Outlive is set in a very near future, when greedy governments and rampant overpopulation have left the resources of Earth scarce and difficult to control. As soon as the nations of Earth form the World Council alliance to seek possible solutions to these problems, a counter organization develops to protest the theme of increasing control wielded by the centralized authority. As the World Council begins two separate research projects in an attempt to learn to harvest newly-discovered resources on one of Saturn's moon, the rebellious Liberty Army begins its terrorist assaults on the monopolizing international agency.
The real-time action in Outlive takes place on multi-tiered maps and is viewed from a conventional isometric perspective. The two research projects conducted by the World Council have yielded high-tech robotic units and genetically altered humans. Players can choose to lead either of these new factions through both single- and multiplayer campaigns. Diplomatic concerns play a larger role in Outlive than in many traditional real-time strategies, as research can be stolen, construction can be sabotaged, and credits can be transferred between players to help sweeten an offer or seal a deal.
Some games posses great replay value or an excellent multiplayer mode, which can seriously prolong the time we use the game, but sooner or later, the piece of code that someone has been working on for years ends up on a dusty shelf, and gets replaced with another game. Software developers aren't miracle-makers, so you cannot expect them to produce hits all year through. This creates sort of a lull on the gaming market, which gives a break for some less ambitious projects. Well, Outlive is one of those titles, which certainly don't intend to become the game of the year, but it can tide you over until something more interesting appears.
The programmers of the Brazilian-based Continuum Entertainment are probably well-aware that their game is far from setting standards in 2d real-time strategies, so they didn't indulge in too much experimenting, they decided to simply borrow all the most interesting solutions from other, more successful games. Outlive is therefore, a combination of elements you'll find quite familiar, unless you spent the last couple of years completely isolated somewhere, and as soon as you start the game you'll realize that the programmers were strongly influenced by Blizzard's Starcraft.
The story unravels through three campaigns, which continue one another, and give you a chance to see things from all conflicting sides. At the end of the 21st century the population of Earth reached a critical limit, and our mother planet was enable to provide all the necessary resources anymore. Greatest world powers form the World Council, which was supposed to coordinate the project Outlive - a detailed research of the planets in the Solar system, in order to find a planet that would be able to provide sufficient resources for continued existence on Earth. Tritan, a moon of Saturn proved to be the richest, but its rough climate and bad atmosphere conditions make it unsuitable for humans. One group of scientists suggested using genetic engineering to create a creature that would be able to survive in these harsh surroundings and perform excavations. Another group suggested sending robots to do the entire job. World Council gave both sides one year to prove that their solution is better. Things get out of hand when someone sabotages the genetic engineering facilities and the mutants go berserk, and a group of rebels start fighting against the entire project seeing it as threat to the entire human race. You'll have thirty missions to control the World Council forces, then the robots from Mechatronic, and finally the united forces of men and machines against the oppressors.
The story is split into chapters just like in Starcraft. The chapter text will elaborate on what happened, or is about to happen, and the plot further develops through briefings and in-game scripted sequences. There are even several cinematic sequences that support the plot. There are also heroes whose faith unravels together with the plot. The plot has some interesting twists, betrayals and unforeseen events. This gives you enough reason to finish the single player campaigns and see the less than optimistic end, which answers some questions, but arises some other ones. Even though the authors obviously copied the narrating bit, Blizzard did this part of the job far better. The boring briefings cannot be compared with the vivid dialogues between heroes of Starcraft before each mission.
I'll repeat once again that the gameplay utterly resembles Starcraft. The view is 2D isometric. There are not too many units and they are different for each "race". Each unit can perform a special action, which can be activated manually or automatically. They have been designed and balanced in such a way that even when you have the most developed units, you'll still need the most primitive ones. One more thing I should emphasize here is that the unit control method has been improved. Apart from the possibility to define rally points, you can also determine retreat points and the level of damage after which a unit starts to retreat. You can also set waypoints of three kinds (patrol, normal and circular), and units will even be capable of receiving a series of complex orders and perform them successively. Determining the population maximum is another unusual thing in the game. The only resource you'll gather and spend apart from energy is money. You'll use money for buying units, financing technology research and supplying your existing troops. So, if you want to have a numerous and efficient army (if you don't pay them enough the units will move and fire slower), you have to control a sufficient number of mines which generate the money, but as there are not too many of those around you'll seldom be in a position to build up a sufficiently big army that would be able to level the enemy base with no tactics. Careful picking of your targets and guided attacks from the right direction are crucial for success (you can issue orders while the game is in the pause mode). There are no formations, but there is a very useful scatter command, which can save your units' hide when they come in range of enemy troops capable of inducing splash damage. All this can make playing the game quite difficult, especially in later missions.
The number of structures is relatively small for this type of a game. The buildings are relatively common and most of them have already been seen in other games, with the possible exception of the intelligence center, which gives you a possibility to try to spy on or sabotage an enemy base for a certain sum of money. This can give you a chance to turn your enemy's power off at a crucial moment and render his defenses helpless, and swiftly attack the Marketplace (another unusual structure, which has the same function as C.H.A.O.M. from Dune II, instantly buying units, which are currently available at a higher price).
RTS games like this simply have to offer you the possibility to research advanced technologies. Outlive is no exception here, and it has a very rich research tree to offer, and the research method is one of the best that I have ever seen. One click will give you the list of all possible achievements you can research in a mission with all the data about funds and time required. The target research option is a highly commendable feature.
In spite of the good controls, interesting novelties and the perfect research element (if we disregard the mediocre story for the time being), Outlive is visually a complete failure. I'm not one of the people who think that you cannot have good graphics without a latest generation graphics card; it's just that a game has to have a decent design. The terrain and units in Outlive actually look worse that their at least three years old role-models even though they are displayed at 1024x768. Poor color, unimaginative design and their pathetic animation won't bother real strategy players too much, but they simply ruin the overall impression this game might have left otherwise. The few cinematics partially make up for this, but even they are miles behind the brilliant FMV sequences from Starcraft or Brood War.
The soundtrack for this game sure doesn't contain anything you want to call a favorite tune, and the unit voices are totally unbecoming, and seem quite funny. The only reason why you're going to listen to the monotonous voice of the narrator reading the briefing is depressingly slow scrolling of the text on-screen.
Poor graphics and sound have their good side as well - the game will run smoothly on older machines, regardless of the number of units appearing on screen, and loading and saving games is as fast as it can get.
AI is pretty good. Even though your units won't find the shortest way to their destination, they will seldom get lost. The computer is a very good adversary, and it won't be easy to beat it even on "Easy" level. The computer AI will mostly rely on his ability to deduce your weak-points, and attack you where you have practically no defenses.
Another upside is the multiplayer mode. If you're not too disappointed about the technical characteristics, playing against live opponents on Continuum's internet server, direct link cable, modem or LAN can sure give you a lot of fun. The game features deathmatch, CTF and conquest modes, and the authors provided about forty maps for two to eight players. I cannot speak much about the quality of the maps, but if you look through them, you'll find several really unusual maps (I found one which looks like Pac Man). The game ships with a powerful campaign editor. The multitude of options it offers gives you an impression of a very powerful tool, probably used even by the programmers when designing the three Outlive campaigns. It not only gives you the chance to design the map, you can also use your custom sounds, and video-sequences. Then best feature in this editor is the event editor, which will give you some twenty keywords to direct the course of your own scenarios. I didn't think I would ever say this, but this tool looks as good as the scenario editor in Operational Art Of The War Volume II.
The possibility to salvage wreckages of destroyed vehicles and recycle them, as well as the options for creating diplomatic relations with other participants in the war, are the couple of things that will wrap up all the positive impressions left by this game. It would be pretentious to predict the possible audience for this game... if you still feel unsure about buying this one, well, let me put it this way: If you're one of the people who don't think that advanced graphics are a requirement for a good game there is no reason for you not to give this one a try.
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