Perimeter is the new sci-fi realtime strategy from Codemasters - and we've had an early look at the game in action. The game is a visual beauty and its functionality seems fine but we have to say we weren't totally bowled over by all the self-pronounced innovations. Although, one in particular did catch our watchful eye...
The background to proceedings is that the Earth is dying and its multiple civilisations are in a race across the galaxy to find alternative habitation. Playing as one of those civilisations desperate to settle on a new planet, you go head-to-head against rival factions in your search, not to mention the resident aliens less than pleased at your interest in nicking their planet.
The usual RTS route of the mining of energy resources to fuel your army is present but it has a bit more depth than usual. As a major part of your journey requires the services of terraformers, which are used to extract said resources and can also be employed to manipulate the landscape for tactical advantage in ensuing battles.
However, as you can effectively only terraform 'down' and can't build up, it is a tad more limited than we hoped. Still, we saw it used in battle to breech defences and create distractions for the enemy. At the least, it's a progressive move that's more interesting than the typical RTS tradition of 'digging for cash'.
The game takes its name from an impenetrable force field that can be erected once your resource output is high enough - once up nothing gets in, or as good as. Thing is, nothing gets out either. As you've probably guessed, it makes one hell of a demand on your resources, sapping your accrued energy like a national brew-up at half-time during the World Cup. Yep, tactics, decisions and timing are the name of the game with this juice-sucking baby.
So, what did catch our eyes in particular? Nanotechnology. You kick off with three basic unit types - soldier, officers and technicians. The beauty of nanotechnology is that you can mix and match various types and morph them into something new and powerful (there are 32 different types of units). It gets better. Most RTS games have something similar to this in functionality but Perimeter allows you to morph (and unmorph) units on the fly.
That's right, see it all going squiffy in battle and, instead of gnawing your useless fingers for not sending in the appropriate troops, morph those bad boys out of your existing units. This is a really cool feature and thanks to the sci-fi subject matter of the game, the troops that become available are only limited by the imagination of the developers.
We weren't sold on all of Codemasters' claims about how innovative Perimeter is but that doesn't take away from what looks like an excellent RTS in the making. As for the morph-on-the-fly feature - we love it and so will RTS fans. Of that, we're sure.
Perimeter will be out on PC at the end of April