleration
is an absolute necessity. My PC has some 3D acceleration, though it isn't
the greatest, and I have 16 Meg of video RAM. Despite this, however, the
graphics were choppy and it almost seemed as if "Force Commander" was
holding its nose when it deigned to run on my reasonably high end system.
to run "Force Commander" include a 266 Mhz processor, 64 Meg of RAM, 8
Meg of video RAM, 454 Meg of hard drive space, and a 16 bit sound card.
One frightening aspect
of the game is its music. John Williams' stirring "Imperial March" has
been given a "heavy metal meets disco" treatment that, were the composer
dead, would undoubtedly result in his Heavenly nickname being "Pinwheel
That said, it's great
to see a new "Real time strategy" game, and "Force Commander" is a decent
entry into the genre.
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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