Steel Soldiers Metallic Eye Candy

Steel Soldiers
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Two global corporations that had been locked in battle for 500 years are on the brink of a negotiated peace agreement. On a distant out post, Captain Zod of the Mega Com Corporation learns that perhaps the enemy, the Trans Global Empire, may be preparing a devastating, final assault.

This is the opening of Steel Soldiers, a real time strategy game for the PC. In Steel Soldiers you control an army of robots. Like most RTS games, there are mission goals that must be met in order to win and progress to the next mission. You must build factories and research facilities to construct units to help you in your mission. You can build anything from light infantry robots to stealth bombers to spy robots.

In order to build these structures you need credits. Each mission battlefield is broken up into territories. Each territory contains a certain amount of resource that is automatically converted into credits for its owner. Inside each territory is a flag. Your army must capture this flag to gain the territory and its resources. Each territory has a different credit amount attached to it and the more ground that you control the more credits that you have to build and repair your units. When your manufacturing costs outweigh your credit income, waiting for robots to be built is like waiting for grass to grow.

Like all RTS games there are a million controls. The controls are set up similarly enough to other games of this nature that I really didn’t need the book to get started. But if this were your first RTS game, the game controls are pretty easy to familiarize yourself with.

The graphics for the story-line part of the game are done in a quirky, two dimensional, comic book style of animation. The only thing missing in these sequences is phrases in banner style such as, "BAM!" "POW!" "SOCKO!" "ETCETERA!" ah, I mean etcetera. The 3D graphics for the gameplay part of Steel Soldiers are fantastic. There are crisp, clear, reflections in water and smoke. I can’t say enough good about the graphics.

However much I enjoyed those graphics, there were some things about Steel Soldiers that I have to moan and groan about. The biggest problem that I had was getting the game to run. If you are using Windows 2000 on your PC, then the game freezes up main menu screen. You can get a patch to correct this problem from the game maker’s Web site. However, I use Windows 2000, I installed the patch and I still had problems getting the game to run. I had to ask for outside help to get it running. The way the mouse worked with the game never seemed quite right. No matter what I did on that mouse settings screen it just never seemed right. Always too slow or too fast or, just "not right". It’s one of those things that you can’t exactly put your finger on, but you know when it is a little off.

Like most RTS games, you can highlight an individual or an entire group of units and designate their behavior somewhat. For example, in Steel Soldiers you can tell your units to be aggressive, passive, or defensive. At times, it feels like there are only two settings, aggressive and asleep. Sometimes you set them on passive and they take off chasing something for miles inside very hostile territory only to never return. While if you set them on defensive, sometimes five units will stand and do nothing while the sixth unit standing right next to them is getting hammered by 12 tanks.

In most RTS games, the repair unit, nine times out of 10, will automatically start fixing the damaged units on its own. One of the things that I’ve always done when playing these kind of games is when a battle is over and squad A is all battered, I would send out a repair unit out to meet them in the field. While the repair unit automatically went about healing squad A, I could get back to warring using squad B. Understand? Good. However, in Steel Soldiers way more often than not the repair unit will not do anything unless specifically told to do so. This means that after that second battle when squad B is half alive and you’re expecting a healthy squad A to come and back them up, the same near death squad A shows up. You can stack orders on your units so that the repair unit would be specifically ordered to fix every single unit in the squad but, that takes a lot of time when you are in the midst of a heavy duty fire fight.

Regardless, Steel Soldiers is a pretty challenging strategy game. The missions are all fun, the weaponry is varied and plenty, and the graphics are nice. Steel Soldiers is nothing new. Robot armies doing battle on a desolate planet, I used to play a game very similar to this one on the Playstation called Warzone 2100. Despite the huge gap in graphics quality between these two games, they are very similar, and Warzone 2100 is five years old. Because Steel Soldiers is nothing new but an enjoyable one, I give it 3 1/2 out of 5 GiN Gems.

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