The computer game industry has much in common with the horror film industry. Both produce a continual stream of unwanted sequels. Both can sometimes surprise the consumer with a sequel that is better than the original. Beam's Krush, Kill, and Destroy 2: Krossfire is a perfect example of the above. The first game, which received a lukewarm reception, was not a game that demanded a sequel. Yet a sequel we have, and though it's still lukewarm, it's actually better than the original.
If you missed out on the first KKND, it was your standard resource-gathering real-time strategy game, released at a time when everyone was trying to emulate Red Alert. Set after a nuclear war, it featured normal humans versus rabid mutants with the only claim to originality a better AI than most real-time strategy games. Well, Red Alert is a thing of the past, and Starcraft is the current buzz, so this time it's a standard resource-gathering RTS game trying to emulate Starcraft. No, don't get excited, that doesn't mean you get a well-executed plot and interesting units. All it means is that this time instead of two races, you get three.
Carrying over from the first game are the Survivors and the Evolved. The Survivors are survivalist humans. Their troops all look like Elvis or members of the Village People, but their buildings and equipment are fairly standard looking. If you've ever wondered what happens to a Sierra Club member when exposed to a 40-megaton nuke, KKND2 answers that question. They become satanic mutants who ride around on giant hippos. At one with nature, the Evolved use giant animals for weapons of war and construct buildings of wood and stone. Finally, there's the Series 9 robots, farming robots more akin to HAL 9000 than C3PO. Their side looks like a mix of Star Wars, Robotech, and Ronco. While there should have been ample room for creativity, all three sides are simply cookie cutter in nature. There are some minor differences between the sides, but mostly the differences are confined to altered graphics.
Once a side is chosen, you're shown an overhead map where you get to pick a mission, usually from two choices, sometimes more. Once that mission is completed you pick again, with the missions getting harder as you ultimately progress to a final showdown with your race's opponents. It's a nice change from the completely linear, but not enough to carry the game. Remarkably, the game suffers from too many nice touches. There's plenty to be found, but these touches never manage to elevate KKND2 beyond "been there, done that, got the T-shirt."
The basic gameplay is a combination of old school and new school. There's no attempt at a plot, and each mission is basically the same: build base, gather resources, destroy enemy. You might have a mission that gives you a handful of troops, and you need to make do with just these units. Overall, though, expect a lot of build base, gather resources, destroy enemy. Thankfully the game is infused with enough new-school play to keep up with the competition. Take some Red Alert, mix with Starcraft, stir in some Extreme Tactics and Total Annihilation, add a pinch of Dark Reign, and cook until all flavor is lost. Whatever feature you can think of from your favorite real-time strategy game can be found in KKND2. Waypoints, marshaling points, production queues, squashing infantry with tanks, map bookmarks, making your own units, the list goes on. But except for making your own units (which has been done before but never done so well) none of it's new. Sure it's all well executed, but no new benchmarks are set.
You'll also find plenty of extras. You can make your own scenarios, skirmish against the computer, and edit unit stats. A few cool extras pop up in the actual game too, like finding helpful hi-tech units hidden in bunkers or units, which when repaired, go back to the spot they came from automatically. But once again the extras are all pretty much stuff we've seen before or are simply not that exciting.
There's nothing really wrong with KKND2 as a whole. In fact, in terms of clones, it's at the top of the list. Graphics are nice, the sound effects are decent except for the repetitive unit acknowledgments, the AI is truly good, there's a heap of features... but it's all old news. It's not horrible, as in Conquest Earth horrible, but it's not the type of game that causes you to make exclamations of glee while playing. If you've been in a bomb shelter for the past year and haven't played Total Annihilation or Starcraft, you'll consider KKND2 a fantastic game. For the rest of us, it's too much imitator and not enough innovator.