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Review: Universe at War: Earth Assault - PC, Xbox 360 - 8.0

February 10, 2008

Review: Universe at War: Earth Assault - PC, Xbox 360 - 8.0

Universe at War is Petroglyph's first independent IP attempt, and it largely succeeds as a balanced, but standard RTS...

Petroglyph is not stranger to the RTS genre. Made up of former Westwood employees, its pedigree was recently built by the release of the great Star Wars RTS series, Empire at War. But, looking to move away from working with licensed stuff, Petroglyph has decided to create its own cross-platform RTS, Universe at War.

Universe at War centers around three alien races at war who have come to Earth for a final showdown. Surprisingly, Humans aren't considered a faction, which is a refreshing taste and makes sense considering the technical superiority of the other races.

The campaign starts off just like a traditional RTS campaign, but eventually changes up to a large, Risk-like metagame, where you choose the territories to invade and then play the battles in real-time

Where Universe at War shines is its three distinct factions, a la Starcraft. The Hierarchy focus on harvesting the land and humans around them to build huge, mobile walkers that can act as bases and weapons platforms with different hardpoints for different upgrades. The Novus build a network node that allows them to teleport forces around the map. The Masari play mostly like a standard RTS races with bases and defenses, but their units can alternate between light and dark modes. Light increases their speed and damage, and dark grounds air units to slow down enemies. The amount of difference between these races is refreshing, and really hasn't been seen on such a scale since Starcraft.When you drill down and get used to them, each faction has a lot to offer. For instance, if you're the Hierarchy, it's a lot of fun to just crush your enemies using walkers, but it's also fun watching those same walkers run headlong into your layered defenses if you're the Masari.

 

In terms of multiplayer, Universe at War is fun and has ranked and unranked skirmish modes; as well as the great Conquer-the-World mode, which takes place on the same world map the latter part of the campaign does. Unfortunately for PC users, you're going to have to pony up fifty bucks a year for a Live Gold account to play.

Universe at War has a problematic camera. The zoom levels are extremely limited, and annoying when you consider Supreme Commander's extreme camera zoom. Some controls are also problematic, as clicking on units doesn't register at times.

Graphically, the unit models in the games are pretty nice, with the walkers and units looking very organic and detailed. Unfortunately, the textures are bland. Also, running the game in DirectX 10 results in extreme slow-down with little graphical difference.

 

The voice acting in the game is quite corny at times, but the voices for the three factions fit their look and ideology. The music is good, but the rest of the music is forgettable.

Besides the three vastly different races, Universe at War doesn't introduce much new to the genre. Unfortunately, its missing some conventions of the RTS genre such as a powerful camera. Universe at War is a decent game, but RTS affectionados shouldn't be too worried if they miss it.

Gameplay: 8 - Very standard RTS gameplay, three extremely distinct factions
Presentation: 8 - Some mixed graphics and sounds make UAW's presentation inconsistent
Graphics: 8.5 - Great-looking units, not so great environments or performance.
Sound: 7.5 - Dramatic music but corny voice acting
Value: 8 - Interesting campaign. You need to pay for part of the multiplayer experience.

Final Score: 8.0 - Universe at War is a run-of-the-mill RTS with interesting races but some puzzling design decisions.

Marcin Skok
Editor-in-Chief
"The Gaming Corner"