Cyclone Studios' Uprising enters the real-time strategy fray with one tremendous asset: It's different. Played from a first-person perspective, this frenetic game is unlike anything else in its genre. After all, how many strategy games have a strafe key?
Uprising takes all the key ingredients of a Command & Conquer or Total Annihilation (command of cool units, resource management, fast action) and challenges you to master them all while driving around the battlefield in a super-powered tank known as the Wraith. So now, instead of deploying your forces from a god-like overview, you must tread your way over to a strategic spot and "port" in troops for an assault. The resulting action is incredibly exciting and immersive. You're right there in the thick of it, with your tanks and troops swarming over the hills and your fighters arriving to provide air cover. This brand of gameplay is surprisingly fresh and addictive. I loved the cinematic feel of the battles and the thrill of calling in an overwhelming force to crush my pathetic opponents. The problem is, I had so much difficulty with the game's AI and awkward controls that this opportunity rarely presented itself.
The computer-controlled enemies in Uprising (the evil Imperium and the just-as-bad "natives") are fiendishly clever and fast-moving, even on the earliest levels of the game. The goal is to spread a revolution against the Imperium by capturing 19 different planets. In the process, you'll have to battle Imperium troops and native forces on each world. OK, fine. But after clearing the first three planets in the game, the difficulty level bumps up one notch too many. At this point, the levels get increasingly more difficult until they are practically impossible to win. I don't have a problem with challenging games, but I do have a problem with games that don't allow me to dumb down the difficulty when things get too hot.
Uprising also utilizes a vast and complex set of keyboard commands. These are configurable, but the fact remains that there are just too damn many of them. I found myself continually fumbling with the manual and the keyboard while my troops were slaughtered all around me. Also, when switching to the game's third-person perspective (which is admittedly very cool) and then back to first person, the movement controls went completely out of whack - forward became backward and so on.
But don't get me wrong, Uprising is still a very good game. For starters, the graphics are excellent. Each of the unit types is highly detailed and the terrain is gorgeous. As you establish your bases, the various facilities you purchase are airlifted in and dropped into place (hint: don't park directly underneath them). You can see your all-powerful Citadel guns' barrels pump as they deal out electric death. Fighters trail smoke and spin into mountainsides when they're shot down. Even the sound effects and music are excellent (although I occasionally ran into a glitch that caused one of my units to alternatively shout out "Eat this!" and "Suck on this!" in an endless, amazingly annoying loop). The multiplayer support is very impressive, with up to four players going at it over IPX and TCP/IP and two over modem and serial links. Multiplayer games appear to be stable and can be played on 21 different worlds.
It's just that the game needs a bit of patching and tweaking. The addition of a difficulty setting alone would be a significant improvement. Also, there seems to be a bug with the game's 3Dfx mode, which caused a "hall of mirrors" effect at most hilltops and high elevations. This problem did not occur in the unaccelerated mode.
Still, Uprising seems destined to carve out a niche in the increasingly crowded real-time strategy market. If you like a lot of eye-popping graphics and fast action in your strategy, you won't do better than this game. Just watch out for hand cramps and expect to get frustrated when you take on the AI.