Supreme Commander 2 Xbox 360 Impressions: Controls and Performance

SupremeCommander2Xbox360.jpg Recently, Mike reviewed the PC version of Gas Powered Games’ RTS sequel Supreme Commander 2, and since then I’ve had a chance to dabble with the Xbox 360 port and thought it prudent to follow up with some thoughts about how the game was adapted for console play. The RTS genre and console controllers don’t always play nice with one another, so it is an important thing to examine when dealing with a multi-platform release of a game like this.

By and large, I am in complete agreement with Mike’s assessment of the PC version. Supreme Commander 2 is a solid, though mostly unspectacular sci-fi RTS with massive battles, complex micromanagement options and a middling storyline bogged down by characters and voice acting so generic and lifeless that even the great Nolan North (Nathan Drake from Uncharted, among countless other roles) sounds like he’s just going through the motions. Those things are also true of the Xbox 360 version, but there are two other console-related topics I would like to address more specifically: controls and performance.

I’ll begin with the controls, as gameplay is far more important than anything else. Thus far, I’m very pleased with how Gas Powered Games went about translating the complex mouse and keyboard controls to the Xbox 360 game pad. Like with the first Supreme Commander, the battles get fairly large and intense, and fortunately the console control scheme allows for effective army and base management.

Constructing buildings and units is tied to an intuitive radial menu system accessed by tapping Y — simply push the button and tilt the analog stick around the wheel to the desired building/unit selection — and you can easily set up building queues and waypoints to lessen the micromanagement load.

Commanding your units is also incredibly easy. Unlike the console versions of Dragon Age, the 360 version keeps the “strategic zoom” feature of its PC counterpart, allowing you to, with the right analog stick, pull the camera all the way up to what is essentially a bird’s eye view from the perspective of a satellite so you can see the entire map and command your army on multiple fronts without having to bounce the camera around from point to point.

The game provides many methods of unit selection as well, including individual selections with the A button, holding the A button to bring up a green circle for paint-selecting multiple units, tapping RB to auto-select all units on screen, and holding RB and pressing left and right on the D-pad to select unit groupings by specific classification. You can also queue actions for units to follow in successive order by holding down the right trigger while issuing a string of commands. The AI pathfinding can be problematic, but your units usually follow orders properly and, while idle, react appropriately to enemy encroachment on their own accord without you needing to babysit them at all times.

So yes, Supreme Commander 2 controls about as well as an RTS can on a console, which is great. But sadly I can’t be as positive about the game’s graphical performance. Technically speaking, Supreme Commander 2 runs well on the Xbox 360. Even during hectic moments, the framerate remains steady and smooth, and that’s very important.

However, the trade off for smooth gameplay is a graphics engine that is three years past its prime. Textures across the board are bland and blurry, and as a whole the game lacks the detail needed to really make the experience pop. Particle effects for water, smoke trails and explosions look nice, but that’s about it.

Fog of war is also used as a masking agent to keep screen activity to a minimum, so you’ll regularly see little colored icons indicating nearby enemies instead of their actual 3D models rendered on the battlefield. And there seems to be a bug with this sometimes too, as you’ll have enemy units in clear sight but their models don’t load in — targeting invisible enemies is more difficult and killing them is less exciting.

What you ultimately get with the Xbox 360 version of Supreme Commander 2 is a by-the-numbers sci-fi RTS with satisfying depth and complexity and a well-adapted control scheme, but one that is graphically dated by a few years and littered with design tricks that limit on-screen activity to ensure a consistent framerate. It’s certainly worth a peek if you’re an RTS fan, but as a sequel to one of the best games in the genre it is a disappointing side step rather than the step forward it needed to be.

Watch this video to see how the Xbox 360 version performs.

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!