If real time strategy games are your type, then you'll fall madly in love with and proceed to stalk Project Aftermath. As a game it has all the little UI touches that make good RTS an anal-retentive's dream - and since us obsessive-compulsives usually derive such little pleasure from our tendencies, it's nice to have one place where it really works for us. Seriously, though, the endless juggling of - and here's the key word - realistic features as you navigate through a campaign that combines Freedom Force with Battlestar Galactica results in gameplay that is, if nothing else, never ever boring. And that's really at the heart of what games should be.
The plot, in brief (because, yes, it is brief): you are a part of the Morphids, a suspiciously-human race who have come together after the pre-game destruction of their home world by the malevolent New Order, a bunch of gene-splicing alien-human crazy hybrid mutant soldiers. That smell bad (as stated in the intro movie). If you're thinking this sounds like a plot contrived solely as an excuse to kill stuff, then you, good sir, would be correct! This is unabashedly a game about kicking ass and taking names, and the scowls and scars and tattoos and burly muscles that lather our Heroes all play to this fact. But there's nothing wrong with that since killing stuff in this game is harder than you might think - or anyway, killing stuff well is.
I mentioned earlier that the features created for the player to manipulate with behind-the-scenes maniacal glee were realistic. First off, all that stuff you took for granted in other action/adventure games, the resources you just sort of assumed came from somewhere and the damage resistance that you could bypass by equipping hardcore enough armor or big enough weapons? Those are the sorts of things this game hinges on. Strategy games are excellent at highlighting all the little features you'd need to control if you wanted to win a real war or build a real town or fire-bomb the real Visigoths - Project Aftermath is no different, except in that it may be better. Project Aftermath eliminates the obnoxious first-tier of many RTS's (that the first thirty minutes where you're totally broke and have two villagers and a pile of firewood) and slingshots you into a system where you start the fighting before building your base/hoarding your resources while still maintaining these two all-important features. Here's how.
Progress in the game is reliant upon a GOOP system - GOOP being the fuel you need to run your ships/power your weapons/get up in the morning. In order to unlock the next level, you must end the first with an acceptable amount of GOOP - end it "in the red" and you've failed the mission, despite the achievement of any other mission objective. While this starts off pretty annoying, it becomes very quickly an asset to the game, since you later use GOOP at the "Research Center" in order to level-up your team and select the skill sets needed to customize your peons. The higher your resources, the more technologically-advanced your team will be which totally makes sense.
This freakish concept of "totally making sense" continues the damage resistance system. Most games employ damage resistance/enhancement in some way, shape or form, but Project Aftermath very nearly depends on it: there are four ways of inflicting damage and the amount of HP lost is drastically lowered if you're inflicting it the wrong way. Luckily, enemies (and allies) are color-coded to illustrate which damage they repel. If you see a bunch of little dudes running around in red speed suits, they're resistant to physical damage, and if you still insist on punching them in the face afterward you're going to lose quickly and efficiently. (The bad part of this is that it can make distinguishing Friend and Foe a huge pain the rear, particularly in later levels where there are squads and back-up and enemy units and bipedal robots running all over the place. Luckily, the mini-map rectifies this subtlety by labeling enemy forces with big yellow skulls.)
Much of the game's frustrations are simultaneously part of its appeal. Twisty roads and mountainous regions? Frustrating, but a challenge. Resource dispersal? Frustrating, but a challenge. Dragging yourself across the screen with the right-click in order to follow your guys? …Yeah, okay, that's just frustrating and one of my very few gripes, mostly because it leaves the tendons in your right hand a gnarled mass and can make keeping track of your squad difficult when they're busy swarming all over the place.
Visually, the game is very nice and belies its somewhat meager budget. There are bright colors and pretty trees; everything flows nicely and the landscape's textures are seamless. It looks like if Neverwinter Nights and Age of Empires had a baby which then grew up and had a weekend tryst with the Elder Scrolls backgrounds. The mountains are snazzy-looking and create some awesomely mind-boggling tactical problems your team to kick and scream their way through. Plus, the comics-style cut scenes and hardcore action-movie dialogue ("Cold brutality's gonna win this war!") creates a hilarious and adrenaline-lined environment.
Project Aftermath as a game combines the brain power of a good chess match, the fire power of a good war movie, and the common sense of hopefully most people on the planet to create a hearty strategy game where things start moving and stay moving through every level. This game may have oodles of features to juggle and poke and tinker with, but in the end it's very much "kill stuff yeah woo" with a sense of humor. For all the mountains and all the weapons and all the "energy force" it can be summed up with a panel from the comic-book intro movie - a big guy and a big gun and a capslocked sound effect reading "BRAKKA-BRAKKA-BRAKKA!"