[GAME MASTER]Earth 2160

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[GAME MASTER]Earth 2160

In “Earth 2150,” Earth was destroyed. So, rather confusingly, its sequel, “Earth 2160,” takes place on Mars. The game designers were apparently more attached to the name than the planet.
Like its predecessor, “2160” features three factions: the Eurasian Dynasty, the Lunar Corporation and the United Civilized States. These are groups of men, women and lazy people coddled by robots, respectively. One might question how the first two groups reproduce, but apparently they’ve evolved beyond sex.
The first thing you’ll notice after installing “Earth 2160” is how beautiful it looks. The next thing you’ll notice is that nothing on the screen is moving. Then you’ll turn down the resolution to make the game actually playable. Even hobbled by a laptop setup, however, “2160” still looks pretty darn good. If only that quality extended to the voices.
Gamers have come to expect adequate if mediocre voice acting. Our standards may be low, but they exist, and the voice acting in “2160” manages to fall short of them. The actors don’t sound like native English speakers. Rather, they seem to be reading their lines phonetically, and any attempt at emotion should cause players to wince. Their constant prattle, particularly on the Lunar Corp. campaign, distracts from the otherwise solid gameplay.
Fortunately, “2160” offers improvements on the basic RTS system that offsets its grating voices. The factions each have their own unique way of building and organizing a base. The Lunar Corp. builds in tower segments, the Eurasians build outward from a central command center, and the UCS uses a mounting system to place production centers and other buildings. These differences inject some new interest into the sometimes tedious task of base-building.
As in any RTS, each faction comes with its set units, with their advantages and disadvantages. The innovation here is the unit workshop, which allows the player to combine a vehicle structure, weapons, armor, engines and internal systems to craft a new unit, which can then be constructed across the map. This in-game customization adds a whole new dimension of strategy to the game, giving an edge to the player who can build the best tank or fighter for the given situation.
The storyline, although not bad, can be confusing. At the beginning of the game, the factions are in the middle of a bloody war. Later, as tends to happen in these titles, aliens show up to give the groups a common enemy. The plot that follows involves attacks by the aliens, information about a new Earth-like planet, more factional strife and a new group of conspiracy theorists called the Edenites who believe the aforementioned planet is a gift from God. The story is the same no matter which faction you play, which some players may find boring. However, this does allow for longer replayability. It can also be fun to watch the story action from various sides.
On the whole, “Earth 2160” is a wonderful pick-up-and-play title with an engaging story that will keep you playing one mission to the next for hours. It may not be especially groundbreaking, but the varied gameplay and small innovations offer a smooth, good-looking and well-integrated experience. In fact, I only have one request for the developers: Next time, hire actors.

by Ethan Applegate
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