After last month's extensive preview, you might think you know all there is to know about Ground Control II. But think again... We've just played an almost-complete build of the game and found a few surprises lurking in the terrain. Massive Entertainment's CEO Martin Malfisz was there to talk us through the most exciting sci-fi 3D RTS this side of StarCraft 2.
Having recently revealed GCII's third race, a nomadic bunch of neckless aliens called the Virons, we asked the sensibly named Martin to tell us a bit more about them. "The Virons are the second playable race and live in clan ships as they no longer have a home planet."
Massive's CEO was reluctant to tell us exactly what part these gnarly-skinned warriors would play in the war between the game's two warring human factions (the evil NSA and the Terran Empire), but we'd wager they've got intentions on your home planet, Morningstar Prime.
Martin demonstrated how these creatures meld different troop types to create more powerful soldiers. During this symbiosis, the units become encased in a massive green egg, and a new warrior hatches out after half a minute.
Huge emphasis is also being placed on plot and character development. "You follow the story through the eyes of captain Jacob Angelus. It'll be a hero's journey," says Martin. "We believe this will make for a better storyline and allow you to become attached to him. You'll see him grow both in terms of personality and in his relationships with other characters. Occasionally, you'll get to use him as a unit on the battlefield, but mostly he'll act as a commander."
Having sufficiently grilled Martin, we turned our attentions to the action on-screen. Our mission - to capture an enemy stronghold.
Starting off on a breathtaking canyon ridge, we called down a dropship full of tanks, foot soldiers and mortars (unlike in the original, you can now command these soldiers individually rather than just in groups). We then pounded the enemy from afar while the tanks rolled slowly in.
As with every unit type, tanks come replete with a unique secondary function - extending armoured shields to allow ground troops to approach the enemy in safety. Deploying these enabled us to gather our troops en masse just outside the NSA's base, while mortar fire suppressed their forces. Then, while we called in another dropship of backup units, the foot soldiers broke cover to infiltrate the base, while our tanks pounded it from outside.
Zooming into the action revealed a titanic struggle, the battle seesawing back and forth as heavy armour was sent skywards by violent explosions and broken bodies littered the floor.
With three months left to tighten the screws on gameplay, Ground Control II is already looking like a masterful RTS, with more good ideas than a dozen of its peers. Barring total calamity, the earth will move this June.