Starcraft: Insurrection Review

Insurrection is nowhere near the original product in terms of quality.

Starcraft: Insurrection is a hasty and unprofessional single- and multiplayer supplement for the popular real-time strategy game, designed to prey on those who cannot wait for the forthcoming official add-on, Brood War. Although authorized by Blizzard, Insurrection is nowhere near the original product in terms of quality. While it boasts three all-new single-player campaigns across 30 missions along with over a hundred multiplayer maps, none of these is particularly well crafted, and many are altogether poor.

The Insurrection campaign takes place simultaneously with the original Terran campaign and describes a three-way fight for power on the backwater planet Brontes IV. Each species, Terran, Protoss, and Zerg, gets its own campaign. These are designed to be played in the order of the original three, although you can play any mission in any order. Each campaign attempts to introduce new heroes into the Starcraft mythos; you get everything from the too-cool-for-you Terran lieutenant Jack Frost to the powerful Protoss Archon Aedus/Xerxes. However, each of these uses recycled graphics and speech acknowledgements from the original game, demanding some serious suspension of disbelief on your behalf. Furthermore, these characters' voices are only mediocre attempts to keep with the quality of voice acting from the original game. To add insult to injury, the voices for returning characters like the Zerg Overmind and the Terran cyborg assistant are impersonated. Worse still, the new speech in Insurrection is too quiet, demanding you crank the volume to hear what the new characters are bantering about, then turn it back down when they finally shut up.

Sometimes they don't shut up. Insurrection's attempt to weave an interesting story is a little too heavy-handed; mission briefings drag on far longer than they should as the various characters try and fail to draw you into the plot as they argue amongst themselves. The original Starcraft campaign briefings were often worth listening to more than once, thanks to the engrossing story and the superb voice acting. In contrast, you'll find yourself skipping over these in Insurrection.

As is always the case with add-on packs, the campaign missions in Insurrection are much more difficult than the original game. Some of the missions are pretty good and capitalize on the original campaign's occasional shortcomings; namely, Insurrection will often pit you against more than one enemy, which inherently makes for more interesting conflicts. In most cases, though, the Insurrection missions are frustrating. Some border on the impossible; Aztech's web site admits that one Terran mission in particular is in fact the "wrong version" that was included unintentionally, and offers a better balanced variation for download. At other times, the missions severely limit the kinds of technology you can use during battle even as the enemy suffers no such handicaps. Occasionally, you'll begin a mission only to face attack from several directions at once, demanding you slow the game down to micromanage the situation. Still more missions restrict the resources or real estate available to you, demanding that you make do with less than ideal, or downright unfair, conditions. Rarely will you encounter a good, clean fight or a satisfying victory, all in the name of heightened challenge. Sadly, even as the missions themselves aren't always much fun, the story too is not interesting enough to drive the campaign forward.

Meanwhile, of the hundred-some-odd multiplayer maps supplied with Insurrection, but a handful are enjoyable. Most are mazelike wastes of time that cater toward very specific types of play, thereby eliminating the potential for strategic subtlety. Some of the maps are fine, but perfectly boring. Other maps are just silly; one starts a lucky player on high ground and his opponents on opposite sides below. A Terran player with a few siege tanks poised in such a position can crush his enemies without much difficulty. One of the bigger maps included doesn't even work (although again Aztech's site offers a downloadable solution). Starcraft includes plenty of well-made multiplayer maps out of the box, and Blizzard has done well to release an original map each week. Still more fan-made maps are available free for download on the Internet. Do you really need the half-baked Insurrection maps with so many already available for free?

And unless you're perfectly starved for single-player action, then you can live without the campaign, too. Insurrection's production quality is nowhere near the original's. You'll know that right away when you realize there's no front end to the game. You access the campaign exactly how you would any fan-made scenario. And with several high-quality fan-made campaigns already available for free on the Internet, there remains little reason to own this add-on; rather, there remains only the question as to why Blizzard authorized such a lackluster product in the first place.

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    It doesn't stray far from the blueprint created by its predecessors, but it is, without a doubt, the best game to ever adhere to that formula.
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