Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

Written by Clive Webster

March 6, 2009 // 10:45 a.m.

Tags: #console #control-system #dawn-of-war-2 #empire-total-war #gaming #halo-wars #radio-5 #rts #stormrise #up-all-night

Last Saturday night, any insomniacs with radios might have happened listened to myself and Mike Channell from Xbox 360 Mag talking on Radio 5’s Up All Night show about why there’s a glut of RTS games at the moment. And more specifically, why two of these are aimed squarely at consoles.

RTS has never been a particularly successful genre on consoles, and it’s fairly easy to see why when listening to the chaps from Halo Wars and Stormrise. The Whip Select control mechanism of Stormrise is purported to be ‘faster and more efficient than a keyboard and mouse,’ while the chaps behind Halo Wars have opted for a more simplified control system than you’d find in a typical PC RTS. Essentially both companies agree that it's the limitations of the joypad that hinder the enjoyment of RTS games on consoles. But no longer, it seems.
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Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

Joe talks about the new Halo Wars control system in the review, so I’ll just quickly say sorry for being such a PC RTS snob on Monday when he was trying to play it and move onto Stormrise. Rather than simplify the control method, Creative Assembly (the Australian branch, that has seemingly plugged away at console RTS games for years now, but with limited success) has devised a new way to select the troops scattered across a battlefield. Whip Select works by clicking the right thumbstick and flicking it toward the squad you want to select, which the camera then zooms over to. If you’re playing the PC version, you Whip Select by clicking and holding the right mouse button and flicking it toward the desired unit.

Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

As Mike pointed out on the radio (and EuroGamer, also allude to it), Whip Select could be as frustrating as it is speedy. It requires you to have an idea of where your troops are in relation to one another, and it also relies upon squads not getting too close together. Clumped up squads will be fairly hard to quickly Whip Select between, I’d imagine. Whip Select also seems to be a mechanism for controlling each squad one-by-one, so it looks like Stormrise will be more a tactical squad-based shooter, albeit with more than one squad.

Is it time for RTS games on consoles?

It is good to see innovation happening with control systems however, and both Halo Wars and Stormrise look like they’ll push console gaming on to a new level. Meanwhile the PC RTS games seem less innovative. Empire: Total War seems to be more of the same (but a lot more of the same) while Dawn of War II doesn’t seem to know whether to innovate or not. The single-player campaign blends RPG, RTS and squad-based tactical shooter elements nicely, but online Relic has chosen to play safe and abandon this in favour of more traditional gameplay.

Could it be that the console is now the premier place of gaming innovation, at least for RTS games? And is this just because the PC has already reached its peak? Have you been yearning for a perfect RTS for your console?

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