Starcraft II Hands-On - Zerg Rush!

The galaxy's creepiest crawlers are back and dripping plenty of mucous in Blizzard's strategy juggernaut. We spawned more overlords with the latest build.

IRVINE, Calif.--Blizzard ended months of Starcraft II silence at its headquarters today. We hadn't gotten the slightest morsel of new info on the famed developer's rabidly anticipated strategy sequel since BlizzCon in August of 2007, but now we've finally gotten our hands on the new and improved zerg, the third and last of Starcraft II's factions to be revealed to the press. After sliming our way through numerous multiplayer games with the zerg, we can say that our previous experience with the terran and protoss factions in Starcraft II still holds. Everything old here is new again, which is to say that the zerg feel startlingly similar to their counterparts in the first game. Of course, when you're building on arguably the best strategy game ever made, that's really not such a bad thing.

Before we got our hands on the game, Blizzard showed us a brief cinematic movie that depicted the zerg's conquest of the galaxy. This short movie was accompanied by a voice-over from Kerrigan, the zerg's iconic and mutated human-hybrid queen. Though we didn't see what physical form she'll take in the final game, Kerrigan spoke extensively about the zerg's several-years-long absence from the galactic scene and the "evolving" that's occurred in that interim. She concluded by saying that the zerg are about to become much greater and referred to a "final metamorphosis" that's only just begun. Clearly this portends ominously for the events of the single-player campaign.

As before, winning with the zerg is all about superior numbers.

Too bad, then, that Blizzard wasn't addressing any aspect of Starcraft II's storyline today. But that's OK; we had enough to take in just absorbing all of the changes to the zerg's tech tree. Let's start with what's the same, though. The zerg will use a building model nearly identical to that of the first game. All zerg units are birthed from the larvae that will spawn automatically from your hatcheries, and all structures grow out of the basic drone worker units. Like the terrans and protoss, the zerg will also collect crystal and vespene gas resources in the traditional manner, and you can build structures only on the ooze-like purple creep that spreads out around a zerg hatchery.

Where the zerg differ is in their specific lineup of units and tech-tree progression, most of which is new since the first Starcraft. Some of the basic units, like the zergling and hydralisk, function more or less the same, but Blizzard says more than half the units are new, and even most returning ones have some sort of modification. There's a new ground attack unit called the roach that regenerates health at incredible speed. Many enemy units simply can't kill the roach in one-on-one combat because the roach heals faster than the opponent's ability to dish out damage. The only real way to deal with a flood of roaches is with focused heavy fire, and we found a mass of them to be devastating against an unprepared enemy.

There's a devious new support unit called the infestor that can move while burrowed underground, and it can unleash some of its nasty abilities without having to surface. Taking a cue from Blizzard's early presentation, we tried having a handful of burrowed infestors sneak right underneath an enemy's base defenses, and then had them unleash their infestation ability once in the middle of the base. This overtakes one structure, preventing it from producing units and spawning a host of infested terran marines from it to cause havoc. Though these zombie marines don't do a lot of damage, they made for the perfect distraction. While our enemy was busy trying to handle the mess within his own base, we brought our main attack right to his front door and waltzed on through. Burrowed infestors are easily spotted by any sort of detection, so you'll have to be careful where you take them.

The roach and the infestor are just two of the zerg's nasty new units.

By far our favorite zerg unit was the queen, of which you can only make one. There were queens in the original Starcraft, but she's changed so much here that she might as well be new. The queen is a large defensive unit that skulks around your base and provides all sorts of interesting defensive abilities. She can build tiny turrets on the creep almost instantly, and then a detecting supplemental unit called the shrieker that increases the range of those turrets. You can make the queen evolve and increase in size, too, which confers more abilities. After evolving, the queen can infect a small part of the creep; tunnel from the creep to any other zerg building on the entire map; or even heal a zerg building for most of the value of its health. She's also a formidable melee fighter when it comes to base defense. It seems as if the queen will be a deadly unit in the hands of a player with strong micromanagement skills.

Some of the old, familiar units are quite different, too. The overlord is no longer a detecting unit, and it can't carry other units for transport. Instead, it can infect resources such as minerals and make them inaccessible, and it can spit creep onto most parts of the map. The overlord can also evolve into another flying unit called the overseer that can detect hidden enemies. The bull-like ultralisk now has an area-of-effect element added to its already considerable melee attack, which we found especially potent when tackling our enemies' base defenses.

True to its word, Blizzard has made the zerg gameplay all about overwhelming numbers, similar to the way it was in the first game. We can't speak to the skill of our opponents today--fellow members of the international games press, mostly--but we found that the key to victory was generally to crank out as many roaches, hydralisks, ultralisks, and other creepy-crawlies as we could and simply win through attrition. And though we were no doubt playing on top-of-the-line gaming hardware, we were at least heartened to see that the frame rate didn't suffer an iota, even when we flooded the screen with scores of units engaged in frenzied battle.

Blizzard has made a lot of other additions to Starcraft II's gameplay since we last saw it. There are now high-yield minerals on the map, which are yellow in color and offer greater stores of resources than the blue kind. There are also destructible obstacles such as rocks now blocking many choke points; you can attack and demolish these roadblocks, but they take a lot of work to get rid of. Similarly, there will be other obstacles like trees and shrubs that will block your line of sight, which lets units hide behind them. Lastly, we noticed a few of the new xel'naga observation towers, which you can activate by touching with a single unit. These will give you a big radius of sight around them while active, though they'll shut down once you move your unit away.

Blizzard will likely spend months just balancing the three factions against each other.

It's worth noting that just about anything you read about here is subject to change before Starcraft II finally ships, whenever that is. Blizzard reps talked about one gameplay mechanic in the build we've played today that has changed drastically three or four times in the last two weeks. The company is famous for iterating and rebalancing ad infinitum until the gameplay is spot-on, so what we played today may vary significantly in a few ways, or a lot of ways. We hope at least that the basic zerg framework is pretty well locked down now, though; we were quite happy to see some grotesque old friends back in the fray after all these years.

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441 comments
Genesis9100
Genesis9100

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

Zendark
Zendark

I guess this zachman1234 died.

zachman1234
zachman1234

ME WANT STARCRAFT 2 BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD! WILL DIE IF NOT ON PC AND PLAYED BY march 13 2010

d3bro76
d3bro76

Seriously? Only 3 factions, graphics, machine playability? GTFO! You guys cannot be serious. I play brood war 5 hours a week, since March 31st 1998, If not more than that. Go back to C&C or DoW you noobs, and please, don't buy SC2, we don't want to see your kind on battle.net laggin it up. Moving on. WOOOOOO SC2!!!! I can't agree with the trilogy aspect of it. I like all in one game, but whatever, if it makes the game ship sooner, then so be it. 11 years, come on, it has to be released in 09.

itachi100
itachi100

only 3 factions = im not playing, period.

Garren666
Garren666

I like the graphical design that Blizzard has taken with this game. From the screens and vids I've seen they look smooth, refined, and detailed. Probably the only thing a lower end PC will have trouble with will be when a lot of units are on the screen. I don't have a very powerful machine so it makes me glad that Blizzard is defying the other PC game developers in saying let's create a game that might not be the most technically impressive game, but let's make it fun and accessible for a lot of machines out there.

abr_alex
abr_alex

This game is amazing! Gonna be RTS of decade.

Vikthorious
Vikthorious

games are not about graphics sure its important but not the most important thing... I just wish it ha a better gameplay than the frst SC, and althought i know its almost impossible, i hopw t come out for the wii... like the starcraft came out for the N64...I REALLY DO HOPE THAT...

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

let me guess all you guys on this a **** about the graphics huh

Maximum_VeNoM
Maximum_VeNoM

Hello dudes... I wanna ask you a question... I don't know if its true but one of my friends who is very big fan of StarCraft told me that the game is already released... But only in Italy and it's selling price is $200... I don't know if its true but if someone knows please PM me... :) P.S: And for the info I readed somewhere in some site that the game will be released at Octomber 2008. (I mean if its not released in Italy or they will be releasing it to the world that time around the year...)

sahmeds
sahmeds

i can't wait to play sc2 nomatter what the graphics like the game itself is gonna be great but i think the graphics also gonna role i wish it come out soon the end of the year

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

does anyone think that the game will come with a campaign editor like SC1..

Parsnips22
Parsnips22

Looks like SC2 is coming along nicely, good to see the developers aren't rushing it and screwing it up. Would be good to see a few more videos of gameplay footage though. Just to give us an idea of what to expect.

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

what the hell is wrong with you people.. blizzard is making something great and your dissing it like it was a naked old man crossing a school yard!!!! you people need to think, and not just **** think about the negatives, you know maybe this is how blizzard See's the game.. if i was in charge of creating the game, i would say **** you all, and cancel the game so why don't you people just back the **** of and let blizzard make the damn game, because all this **** about the $%^$%^ graphics is not going to do **** so live your %$#^ life and wait till the damn game comes out and don't say a word about the damn graphics

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

I need this game now!!! i wish it was out!!!

jeremey9905
jeremey9905

played the first star craft and the expansion broodwars. loved both of them. i want this game to come out soon. i wonder when it will be released? next spring or summer my best guess.

FrankEGee
FrankEGee

I don't know about you guys... BUT I WANNA PLAY SOME SC2 SUNKEN D 10 WAY RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

This game is going to freaking rock... i can't wait to play as the ZERG

travis_y
travis_y

i think its gonna be a pretty decent game no matter what the grapgics r like

jlhagad
jlhagad

I wouldn't worry much about the hardware requirements since Blizzard has never really failed to please in that department. They're releases are almost always catered for mediocre to good PCs, never amazing. And although this looks really good, I bet they'll have options to disable shadows and disable some texture mapping and shading to boost frame rates. But, I can guaranteed you'll need a decent machine to enjoy this game to the fullest. ;-p

Drewman419
Drewman419

I agree with lucebuce my PC is not amazing hence i cant even touch chrysis so I will luckily be playing this game on low settings.

lucebuce
lucebuce

the graphics are NOT amazing ............. THAT IS GOOD ............. a lot of ppl cant afford to keep up with the latest PC's ...... so i think that's a good strategy . i live in Pakistan .. most dudes here have 64 or 256 MB rAMs , P4's and Built-in Graphics Cards :-D

axelviiii
axelviiii

I recently started playin Starcraft and I have to say that it's one of the few RTS games that I can wholeheartedly say i like. Can't wait for this.

Magma_Slash
Magma_Slash

granted, the graphics aren't amazing, but they are very good.. and playability > graphics. supreme commander almost was impossible to get to run completely smooth, although thats really something blizzard is known for imo. these recent strategy games like CnC3 and SC, almost always involved too much work for the fun. if this is near as good as Dawn of War but different, i will be amazed.

Godfatherchris
Godfatherchris

I do love the first one, but I'm just not into the graphics of the 2nd one their just to bubbly

LiiB
LiiB

i've loved starcraft 1 since i was a small kid, though recently im afraid that the all the international hype will raise all "my" expectations, only to find out its a waste of my adreniline and love lol one more thing...What teh hell is with all the delay? Since 2007 i saved enough cash, now its all gone because of the gf, new comp and COD4 lol

dony123
dony123

i went to the website in its all korean or something. i know thias game is really popular in korea and stuff but why did they make the website like that???

_FORCE_96
_FORCE_96

sorry, i meant that it was a rip off from 40k since when it first started and now i've looked into the game more-it looks-PROPA GOOD! So forget my last comment (even tho DoW 2 will be quality). This game sounds awsome

sauron901
sauron901

it doesnt always matter on graphics, if the gameplay, story, multiplayer is just or better then then starcraft 1 im buying it!

nofunzoner
nofunzoner

wow force. dawn of war was made in 2004. starcraft was made in 1998. and while starcraft does take some influences from warhammer, that was in the last "edition", so most of the races looked different. Tyranids (like zerg) looked more cartoonish. Eldar (protoss) had same premise (power psychics and units) but still looked prety dif, and space marines (terran) havent changed all that much, but there are still a few big differences. also terran dont have swords or exploding bullets and space marines dont have the battlecruisers. wow that was long

_FORCE_96
_FORCE_96

Oh dear, this game is such a rip off of Dawn of War series-graphics look pathetic and blizzard have taken far too long making a game that has already been outpaced by much better games in gameplay and graphics. Starcraft 2 blows

godofsun
godofsun

Starcraft 2 is gonna pwn. For now though im setteling for Spring the open source strategy. just google "ta spring". Best strategy i played,and its free.

Vasot
Vasot

Yes graphics are typical Blizzard Low polygons and childish like some cartoon movies Nothing special ----------------- julianboxe I am just saying my opinion and no i am not coming here always you are wrong

LysanderNaFaile
LysanderNaFaile

The graphics are a tad underwhelming. Solid and certainly not unappealling, but nothing to write home about. Mind you - if the gameplay is as good as the original then i dont really care.

Viper5030
Viper5030

Blizzard has never really gone for realism in their graphics engines. It's more of an artistic look. Why? Because even when the technology in the graphics gets outdated, it still looks great! Just look at WoW or even WC3.

ddraig_danio
ddraig_danio

Game-Absessor what tghe hell are u talking about, the grafics are greatttttttttttttt

Game-Absessor
Game-Absessor

he does have a point.... the graphics look really crappy so far compared 2 everything else new... its like Warcraft 3 in space, except much more sophisticated and in slightly better 3d neverless i want to have it asap..

julianboxe
julianboxe

Vasot : Why are do you come back here every once in a while and curse this game? You think CeC3 is better? You think World in Conflict is better? Ok go play these games and leave SC2 for the people who are really expecting for it. Get a life dude, you sound ridiculous every time.

nakulvarma
nakulvarma

when is STARCRAFT 2 RELEASING ?????

Jammerraqui
Jammerraqui

the graphics look awsome man stop living in the past

alon_zohar
alon_zohar

I remember when i first got my SC Battle Chest.. good times.. But this.. This is just a miracle. I just cant wait for it anymore..

Vasot
Vasot

The Graphics look like C-R-A-P Looks like like a 1999 game

godofsun
godofsun

Starcraft 2 is gonna pwn. For now though im setteling for Spring the open source strategy. just google "ta spring". Best strategy i played,and its free.

greyzhaze
greyzhaze

This must be one of the most, if not thee most anticipated Sequel ever. I can barely wait for some great RTSing. With this upcoming release, hopefully we can soon see the almighty release of Diablo 3! :) (Hellgate didnt quite cut it for me.) and lets not forget that Tauran in SC2, that unit is set to cause decent chaos

idunnoyourdad
idunnoyourdad

have you seen the picture up there... the zerg lair look really great

jjtycoolstop
jjtycoolstop

this is what I'm waiting for.... lets get it on Zerglings!!!! Zerg rules!!! starcraft II is getting more interesting!!!