Iím going to step outside of the reviewerís box here, because Iíve read some conflicting things about Universe at War from various places. I want to take a moment to re-iterate that this is my opinion and no one elseís, fine, here we go. Iím starting with the bad things here, because if youíre like me youíre really interested in whatís wrong with the game from the start, itís why you skip to the end of reviews to see if thereís any game-breaking bugs or balance issues with it.The not so good, the bad and the ugly of the game:
Itís got a particular generic story, if you like the predictable antagonist, evil aliens and gung-ho humans sideline then youíre going to be right at home with this one. You need Windows Live Gold (or an Xbox360 Gold membership) to be able to play online. If youíre just in it for the single player and skirmish, forget I said that. There are problems with the AI and pathfinding, this seems to be the bane of most RTS games though and even the best AI needs a tweak or helping hand now and then.
The most gear-grinding annoying thing about UaW is that you donít have the tech tree or anything remotely interesting in campaign, itís all scripted and the whole thing feels vanilla compared to the extremely sharp and likeable skirmish/multiplayer, which weíll shuffle onto in a moment. The campaign is generic, its clichťd and itís got about as much atmosphere as the retelling of: I know what you had for breakfast, dinner, tea, supper, last summer.
The music is decent enough as is the voice acting. The sound effects are ok, nothing really stands out there, but itís all good since youíre playing an RTS and not listening to a finely honed masterpiece by someone like Vivaldi. So gripes aside?
This is where I get to talk about why I actually like the game, putting my gripes about the generic pretty boring campaign on one side for a moment and concentrating on the various things that make UaW a refreshing change in terms of RTS games that have come before it. Firstly:
Factions, the 3 factions in UaW are relatively unique and theyíre pretty well balanced. Yeah, thatís right. Balanced! Thereís probably some new tweaks needed to fine tune them based on player feedback but you have to be careful with that, since most players are inherently selfish and always want their favourite faction to be more powerful than the others.
The UaW factions work so well because they have a feel to them thatís unique, most other RTS games (barring Dawn of War etc) have the same units repacked with little or no unique personality between them. These three could have actually been taken from three separate titles and packaged into one game, the way they move, the way they look and the way they play sets them apart from each other. Also, no stinking humans as playable factions! Itís about time we had a fight between alien races with our gung-ho humans caught in the middle!