E3 2006: Supreme Commander

Few game demos are legitimately surprising. It's not meant to sound jaded or callous; it's just that GamesRadar sees a metric ton of games, and at the end of the day, most games are just like any other game except for that one thing. It's not surprising. However, Supreme Commander looks destined to make fools of us, because we spent most of the demo with our jaws on the floor.

It's not the look of the game. Not that it's ugly - it actually looks quite nice, if not mind-bending. It's just that the little blue or red guys blasting it out onscreen didn't look all that unusual. And it wasn't creator Chris Taylor (die-hard PC fans will know him as the Total Annihilation and Dungeon Siege guy) talking about how "strategy happens before the battle, and tactics are what happens during the battle."

No, it was the moment when Taylor looked at the screen, which already displayed a respectably complex skirmish, and zoomed the camera back, back, and back again - revealing that this was not the only battle going on. In fact, there were three other, interconnected conflicts taking place at other places - on other continents, even - on the in-game globe at the very same moment. This is warfare on a planetary scale, involving thousands of units.

That was a surprise. But not, in fact, the last. Zooming back in on a particular portion of one of the battles revealed blue (the human, United Earth Federation) was attempting to flank a red (Cybran, a sort of man-plus-machine race) advance by sneaking in from the water. Taylor began talking about some of the more creative units in the game, like destroyers with legs, forcefield-generating vehicles, and troop transports that carried the troops on the outside, so they could shoot as they flew. Just then, a huge, six-limbed submarine walked up out of the ocean and launched planes off its deck. What the?

But we didn't have much time to wonder, as it was soon met by a massive Cybran spider-tank, guns blazing. We were so captivated in watching this clash of the titans that it barely registered that the trees were getting knocked over and set aflame by the collateral damage.