The RTSC Games List

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The Modern RTS List
Set in today's environment, or a "near future" (as in could-happen-next-decade near future) played out using current events, politics and modern day military equipment. Since 1989, the Cold War has been replaced by a large swag of "contemporary battlefield simulations set in a Middle Eastern urban environment". While no one mentions the dreaded "M" word its pretty clear who they're talking about.

Act of War (2005)

The near future is suffering the worst energy crisis ever, and terrorism is rearing its ugly head. And... (all together now) ...the only power on the planet that can save us all is the United States military. Hooray! Anyway, Act of War is a light airport read in gaming form, and there's a close relationship between "Dale Brown, 14 times NY Times best-selling author and expert on US military, global conflict and future military technology" (quoting Atari's Flash site) and French developer Eugen Systems. Its a bit like Ghost Recon in theme, with a touch of Command & Conquer. The startlingly detailed backgrounds are nice and crisp, and other little touches such as occupying buildings, roofs, or towers and calling in air strikes make it all work. You have to administer medical aid to the fallen (including your foes) and your options also include arresting enemies as well as the usual summary executions.

Our villains are OPEC (cough!) I mean, "The Consortium" a nefarious cabal of oil producers who have decided to make life interesting for our more excitable North American friends. For some reason that still eludes me, these evil-doers decide the best way to service their cabal is to completely obliterate their biggest and most dependant oil customer. Even more inexplicably, our heroes response to this threat to their precious sticky black stuff depends entirely on consuming vast oceans of the stuff in order to prevail. The Consortium decides to drop 15,000 terrorist mercenaries into the States, so that they force the entire US Military to head home and deal with it. But hark! Could it be all just a devilish deception? A cunning plan to distract the US away from Protecting the World®? Luckily for us powerless and numbed Supporters of Freedom™, a renegade Direct Action© man (who is part of - oh dear - T.A.L.O.N.) is on hand to save the day from those silly politicians and foolish media. And by some incredible stroke of luck, our boy happens to be able to call a favour on an old mate with a fully stocked aircraft carrier. Taxpayer funds? Wots dat? Its all good clean, fascist entertainment! Say the magic word Terrorist and by golly! - you can get away with any warped philosophy in fiction!

Well, silly game plots usually make for plenty of fun - I mean if his mate only had an inflatable dinghy it'd just be another FPS. Act of War does have some genuinely interesting features for once, and while the demo was suspiciously devoid of a lot of them and its plot and triggers ran on rails, it was still an okay play for an afternoon and offered some interesting tactics. There's no economy as such, although you have a budget, and the demo only had a scattering of techs to research, nothing but a barracks or two and only two types of infantry and two types of aircraft to build. The air strike system seems to work well, and fighting your infantry across the map building by building was a nice touch. Act of War as a game looks like the missing link between the Modern Day Battlefield simulator and all those sci-fi Dystopic Near Future Ruled by Heartless Mega-Corporations you've probably encountered over the years.

If you're feeling adventurous, you might want to try battling Atari's Flash site for the game, but its an obstacle course. The demo weighed in at a mind-bendingly inefficient 700Mb(!) for a single, heavily scripted, single player mission... There's a huge amount of cut scenes using actors and an endless parade of the glowing green screens with animated HUD graphics on everything. But as I mentioned earlier, think of it as a light airport read (as in light, shallow reading that's somehow 1200 pages long) in Real Time Strategy form, and you probably can't go wrong.

First expansion: Act of War: High Treason (2005)

Second expansion: Act of War: Direct Action (2006)Back

A Force More Powerful

Developed by BreakAway Games, developers of Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the expansions to Tropico and Civ III, A Force More Powerful is a radical depature from the usual violence prone real time strategy game. It ostensibily covers modern strategy, politics, resistance and liberty, but diametrically opposed to most strategy games, which, when you get down to it, are usually more than silly power fantasies.

This is a game about non-violent resistance to established corruption, tyranny or occupation - and there's not a military adviser, weapon, terrorist cell or any award winning experts on military technology and global conflict in sight. The game models fictional conflicts based on actual events, and offers you, dear player, a selection of tried and tested non-violent strategies to overcome what most games would consider impossible. In other words, peace movements and organised resistance.

For example: an "easy" level is one dealing with old fashioned corruption; where an established and cosy status-quo runs the country (into the ground) while the locals are determined to bring the city fathers to justice. A "hard" level is trying to get a military dictatorship, one propped up by a foreign power with unlimited resources and an interest in your country's internal affairs (not mentioning any names hewre!) to simply respect the results of a democratic election. Between these two are a variety of scenarios involving repressive traditions, segregation, womens' rights and a host of non-violent resistance movements. Scenarios deal with awkward situations where your cause might be unpopular, or the supreme ruler is extremely popular and/or good at winning elections (and/or vanishing people); while your own cause might have to deal with its own violent splinter groups running amuck and playing into the hands of the ruling elites.

Unfortunately, there's no demo, so I can say no more.Back

Command & Conquer series

One of the biggest pioneers in what we now know as Real Time Strategy games, Command and Conquer put together live action video, strategy gaming and big, cheesy storytelling all in one colourful package. These days it all looks a little archaic, but there was no disputing the Westwood magic back then.Back
DefCon DefCon (2006)

The world's first Genocide-Em-Up presents you, foolish player, with Global Thermonuclear War. Shall-we-play-a-game?Back
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Real War (2001)

A fairly middling sort of RTS, based apparently on a real military training package for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon. Real War is a little weird in that its actually a sort of under the table recruiting tool, the idea being that it will embed military concepts and values into an unsuspecting populace. How very Neo-Con. Back

Red Alert series

The Red Alert series of games run in parallel with the Command & Conquer series, using the same game engine and mechanics. Command & Conquer dealt with an cartoon style battles between the Global Defence Initiative and the evil NOD. Red Alert dealt with alternative history centred around the Soviet Union and World War II. Both game series were pure cheese, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

See the Command & Conquer series for full details.Back

Supreme Ruler series

Supreme Ruler (2005)

Published by Strategy First, and developed by Battlegoat Studios, this is a serious wargamer's Wargames set in a Dystopian (or contemporary, depending on your current state of mind) near-future world. In the next few years the world market implodes, the United States disintegrates, the UN dissolves and is replaced by "The World Market" (a sort of aggressive version of the WTO) and every country battens the hatches and becomes isolationist - or in other words, the decks are cleared for the whole world to be set up for a serious strategy game! Actually, it almost looks like grassroots gaming again, and the sort of production that you simply won't see coming from the bloated Sports and Licensed Tie-In Generators like EA Games or the safe, consumer friendly marketing of Microsoft; neither does it lobotomise its higher brain functions to wallow in haemorrhaged patriotic hyperbole of militarist fantasies like Real War.

Since everything has come apart at the seams, you don't play with countries anymore but portions of countries called Regions. There's over 200 of them: you can, say, pit yourself against small European nations, or perhaps conduct a state sized squabble in the American Mid West. As you annex more territory, you start to create your own newly unified territory. While the military angle is important, you still have to lock horns with your economy, politics, diplomacy, social pressures and formidable AI's playing ambitious rival states. The developers themselves describe it as: Civilization meets Panzer General meets Sim City. It's a pretty apt description. They even claim their kids have had lots of fun play testing it. Perhaps, but Supreme Ruler is a serious contemporary Wargames, and first impressions are of a very complex and detailed simulation that'll spook most casual players. Unless you're a military aficionado, much of it is going to not make much sense because there's a bewildering phonebook of stats, numbers and management options for even your most basic units. Naturally, there's a steep learning curve trying to make learn it all.

It does make a strong connection whereby conducting your military campaign profoundly screws up your economy and country in the process (at last!), which seems like a first. Approval ratings, international market perception, exchange rates and your national debt are all essential items that you must keep an eye on in order to remain afloat. Nothing seems that abstract either: your menus and budgets run into nine figures and more, and of all the strategy games I've seen, this one has a very down to earth "feel" of being authentic when it comes to juggling your economy. Also juggling your politics is a factor too, because all your ministers have political agendas of their own.

It might look static, (and yes - those satellite game maps are full of old fashioned hexes) but this is a proper real time strategy game, complete with fog of war, malleable borders and a lot of small graphical touches. You can adjust play speed or pause it to make your moves - something you'll be doing frequently as you wade through menus and make sense of all your units. There's a passing resemblance to Civilization, but really, Supreme Ruler's ancestors are old turn based strategy war-games like Steel Panthers or the generic Empire Deluxe. Supreme Commander takes old world strategy gaming and drags it into the Twenty First Century with a huge upgrade along the way.

There's a mind-bogglingly huge amount of detail and numbers in this one, and with it a steep learning curve. If you're into something serious about conquering the world, then its definitely worth a look. It'll demand a fair bit of time and involvement (as all these types of strategy games do), but you'll more than likely be rewarded with deep gameplay and considerable depth. Besides, its a strategy game for (gasp!) adults.

Supreme Ruler 2020 (2008)
The sequel is now currently available, featuring improved graphics, features, AI's etc.

Supreme Ruler 2020: Global Crisis (2008)
An expansion pack hot on the heels of the sequel, doubling the number of scenarios, adding units, and all the usual extras. There's a Gold Edition that bundles 2020 and Global Crisis together.

Supreme Ruler: Cold War (2011)
The series goes back in time to the early days of the Cold War, around the time of the Korean War and just before Berlin was split by The Wall. Players get the chance to rewrite history and remold the modern world to their country's world view. Gee, its been a while since an old fashioned Cold War strategy game popped up.

War on Terror (2006)

Developed by Hungary's Digital Reality, this is a global RTS that sounds very reminiscent of Command & Conquer: Generals. Its pits three sides against each other: The Order (as in New World Order, I'm guessing), the World Forces (a sort of amalgamation of the West's biggest heavy hitters) and the Chinese, once again relegated to hostile outsiders. Other than some random disparaging remarks found on the InternetI know absolutely nothing else about this title. I'll have to assume it never had much of a release in the English speaking world.Back

World in Conflict (2007)

A modern war sim with all the gaming mod cons and many gigabytes of graphic lushness that we're coming to expect in an age of Bioshocks and Orange Boxes. Developed by Massive Entertainment (makers of the sci-fi Ground Control RTS series) and published by Sierra, the basic premise here is hardly new, a typical what-if scenario that sees the Cold War becoming very hot with the Eastern Bloc rolling through West Germany in 1989 instead of collapsing economically. As premises go, this was all grist for the mill. Back in the ol' 8 bit days in the Eighties, most strategy games always assumed the next global conflict would either be a flood of Soviet armour sweeping into Europe or a big punch up at some indeterminate, Middle Eastern desert). The demo clocks in at 1.2Gb (no longer unusal these days). Its the usual single player campaign with addled gung-ho, but it plays well.

Multiplayer is where this title shines. This is a highly detailed game with many, many details and a lot of graphics to challenge your gaming PC. If you're looking for a contemporary modern war themed RTS, then this is probably the title for you.Back

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Last modified Sun, Aug 14 2011 by Lindsay Fleay