The graphics engine, while good is nothing to write home about. The box touts DirectX 10 support, but this consists of a single nondescript toggle in the video options which is simply labelled “DirectX 10”. With the exception of perhaps some slightly higher res shadow effects, I see no real evidence of anything that would indicate that it said more than a jovial “cheerio” in passing to DirectX 10 while it sauntered past to DirectX 9 land and went about its business.
However as I mentioned, it is by no means bad. There is an interesting admission of guilt on the box, where it mentions the minimum requirements for your operating system as being Microsoft’s latest abomin... I mean... offering, Windows Vista. Given that this game works perfectly on Windows XP, this is an open admission by whoever it was that was responsible for advertising the aforementioned “requirement” that Windows Vista is in fact the inbred, deformed and horrendously overweight little brother to the superior Windows XP OS, which, by the way runs this game better, faster, more solidly, and it doesn't crash every time you hit Alt+Tab. 'Nuff said.
While the progression of the game's story is largely linear, I discovered to my utter satiation that the enemy's tactics (read AI) was anything but linear. Having miserably failed on one of the very advanced and truly challenging *COUlevel3GH* levels, on my second attempt I went about strengthening my defences in the very spot that have been compromised in my first dismal effort, only to find that the nasty Hierarchy had caught onto my seemingly clairvoyant plans and attacked at the newly created, completely unprotected back door to may base.
In all fairness however, this makes for a much more interesting game experience, so, while I did feel like I was caught with my pants round my ankles, and could almost sense the particular developer who came up with this tactic rubbing his hands together with glee, I can appreciate the special effort that's gone into doing so. Continuing through the game I found that each level's difficulty didn't necessarily increase on a linear basis. Some levels were easier, while some, even some of the earlier levels were the most difficult the game had to offer. This lent itself to making the story feel more genuine, rather than a poorly tacked together plot line to tie together seemingly unrelated combat sequences.
While the movie-like feel to the game was well thought out, and certainly appreciated, I found it to be a little predictable at times, though a couple of good twists kept me interested well into the game. The introduction of both the Novus and the Masari races, while nothing ground breaking in concept, were well timed and kept the intrigue alive for the full length of the experience.
When broken down into individual aspects, this game shines through as an innovative and well made title that captures the successes that past experience brings, and auspiciously introduces well thought out concepts to add to the overall experience. Though, while I can't really put my finger on exactly what, I felt the game lacked that certain something. It delivered what was expected, indeed required of it, but nothing more. Ironically, the game's box carried a quote from 1up.com which begins “if you can't wait another year for Starcraft 2.. “. This rings true throughout the game, and fairly accurately describes my mindset. It's good... but not great. It's fun, but not epic, it's well made, but not exceptional. That said, it's by no means bad. Not even slightly. If you're an RTS fan, and find yourself at a loose end on one of these increasingly rainy Saturday afternoons, grab yourself a copy of Universe at War – Earth Assault and fun is bound to ensue. If you're not convinced, then join the ranks of those waiting with baited breath for the next big thing.