Game Over Online ~ Mission: Humanity

GameOver Game Reviews - Mission: Humanity (c) EON Digital, Reviewed by - Rorschach

Game & Publisher Mission: Humanity (c) EON Digital
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium II-300, 64MB Ram, 4x CD-ROM
Overall Rating 49%
Date Published Monday, January 29th, 2001 at 04:35 PM

Divider Left By: Rorschach Divider Right

This could well be the greatest RTS game ever. That's just what they would be thinking in the sweatshops of EON Digital, if only it was 1995. Lemme check my calendar here. Ummm, Dilbert tells me it's 2001. Sorry, EON Digital. Sometimes a game comes along that is such a total anachronism in terms of graphics, sounds, gameplay, and every other facet that you're wondering if it was written years ago and only now hit the newsstands, or if the programmers did the programming on computers that were 5 years out of date. This is such a game. It adds nearly nothing to the RTS genre as it stood way back when C&C was released. There is so much out of date in this game that I could fill an entire column discussing it. Hey! There's an idea. While reading this review, you might want to keep in mind that I felt that Tiberian Sun was essentially a relic from 1995 as well. If you feel differently, if you feel TS brought new and different things to the RTS genre, then you're likely to disagree with this review as well.

M:H has no unit formations, no unit aggressiveness levels for you to set, no waypoint patrol system at all. You can't even set your units to guard anything. Units in general are dumb as dirt. If the enemy is nearby, they will attack automatically, but this nearby effect has a very clear circle of influence. If the enemy approaches a group of soldiers standing around, only those within that circle will attack, while the rest stand around with their you-know-whats up their you-know-where. I moved a group of soldiers nearby the enemy barracks, and they started shooting at it automatically. Swell. Then an enemy soldier comes out of the barracks, and mows down 4 of my guys before they realize they should stop shooting at the building and start shooting at the guy that is shooting at them. A group of enemy units is shooting at one of my buildings, and units on the other side of that building don't respond to it. Units being shot at by the enemy at range, say a guy firing rockets, will stand around until they are completely and totally dead - they will make no move whatsoever to either escape from or attack the unit that is bombing them into oblivion. You want pathfinding problems? Mission: Humanity has them in spades. Units get caught on each other, rocks, trees, and other terrain features. Sometimes they just give up and stop, and sometimes, like when units pile up at a narrow pass, they try and find another way around, wandering far away from the rest of their division. All of this is exacerbated by the fact that battles take place pretty quickly in this game. You've got to kind of micromanage your troops (move the riflemen forward where they can do some damage rather than just being target practice for the rocket guys, get your rocket guys knocking out his rocket guys, etc) if you want to use your troops to their best advantage. The computer is better at maneuvering these tiny guys around than you are at grabbing and moving them with the mouse, especially with your guys bumping into each other and the rocks. And if you're home building a power plant or whatever and not watching your troops, the enemy can sneak in and wipe them out pretty quickly. I haven't had these kinds of problems with an RTS in some time. All of these problems are highlighted in comparison to the excellent Warlords: Battlecry that I reviewed just a short time ago.

There are ostensibly four resources (extract, iron, carbon, and titanium), but all of them come out of a single hole in the ground. In fact, the only indications of resources are gray areas on the radar screen, and you can't tell what resource is under there until you try and build a mine. If you start to set up a base in an area, and the local gray areas are short of one resource or another, you're best off relocated and trying again. There is an unofficial fifth resource - people - and this is really the only intriguing thing this game adds to the RTS formula. You build a power plant, and it takes people to run it. You build a vehicle factory, and it takes people to run that. You build an academy, and you have to have people to train to become soldiers. The key is that you only have so many people to do all these jobs. You build habitats (hives for the aliens) and they support a certain birth rate and provide a place for a certain number of people to live (if you click on the habitat you hear the disturbing sounds of babies crying, yeeeh). This turns out to really be the key resource because as you're cranking out units and building structures you can very easily find yourself running short of people. To help in a people shortfall, you can control the number of people working in individual structures. You can, for example, reduce the number of people working in a power plant at the cost of reducing the total power produced by that plant, or you can put fewer people to work in the vehicle factory, and it takes longer for that factory to build a unit. It's a neat difference, but not enough to carry the whole game.

Graphically this game looks almost exactly like Command and Conquer. No fooling! It supports higher resolutions, but overall the units are tiny and indistinct. There are two sides to this combat - human and alien - but they both have the same general units and buildings, and really color is the only way to distinguish your soldiers from theirs in combat. Your soldiers are tiny guys in red jackets. Your commandos are tiny guys in jackets that are a slightly brighter red. Whose plan was that? Here's a nifty bit: your units are blue and his are red on the radar, but on the battle map yours are red and his are green. Unattractive and confusing! Little flashes of muzzle fire from your tiny, tiny troops; little blips of the bullets impacting their targets. The sounds appear to have been ripped largely from the C&C soundtrack. When a building is destroyed, the entire screen shakes (presumably from the enormous magnitude of the explosion). That was fun for about 1/40th of a second.

So what would possess someone to release a game just like C&C roughly 5 years after C&C passed vogue? They had a gimmick. They actually had two gimmicks. The first gimmick is that the world in M:H is a globe. That means you can leave the bottom of the battlefield, and enter at the top. Similarly with the left and the right. It brings an extra dynamic to defending a base because the enemy can come from any direction - you don't have the luxury of sticking your base in the corner of the map to minimize your defensive perimeter (Ooh, military terms. Sexy!). And to the credit of the guys behind M:H, it is a strategy that the enemy AI takes advantage of often. However, you can usually take advantage of terrain features (cliffs, ridgelines, and such) to largely negate this effect. Also, if I were fighting in, say, Montana, against Canada, would I expect them to travel up over the Arctic Circle, down across Russia, past Antarctica, through South America, and then come up on me from behind? Probably not. The reason that the square battlefield model works is because, yes the world is a globe, but the world is a very large globe. The worlds of M:H are apparently about the size of a basketball. One of the most bizarre results of this is that when units get hung up at a narrow pass, the aforementioned pathfinding problem will cause them to find another way around, and that other way around is sometimes all the way around the world! It's really strange to be involved in some battle and see a few lone straggler units of yours wander up behind the enemy.

The second gimmick is that you are fighting a sort of continuous battle across a solar system, and if you conquer a planet and then move on to the next one, the enemy can come back and attack that planet you left again. In reality if you take the time to pick the planet absolutely clean of resources before you leave for the next one, when the enemy shows up again he won't have anything to work with and you'll be flush with resources. The only problem is that doing this takes forever, and makes the game even more of a burden and less of a game than is already is. At the end of a mission - once you've conquered a planet - you load up your mother ship with resources and colonists (no military units) and go on to the next planet to start again. You can go back and check on other planets if you like, but you can't do much while you are there - the ability to build new structures is apparently contained within your mother ship.

Last night while playing the game I came across an endgame that totally pissed me off. I had completely wiped out the enemy, except for one guy. Where was that one guy? I didn't know. If this had happened in a game like Warlords: Battlecry (and it has), I would set my troops to berserk mode, and they would fan out looking for the last guy automatically. I could go read a book or something while they hunted down the last dog. But there are no aggressiveness levels for me to set in M:H, and I've got to walk the troops all over the frigging planet, probably took me 25 minutes, to find this schmuck and off him. Definitely not the taste you want to leave in my mouth the day before I'm writing your review.

[ 24/50 ] Gameplay
[ 04/10 ] Graphics
[ 03/10 ] Sounds
[ 03/10 ] Plotline
[ 06/10 ] Controls
[ 09/10 ] Bugs


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