Game Over Online ~ Dune 2000

GameOver Game Reviews - Dune 2000 (c) Westwood Studios, Reviewed by - DToxR / Prolix / Ned

Game & Publisher Dune 2000 (c) Westwood Studios
System Requirements P133, 16MB RAM, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 53%
Date Published Saturday, September 5th, 1998 at 10:12 PM

Divider Left By: DToxR Divider Right

Well the wait is finally over. After many delays, Dune2000 has finally arrived. A quick history lesson for all you kids who think that Command & Conquer was where real-time strategy games were born: back in 1992 Westwood released a game based on the Dune books called Dune2. This game used a revolutionary new style of play that focused on collecting resources to build units and buildings in order to overwhelm your opponent. Thus the real-time strategy genre was born.

It's understandable why Westwood would try to cash in on this classic and do a remake - it's a sure sell just based on name recognition alone. But it's a double-edged sword because they also risk committing a travesty by "ruining a classic" and alienating some of their oldest fans. I was expecting big things from this game when I first heard it was in the works. I can remember many a late night cursing my computer as I fought against hopeless odds on the last level of Dune2 (you know what I'm talking about if you have played that game). Needless to say after a quick and painless install it didn't take me long to realize that Dune2000 was NOT what I had expected.

The Dune story goes something like this: three different groups (called "houses") compete on the planet of Dune for precious spice (read : tiberium) which is harvested and used to build or buy units and buildings. The planet is ruled by an emperor who decides to settle the matter of the arguing houses by declaring a free-for-all with the winner gaining control of the entire planet and subsequently the spice.

A visit to Westwood's D2K site ( provides a breakdown of the features of the game, so I decided to break down their list and translate their marketing gibberish into plain English.

Westwood says...

[Three distinct Houses to choose from]

DToxR says...

How the hell do you come up with "distinct"? Yes there are three houses to choose from but they all have the EXACT SAME UNITS for the most part. The only difference between the houses units is the inclusion of 1 or 2 "special units" that are unique to that particular house. Now back in 1992 this wasn't a big deal, but it's not 1992 anymore... WAKE UP WESTWOOD! You think people who have played Total Annihilation, Starcraft, and Age of Empires are going to be satisfied with the same small handful of identical units? Having said that, the units that you CAN choose from are easily identifiable and you will be spotting all the classics in no time. I guess Westwood wanted to be able to put a "ALL NEW UNITS" sticker on the box so they went ahead and added C&C's engineer and artillery units to the mix.

[LAN and Internet multiplayer modes]

Hi, welcome to the 90's. Network play is no longer a "feature", it's a basic part of any game, especially a RTS game. Dune2k forces you to use Westwood chat for TCP/IP play. Of course Westwood isn't the only company guilty of this, but that's still no excuse. Don't they ever consider that not everyone uses IPX on their LANs??? I wasn't able to test WChat play because D2K isn't a "supported product" yet but based on past experience with it, I think it's safe to say that once you go through the hassle of downloading and registering their special chat program the gaming should be lag-free and relatively easy.

[New game interface]

Uhhh, new to who? This is the exact same interface that's been in every single RTS game since Dune2. Overhead map on the top right, unit selector on the lower right, map view on the left. Same mouse cursor and unit selection system as C&C. Nuff said.

[Completely revised graphics (16 bit high color and 8 bit for faster game play)]

On the same note as game-interface, these graphics are 100% rehash. It's C&C Gold all over again. Even the animations of the little soldiers shooting looks like it's been totally recycled from the C&C series. The one thing that I did notice that had changed was the explosions... They've added a nice glow effect that looks pretty good. Sound is also standard C&C fare, nothing new here.

[All missions have been updated and refined with new script and story to enhance the game]

OK, Westwood was smart to take a cue from Starcraft and put some effort into storyline. D2K uses a similar system where you see cutscenes between each single player mission. Instead of Starcraft's 3D-animated scenes, they chose to go with live actors instead. Personally, I'm not big on the cutscenes anyway - it's the action that counts. From what I did see of the single player storyline, it was definitely adequate but nothing to really get excited over.

[New cinematics, special effects and music]

The one feature I really liked was the new music. The tracks were very well suited and did a great job creating atmosphere. As in C&C, you can play the tracks anytime you want through the game menu system. By "special effects" I can only assume they are referring to the "3DFX-like" coloured glowing explosions and projectiles. As I mentioned earlier, these are fairly well done and are certainly a welcome departure from the weak explosions (more like implosions) in C&C.

As a whole, there is nothing particularly *BAD* about Dune2000. On the other hand, there is really nothing outstanding or innovative about the game. This isn't 1992 anymore and the RTS category is very competitive nowadays; you really have to do something significant to stand out from the crowd.

Westwood, I sincerely hope you pull out all the stops for C&C2 because this effort just doesn't cut it.


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Divider Left By: Prolix Divider Right

Westwood's latest offering to the real-time strategy community is a long-anticipated and hyped game called Dune 2000. Instead of naming it Dune 2000, they should have called it Red Alert: Desert Edition. If you didn't know already you choose from three different houses, Atreides, Ordos and Harkonnen, each with one amazing unique unit and power attack. I'm not too familiar with the Dune story, but your main goal is to collect spice... ohh yeah and kill everyone.

Graphics: The graphics are the same quality of Red Alert, and YES this is a drawback because the engine is very dated. The only differences are new item art and map art. My biggest complaint is the lack of map variety: sure, the maps have different names, but they all look the same. Infantry graphics are still blocky and tiny just like in Red Alert -- I thought they would have fixed that by now. The unit detail and building detail is possibly a step up from Red Alert, but not close to Starcraft. Map art consists of three or so colors; sand, brown spice, and dirt. No 3DFX support, and the only graphical options are 8 bit and 16 bit options.

Sound & Control: One thing I really did enjoy about the sound in Dune 2K is the great background music in single player. Personally, I LOVED the music in C&C and Westwood lives up to its musical standards once again; too bad I can't say the same for the rest of the game. Most of the sound effects are very well done, and definitely helped to create a better atmosphere. For players unaccustomed to Red Alert or Starcraft, getting used to the controls and commands might take a bit longer due to the lack of in-game tutorials. I had no problems whatsoever with the controls, they are just like Red Alert.

Gameplay: Ok, now I'll explain why this game should be called Red Alert: Desert Edition. This game is so unbelievably similar to Red Alert it's pathetic. To me it appears that Westwood put very little effort into this game and should have gone with an entirely new engine, not just added new art and menus to RA. However, there are some new features: for example, you must place your buildings on concrete so they don't decay into the desert sands. One annoying quirk of the Dune story is the giant sand worms: I constantly saw my harvesters fall prey to sand worms. A positive addition I found was the use of a starport, you could order several units to be shipped to you in a few seconds. Missions don't vary too much, find an opposing house and kill him, not too original. One thing I found really annoying was the lack of unit variety between the houses. Each house gets one super weapon; ranging from missile attacks to worthless commando units. Single player is one boring mission after another, so I chose to play practice under multiplayer. The AI is just the same as most RTS games, they constantly send up four or five guys every few minutes. I played around 20 practice missions against the computer and not once did it mount a large force and attack me.

Fun Factor: This game was all right for a little bit, but as I started to notice all the similarities to Red Alert I became angry at the lack of effort shown by Westwood. Basically I got bored of this game pretty fast, multiplayer against a human is the only thing that gives D2k replay value.

Multiplayer: Dune2k supports TCP/IP play VIA Westwood chat, modem/serial, and local play against computer players. The lag on Westwood Chat was minimal and I didn't have much of a problem playing. Multi is fun for a little while but there is a lack of variety and units, therefore you can't play it for hours at a time.

Overall Impression: To put it gently, this game is a WASTE of time and money, I'm very disappointed with Westwood. I still can't believe the lack of effort they put into this game, once again a hyped game doesn't live up to its claims of greatness. I wouldn't mind the lack of a new engine if there had been contributions to the real-time genre; unfortunately Dune 2000 brings nothing new to RTS games.


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Divider Left By: Ned Divider Right

Forget anything you thought or read about this game. Westwood is pulling a major scam here. Dune 2000 is no more than the Red Alert engine with new textures and altered graphics for the various buildings and vehicles. It's almost insulting to see a company recycle a game engine like this without making any enhancements. If Half-Life came out and was just new textures, no one would buy it.

These graphics are stunning: stunningly bad. What looked impressive 18 months ago in Red Alert, is downright laughable now. Starcraft's larger and more detailed units make Dune look pale in comparison. There are no real elevation changes as in Total Annihilation. All of the limitations of the Red Alert engine are all still present in Dune 2000. Your "options" consist of a choice between 8 and 16 bit color depths. Otherwise, it runs at a locked resolution of 640x480. The soldiers are so small you can't even tell if they are machine gunners or rocketmen. The only slight improvement in the graphics are the explosions which are better but still not impressive. The tanks still fire dots at other vehicles and we're supposed to accept that a dot represents a tank shell - how lame. Dune 2000 even has "siege tanks" just like Starcraft, only problem is that the ones in Starcraft are big and detailed, in Dune, they are little silver boxes with a round thing sticking out of them for a barrel.

To hell with the sound. The same level of quality that the graphics exhibit is also shown in the vehicles. When you tell a unit to go somewhere, it replies with 1 of 3 respones, just like Red Alert oddly enough. None of the sound effects are interesting and the computer voice is as annoying as ever. One bright spot is the music: it's not the real music from the movie Dune but it's similar, so at least the music helps to set the atmosphere. Without the music this game would basically have nothing to do with Dune. The music however, isn't CD quality, instead it's something in the range of 16 bit, mono, 22khz which is about 1/4 of the quality of real CD music. Maybe a game developer will clue into the whole MP3 world and realize that they can have full quality music without eating up a hard drive or forcing us to stream it off a CD.

God, this game is boring. Just as I have no inclination to play Red Alert, so do I not want to play this game. It has almost the exact same build order from RA as well as the shabby artificial intelligence. Enemy units still do weird stuff like ignoring an enemy tank just so they can attack a building that they have interest in for one reason or another. The game has none of the new advanced features like way-point plotting, auto-repair when damaged, auto-scouting, nothing. They even forgot to implement the formation command that Red Alert had! This game just smacks of greed. Cash in on an old classic like Dune 2 and hope no one minds too much that zero effort was put into the actual gameplay. As far as multiplay goes, you still have no direct TCP for internet gaming, instead you are forced to use that crappy Westwood Chat that everyone despises or you can use Kali which is not wildly fast and costs another 20 bucks to new users. This game is an insult to us all.

Good stuff: good music - but low quality

Bad stuff: Red Alert in disguise


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