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Universe at War - hands-on

How is it that Earth is always in shambles in the near-future? If mankind hasn’t torn itself apart, then pesky alien invaders are ready to rip us a new asshole like they are in Universe at War: Earth Assault. As a 360 port of last year’s hot PC version, UaW aims to streamline controls for the console while maintaining the same experience. Anyone who’s played Command & Conquer 3 on the 360 knows just how difficult it is to control large numbers of units amongst the more frantic skirmishes, so if the unfinished version we sat down with is any indication, then Sega may have something to be proud of.

Three extraterrestrial factions are at each other’s throats in UaW; the Novus - a sleek, anime-like mech force that travels quickly via energy networks; the Hierarchy - giant, roving death machines whose bases are mobile and legions many; and the Masari - an advanced race similar to humans, that relies on a complicated Light/Dark system for pounding enemies into submission. Sega’s gone a long way to properly balance and differentiate each faction from the way resources are gathered to incredibly different tech trees, here known as “tactical dynamics.”

For example, the Novus rely on a Patch system to upgrade their units, enabling you to equip up to two patches to boost your abilities. For example, the Overclocking patch allows for greater firepower, but weaker defense. These patches can be adjusted on the fly, so you won’t have to worry about completely screwing yourself later and needing to restart the mission. In contrast, the Hierarchy doesn’t have patches, but rather enables you to upgrade sections of its bases for shields or machine guns. Finally, the Masari enable you to rapidly switch their units between the offensive Light and defensive Dark modes, affecting weapons speeds, movement capabilities, and so on.

The hefty campaign mode begins just after the Hierarchy’s demolished our nation’s capital. The President is in a bad way and - playing as a gruff military task force - you’ll need to escort him to safety. No, we didn’t intentionally forget to mention humans as a fourth playable race. After these initial missions, the Novus step in as your playable faction. As the campaign continues, you’ll end up controlling both the Hierarchy and later the Masari. As we mentioned, each race handles completely differently, which feels like we’re playing a different game every time the factions change. We personally love switching up our game, because the rudimentary RTS activities like resource gathering and base building can feel like dullsville after a few hours.

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