Real Time Strategy games were all the rage back in the late 90s and early 2000s with Command & Conquer, Warcraft, WARHAMMER, and more dominating the market. Now, however, it seems that developers aren’t willing to take the massive cost risks to develop new titles and instead are focusing on current trends, like Zombie and FPS titles. The RTS genre was on hiatus for a few years, with only a few small titles appearing here and there, but that’s changed over the passed year or so. With recent releases such as Grey Goo, Planetary Annihilation, and an upcoming expansion for Starcraft 2, we are finally seeing a comeback; do the games of today compare to the titles of yesteryear?
Act Of Aggression, the spiritual successor to the Act Of War series from the early 2000s, is set in the near future following the biggest economic crash since The Great Depression – The Shanghai Crash. With countries on the brink of collapse, war breaks out as the secret organisation, Cartel, reveals themselves and infiltrates the world’s failing governments. This title has also been compared to Command & Conquer: Generals, which got me very excited, as it was one of my personal favourite RTS games before they became few and far between. It does have similarities, but it’s certainly not the same and I would not consider it a successor to Generals, like some have suggested. The story really isn’t anything special, and it simply feels like it was used as a way to get three factions to fight. Throughout the campaign, the story-line is certainly present but does not grip the player like it should, to the point where I had already fallen off by the fourth mission. The cutscenes feel a little rushed, with at times playing at what seems to be an unnecessary angle. However, story in an RTS game isn’t the most important thing — what is, of course, is the gameplay.
The classic gameplay is certainly back in a sort of mixture of multiple games. Resource collecting feels like Starcraft, base building like Command & Conquer, and the action feels like its own. The majority of this review will focus on the U.S Army faction, where all resources are collected by one refinery. Resources are usually set out in a circle for your refinery to be built in the middle, however they are very limited and make each game a desperate race, forcing you to plan your moves more carefully. This is especially true for power, which is mainly a collectible resource instead of being based on how many power plants or an equivalent building you have; that means you cannot build an unbeatable line of defense structures. Buildings that require power have to be built in range of a building that outputs power, such as an Outpost or Headquarters. Resource collecting and management, however, does change based on the faction you play, as they are varied and play very differently from one another — this is something that some RTS games fail to implement. Once you have a fight going, the action gets pretty intense with hundreds of units on screen at one time, explosions, bullets, lasers ,and both dead and injured soldiers across the field. Units can be captured for some extra resources and buildings — such as in Command & Conquer: Generals — can be garrisoned for a variety of benefits from monetary gain to defense. Act of Aggression is made for the veteran players for sure, which made it difficult for myself due to the lack of recent RTS games before now!
Compared to current games, Act Of Aggression doesn’t have the most impressive graphics, but they still fare well across the board. What I had noticed upon zooming into a unit or structure, however, was that the level of detail is suddenly greatly increased, making the game a lot closer to the current graphical standards which you can see in the image above. The graphics are reduced when the game is zoomed out to keep up the level of performance because as I said previously, battles can engage hundreds of units at once. Speaking of performance; Players will be very pleased to hear of the optimization and customization that is on offer in the game, with almost every kind of graphical setting available to make the game work exactly to your liking. Due to the amount of customization, Act of Aggression is able to run on modern and old systems alike, which I feel is important as new games have many features that are unsupported by older graphics cards. The full system requirements and a screenshot not even showing all of the different settings can be found below. As you can see, a PC dating from the early 2000s can play it.
dual-core 2.5 Ghz (Intel core2 duo or Intel i3)
32bits Windows Vista
512 MB Direct3D 10 capable video card (GeForce 9800GT or Radeon HD4870)
Quad-core 3 Ghz (Intel i5/i7)
64bits Windows 7 and above
2 GB Direct3D 11 capable video card (GeForce 660 or Radeon HD7870)
In a way, Act of Aggression does feel like it’s an RTS brought back from the golden time… Except it’s almost like an older title that was poorly designed and has now had an HD re-release. Despite this, it brings some fresh gameplay to the genre and will excite fans, bringing back the classic style and even challenging gameplay that a lot of modern games seem to lack. Is it the new generation of FPS? I wouldn’t say so, more like a great rendition to hopefully push the RTS genre along with the other recent titles as of late. It’s no Command & Conquer 4, but it’s a formidable title that has certainly been needed yet still doesn’t quite compare to some of those age old classics. Giant battles and tactical decision making with a modern look make Act of Aggression a worthy title, but if you’re not a hardcore fan, I wouldn’t recommend paying the full price — Grab it on sale!
A PC review code for Act Of Aggression was provided by Focus Home Interative for the purpose of this review