Game Reviews

Starfront: Collision

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Starfront: Collision

In Starfront: Collision, Gameloft has managed a feat no other developer has accomplished since the inception of iPhone and iPod touch gaming: great real-time strategy gameplay.

Drawing inspiration from the iconic PC titles that define the genre, this feature-rich portable release nails every essential element from controls and graphics to multiplayer and unit variety.

By focusing on functional controls and streamlining gameplay elements in such a way that doesn't strip away depth, Starfront emerges as the new standard for real-time strategy.

Multiplayer FTW

First and foremost, Starfront is a complete package. Gameloft has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink: three single-player campaigns, local and online multiplayer with a dynamic ranking system and three modes (1v1, 2v2, and free-for-all) are here for your pleasure.

And pleased you will be. The war among three space-faring factions - the human Consortium, bug-like Myriad, and cybernetic Wardens - is lengthy and involved, spanning 20 missions of increasing complexity. From defending an alien artefact and assaulting sprawling enemy bases to managing a rescue operation for a lost colleague, variety is one the game's primary strengths.

Not all missions are winners - camping out at your base for a ten-minute defensive objective isn't terribly fun - but the range of units and associated upgrades keep you busy during the plainer levels.

No matter, because the outstanding multiplayer is enough to satisfy on its own. It's been handled with such skill that it's arguably the primary reason to buy the game.

Touchscreen general

Each faction comes with its own line of infantry, ground vehicles, and aerial units. Naturally, interactions among different units are balanced in such a way as to force yout to use tactics. Simply put, you can't just tank rush through the game. Early levels tolerate a blunt strategy, but as the difficulty rises so does the need for tactical variety.

Tanks, for example, are highly effective against standard infantry and buildings, but susceptible to explosives, such as those fired by rocket-equipped troopers. Some aerial units only fire air-to-ground, forcing you to engage enemy air units tactically with just the right combination of forces.

Upgrades to attack and defence abilities, along with unit-specific skills such as flashbang grenades and explosives, encourage you to draft only the best units for the job at hand and then invest resources into beefing them up. If anything, more could be done to make the effects of upgrades more pronounced.

Resource management is kept to a minimum, limited to two elements: electric power and Xenodium crystals. Since you can only harvest these resources at specific sites and it's largely automated, you don't feel burdened by it. Similarly, base building isn't fussy because of the few structures that must be constructed around your central headquarters.

Yep, the controls work

Of course, responsive controls ensure it all comes together.

While there's a definite sense that Starfront would be better served on the larger iPad screen, it manages well on iPhone and iPod touch. Unit selection is about as good as can be expected, with the occasional fumble reminding you of halcyon days with a keyboard and mouse. Better camera controls would be welcome, for starters.

Truthfully, there's not much about Starfront that's fresh in relation to strategy gaming as a whole - it's traditional real-time strategy polished up for iPhone and iPod touch. What makes it an accomplishment is that it manages to reinterpret the experience for a new portable generation.

It feels like a complete, genuine real-time strategy game. No corners have been cut - though it's fair to criticise its borrowed design, there's no arguing that Starfront: Collision succeeds by virtue of its outstanding quality.

Starfront: Collision

A game of superior quality that packs robust multiplayer and functional controls, Starfront: Collision establishes a new standard in portable real-time strategy