Reviewed: April 16, 2008
Released: March 25, 2008
Universe at War: Earth Assault takes big lumbering robots and smaller technologically advanced ones and pits them against humans running around earth as they invade or try to stop the invasion. Confusing enough, maybe, but the real time simulation of earth being overrun by invading hordes of robots while another faction tries to prevent this with earth in the middle defending themselves makes for good game fodder.
Earth Assault has a great storyline and could have been a great real time simulation but for all the technical problems and just a lack of general cohesiveness that makes for some pretty standard gaming. The Xbox version has low frame rates and some other technical problems that are hard to get past when youíre trying to defend the world or take it over.
General game play is pretty good except for a lack of good control for the Xbox 360 version of Universe at War: Earth Assault. The controls work pretty well but they could have somehow been done better with the camera controls and how easy it should be to work with your units and control things.
The main problem here is working with the Xbox 360 controller and not having the mouse for a quick and easy way to control units or quickly command things. The controller has a very limited number of buttons and a real time simulation needs to be able to move and control units quickly to stay on top of things. The controller just lacks all you need but it can be done effectively with some practice.
The control problems aside the game does have other technical problems like a very bad frame rate loss when things heat up; this is evident from the start of the game and happens all the time on the XBox version. Other problems are the lack of a very good mission plan for the entire campaign as some missions have very little to add to the story or what your supposed to be doing in the grand scheme of things.
Once you have completed a few missions the game really gets going and gets rid of the humans, you donít need em so why bother with em. Universe at War is about three factions competing against each other for our planet and makes for a unique story that is almost touched upon but mostly forgotten.
The resource collection and management that is the staple of a real time strategy has been simplified to its base with you building resource collecting units and off they go. They have this automatic collecting mode that leaves you free to deal with the more important aspect of fighting and putting things in their proper place.
The varied factions and how well they are balanced works great and the game does a great job of having three sides to the same conflict but the technical problems and some just uninspiring missions does not make for a great game. One such technical problem that mars the entire game is the camera zoom feature that does not give you a wide enough view to see what is going on. You spend too much time moving the camera around to see whatís going on when you should be placing units and building more.
Other problems with the frame rate make for targeting errors and using the controller to select units frustratingly difficult. This with other problems makes the entire game pretty much a waste as you will not want to continue playing to get to the very interesting and more open gameplay of the Masari faction.
The games get more interesting the longer you play and the more into the campaign you go but the game never really grabs hold of you in the first place. The units are varied for all the factions and look good but some make things tough when youíre attacking them. On the other side the same unit that was a bear to kill off is a treat to send out for your side and devastate an area with.
The campaign is a lengthy exercise in frustration control but the really better game is the World Domination mode. You have no mission by mission gameplay and use the AI or another player online in an attempt to dominate the world with the faction you choose. You can use your heros to conquer territories and build your faction up to devastate the world as you see fit.
The same gameplay issues that are in the single player affect all the online play that I could find but the game does do a little better online with the frame rate problems but not by much. I did not find many playing online though and the entire game does not seem to be taking fans by storm.
Universe at War did a great job of the graphics and the different units all look good and have some really nice movements as well as overall looks. The map and world as well as the HUD portions look good and they did a nice job with the world map and controlling the different sections of the HUD.
However there are still the camera problems and not enough zoom out to see a big enough area. This may have been on purpose but it does limit how much you can do onscreen and having a very imprecise movement of the cursor only adds to the problem.
The explosions and other effects look pretty good but they kind of bring down the overall scheme of playing due to the frame rate drops when much action is occurring onscreen. Just like with other things one leads to another and you have some problems that on their own could have been easy to overlook but when one thing like low frame rates affect everything else it brings all these other parts down.
Sound is pretty good but nothing out of the ordinary or fantastic with some good voice acting that contributes to a fairly average overall game. They included a good wide range of sound effects and some nice inspirational theme music to your gaming so you wonít be listening to long silent stretches.
The voice acting was good and there was plenty of nice acting to go along with portions of the game that would have been a bit dry like the tutorials. Overall the sound and special effects worked out all right but there was nothing extraordinary or outstanding here.
The campaign is not that fun and several missions are more difficult than they need to be from the standpoint of frame rate problems and other technical glitches. The overall campaign plays for a good long time but several of the missions seem like a preview of better things to come that never happen. Youíre given several missions that look like tutorials on how to do things and then youíre never given the chance to do these on a larger scale in the campaign.
The Conquer the World mode works well and playing online with others would be fun and a great time except for the technical problems as well as how well others play, I hate it when people drop out just because they are losing. Not to say that was me, I lose with dignity, almost every time.
A real time strategy could be played on a console with some very intuitive control schemes and great handling of units but Universe at War: Earth Assault is not that game. Earth Assault does a great job of varying the factions but making them equal overall and using the larger world map to your advantage but other larger issues mar a perfectly good game.
Universe at War: Earth Assault just never grabs your attention or enthusiasm to want to play and with all the problems you can just leave this one alone. Youíre better off trying the PC version of Universe at War to see if it plays better than the Xbox 360 one as the technical problems here are too many to ignore.