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Supreme Commander Review

Developer: Gas Powered Games Publisher: THQ
Release Date: February 20, 2007 Also On: None

PC gamers have been at no loss of RTS games over the past few years, with some great new franchises out there including Star Wars Empire at War, Battle for Middle Earth, Codename Panzers, etc. Many gamers are content with these types of games, but some gamers (and some developers) want something much bigger. Supreme Commander is just that, the biggest, most scalable RTS to be released in the last many years, if ever.

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“SupCom”, as it’s called by its players, throws gamers into the distant future, where the universe has split and entered into a massive war. You have the government-based faction, who rules Earth; the rebels fighting for independence; and later the Aeon alien faction. Each faction’s single player campaign is independent; that is, they do not interlink with the others, and each group is seen as the “good guys” when you play as them. Imagine playing a Star Wars game as the empire, simply trying to control the rebels from taking over the government. This is completely unlike Command and Conquer, of course, which plainly shows the NOD as evil, even when you play as that faction.

The sheer size of Supreme Commander is it’s main selling point. At first I didn’t see what the big deal was. I could zoom out and see the whole map and it was only as large as maps from any other RTS I had played. But the way the level progression in Supreme Commander works, is that you start in a small area of the map, and as you gain objectives, other literal halves are revealed. This results in the map size doubling again and again, making some maps up to and over a virtual 80 kilometers. I didn’t come across any limits in my testing as far as unit limits for the engine, but usually you’ll find it beneficial to build a few of the larger units than building a ton of the smaller units, which in turn lessens the stress on the engine and the PC.

The only real downside to the massive scale of the game is the performance at times. Even on my high end review PC, performance could go into the single digit frame rates when the fighting engaged. Sadly, as far as I know, there are no alternative models for the units like in many games. For example, in some games, when you zoom out some, or the system load is high, instead of showing the “highly detailed” model for, say, a Humvee, it would show a blockier model, which looks very similar, but increases performance when it’s needed. This results in unstable frame rates when moving the camera from location to location in Supreme Commander, as an area with few units may cause very low load, and an area with dozens of units firing at each other will cause very high load. On the note of compatibility, though, Supreme Commander is the best of the best. It’s one of the first “Games for Windows” labeled titles, and it performs equally well on Windows XP and Vista, which is unlike many games which are being released with BIG problems in Vista. In addition, Supreme Commander can take advantage of dual-monitor setups, providing one monitor as a macro-management overview, and the other as your primary active view. This is a great feature which really adds to the level of immersion in the game.

You can save at any time during the game, which you’ll find is very helpful. Unlike many RTS games which are based on short, half hour or so missions, Supreme Commander’s missions can take hours to beat. Because of that fact, there are literally only a few missions per campaign. The learning curve is moderate. A lot of the basic controls are outlined in the beginning, and although many features such as queuing, and waypoints are there, you pretty much have to figure that out for yourself; which is not a problem for veteran RTS players. The AI is better than most in RTS, though its outgoing nature can be its downfall. It’s designed to take advantage of your weak points, but if you have, for example, TWO main weak points, the AI will often find one and completely ignore the other side of your base. It’s not a big problem, the AI is challenging, but be prepared when you face off against human players.

Even with the small problems in AI and performance, and even with its repetitive soundtrack, Supreme Commander is clearly one of the, if not the best RTS game to be released for quite some time. And due to its dazzling graphics and superb Vista compatibility, my guess is that we’ll see it around for a long time; certainly long enough for those performance quirks to be a thing of the past. SupCom takes the scale of real-time strategy and magnifies it tenfold. If you want the biggest, baddest RTS, you simply must look at Supreme Commander.

Graphics: 9
Sound: 6
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 8
Replay Value/Game Length: 8
Final: 8
Written by Dave Review Guide