The original Uprising was something new and unique. It melded first-person action with real-time strategy to provide fast-paced, addictive gameplay that kept most of us locked in despite the game's shortcomings. The sequel, Uprising 2: Lead and Destroy, is basically an enhanced version of the original, with several gameplay and interface modifications that make the game more approachable (and less frustrating). While the changes to Uprising 2 are notable and (for the most part) positive, the game still manages to underwhelm because of some seemingly minor flaws.
Once again, you pilot the powerful Wraith command tank. Instead of fighting other humans in a desperate revolution, however, you're fighting against a ruthless horde of DNA-harvesting aliens called the Trich. Fortunately, these guys are easier to identify on the battlefield than the human troops in Uprising. The foot soldiers and the vehicles are very angular and dark, making them easy to pick out from your own troops.
The game includes 36 missions, 28 of which are split into three minicampaigns. These campaigns can be played separately or in one continuous string. The missions are not completely linear, but because the game relies heavily on its plot, they are more structured than those in Uprising. The remaining eight missions are designed to be played as single scenarios. Actually, you can play any one of the 36 missions as a single scenario, which is a neat feature but one that can certainly spoil some of the campaign plot points.
Gameplay is very much like the original Uprising. You drive around the battlefield, claiming citadel locations and assembling bases to harvest energy and produce military units. When you encounter enemy forces, you can go at them in your Wraith and call in your units for support. The landscapes are nicely rendered and show a lot of variety, thanks in part to the planet-hopping theme of the campaigns. In other words, each planet has a unique look and feel, so although most have the same landscape features (hills, valleys, and lakes) they each at least have a different palette.
In fact, the graphics for the game are quite stunning. The sky effects deserve special mention as they are some of the best I've seen this side of Unreal. Also, the game features some nice weather effects and includes both day and night missions, which helps keep things interesting. Units and buildings are well modeled and are generally easy to identify in the heat of combat. Still, the graphics in Uprising get dinged for two significant reasons. First, they support 3Dfx Glide only for 3D acceleration. That means no Direct3D, which means no Riva TNT or any other non-3Dfx board for that matter. This is simply inexcusable. Second, even with dual Voodoo2 cards in a Pentium II 450 system (with the rendering distance set to maximum), the game still showed a lot of "gray wall" distance rendering problems. For example, enemy aircraft circling a distant base would appear out of gray haze for a second then vanish into thin air. Even right near my own base, if I turned to look from one end of the base to the next, I couldn't always see my own citadel tower - even though I could see the hills behind it. Now that's just plain wrong. One other minor gripe: I frequently found myself hung up on invisible barriers, having to back up and strafe from side to side until I could pull myself free.
On the positive side, Cyclone has streamlined the interface quite a bit, and a helpful, color-coded targeting system helps you pick out the good guys from the bad. Also, you no longer have to manage that cryptic power triangle. Some hard-core types may be miffed at this, but not having to worry about my tank's power allocation sure did make things simpler.
Which leads us to the next negative point: Whereas the original Uprising was a bit too difficult in some areas, this game is too easy. For starters, you can dumb down the difficulty to a point where you can practically win the game with nothing but your Wraith. This will make the game more approachable to newcomers and is a welcome change from the original, but it seems as if the developers went too far when they added the AI suggestion feature. This option lets you rely on the computer to perform the next recommended action - such as fortifying a new citadel - without your help. The problem? This feature simply makes the game far too easy. It is optional, however, so you can avoid it if you choose.
What you can't avoid are the contrived and predictable mission designs and the feeling that you've been there and done that far too many times. Many of the missions are repetitive, and the task of building base after base after base gets old in a hurry. Also, the artificial barriers that block certain parts of certain maps got to be pretty annoying. If I'm stupid enough to venture into a seriously dangerous part of the map too early in a mission, let me learn that on my own. Often I found myself going through the motions to win a mission, rather than getting emotionally charged as I faced new obstacles. In short, I just didn't care very much about what I was doing in Uprising 2.
On a lighter note, the sound effects are quite good in Uprising 2, especially when you decide to run down those infantry units foolish enough to stand in your way. The music is also quite good, and the varying themes really set the mood before, during, and after a mission.
Multiplayer support has been beefed up, with a maximum of eight players now (as opposed to Uprising's four). The game will be available via Heat.net and mplayer.com and also provides support for native IP, IPX, modem, and direct serial links.
If you simply compare the game with the original Uprising, it looks pretty damn good - and make no mistake, Uprising 2 is a fun game. The problem is that Uprising 2 lacks the unique flavor of the original and does very little that we haven't seen before. While some of the first game's flaws have been addressed, Uprising 2 adds a few of its own to the mix. In the end, we're still talking about a very good game but one that seems as if it could have so easily been a great one.