Metal Fatigue is perhaps the most aggravating RTS adventure this reviewer has played to date. One mission has the potential to last several hours and the enemy AI is relentless. It uses the same basic controls and operations as Command & Conquer or Earth 2150 with its own unique storyline.
Many RTS games require you to begin by building the basic structures that make up your home base but Metal Fatigue, going against the grain of real-time strategy, has a beginning in which no time passes. This pre-game setup allows you to build all of your major buildings before the game even begins. It doesn't make things any easier though since you run out of money quickly.
Gathering credits is somewhat different than other games of the genre. When you begin, you can use your hover trucks to collect minerals from the lava pits or set up solar panels in orbit above (only available if asteroids are located above the planet). The hover trucks not only collect minerals but are construction vehicles as well. While most RTS games contain construction vehicles that are sluggish and costly to manufacture, those in Metal Fatigue are exactly the opposite.
The hover truck is one of the cheapest and fastest vehicles you can manufacture. This, coupled with the fact that you can build buildings anywhere on the playing field, makes Metal Fatigue incredibly challenging. Games like Star Trek: New Worlds are limited in strategic possibilities because you can only build buildings in a fixed area (you also don't need to build them anywhere else) and Metal Fatigue discards that constant. It would be difficult enough if there was only one playing field but here you can also build underground and in orbit!
Many of the missions last for hours at a time because the enemy can constantly create buildings elsewhere. And not just in new areas that you haven't explored! They can build hover vehicles and construct new buildings in areas where you've already destroyed them. Even if you've wiped out the enemy on the surface of the planet and destroyed their energy panels up above, they could be mounting a huge force underground. Then, if you don't have certain areas guarded on the surface, they can simply drill to the top in that area. The computer is ruthless at this and never quits (that is, until you give them no choice)! Thus, in Metal Fatigue you cannot simply annihilate your enemy but must out strategize them.
To add to the insanity, when a Combot is destroyed, pieces of it are left on the ground. These pieces can be picked up by the enemy or yourself and used to build new Combots or the parts can be used for research purposes. New technology is consistently acquired in Metal Fatigue and is the entire premise behind the storyline (three factions fighting over new technology). As a result, your Combots continue to grow in strength and special abilities. New tanks and other units will eventually become available as well but in much less quantity.
About three missions into each campaign, you can build a hangar and some jets. These add even more depth by allowing you to attack the enemy in the sky and on the surface. The jets have a guard feature that lets you to attach them to a unit on the ground for added protection. The problem with the jets is their firepower -- only one shot at a time and not particularly powerful. Anti-aircraft missile turrets and most vehicles can shoot them down easily. The Hover Bombers available later on in the game are able to sustain more damage and drop a more powerful bomb but cannot attack air targets.
Every unit in the game has multiple abilities that include guarding and patrolling between two points. This is a necessary aspect of the strategy involved since it's not easy to keep track of three completely different areas at the same time. Another helpful measure is the reconnaissance poles you can build as they alert you to enemies that pass underneath them.
Although primarily controlled with the mouse, Metal Fatigue has a plethora of hotkeys to speed things along. For example, by pressing the slash key, you can go to the most recent battle and you can instantly travel up to orbit or below the surface by pressing the page up or page down keys respectively.
Along with typical RTS functions like tethering, patrolling, pursuing and attacking, you can also raze enemy units with your hover trucks. Thirty-six ALT-key functions allow you to build anything from Assembly Bays with the hover trucks to Rail Guns and vehicles with the Vehicle Factories. All of these special keys make navigation throughout the three worlds easier.
Metal Fatigue is truly one of the most complicated RTS games imaginable and will no doubt test the limits of patience for many gamers. If you're into very complex strategy and long hours on the computer, the game promises to make your day. The game is comparable to Submarine Titans, Earth 2150, Command & Conquer and many other RTS games but its missions can last much longer.
An alternative name for the aptly titled Metal Fatigue could just as well be "Human Fatigue" in terms of stamina required to enjoy the experience.
Graphics: The graphics can best be described as a combination between Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun and Earth 2150. It has 3D elements and yet is very detailed. When you zoom in on the Combots, they are very striking and have vivid color, especially the energy shields.
Sound: Voices tell you when Combots and other units are completed and some of the music is well done albeit repetitive. The music for Stefan's missions is the most repetitive because it plays the same guitar sequences repeatedly. Other than that, the basic sounds of buildings being built and voices all reflect a very futuristic atmosphere and are quite adequate for the game.
Enjoyment: The only factor that hinders a great rating in this category is the length of each mission (one mission can last several hours depending on your strategy). The new Combot parts add something fresh with every mission and with the ability to build almost anywhere, you have a lot of options. Each faction uses nearly the same equipment but have different strengths and tactics. For example, the Milagro faction is more aggressive than the other two.
Replay Value: Even if you've beaten all three campaigns, you can still enjoy replaying certain missions and trying new strategies. These can then be applied to multiplayer games when challenging others on the Internet.
People who downloaded Metal Fatigue have also downloaded:
MechCommander Gold, MechCommander 2, Metal Knight, Medieval: Total War, Mayday: Conflict Earth, No Man's Land, Metal Marines Master Edition, Medieval Lords: Build, Defend, Expand
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