Starcraft 2: Wings of Liberty Reviewed

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What happened to Kerrigan wasn't your fault.
Which part? Where she got left behind, or where she murdered eight billion people?
—Jim Raynor, to Matt Horner

By the beginning of Wings of Liberty, Raynor is living next door to alcoholism and one block over from despair.

James Raynor was one of the main characters of Starcraft and he's the central character of Starcraft 2. In the original game, Raynor started out as a peacekeeper on a colony world and was forced to ally himself with a renegade organization led by Arcturus Mengsk to rescue his people from the onslaught of the Zerg. Mengsk turned out to be what you might call a bad seed; the would-be liberator deliberately exposed the world of Tarsonis to the Zerg knowing it meant the death of several billion people. Not satisfied with such a general act of douchebaggery, Mengsk also deliberately abandoned his partner, Sarah Kerrigan—a psychic Terran operative, and a woman with whom Raynor was falling in love.

Later in the game, Raynor—having begun to come to terms with the fact that Kerrigan was dead—discovers that she isn't. The Zerg Overmind, having found Kerrigan on Tarsonis and recognized her latent potential, has infested her and turned her into the (literal) Queen Bitch of the Universe. The rest of Starcraft and its expansion, Brood War, boils down to The Galaxy vs. Sarah Kerrigan (aka the Queen of Blades). Kerrigan wins.

Infested Kerrigan. She doesn't cook or clean, but she can melt your flesh off at 10 yards if it suits her fancy

SC2 picks up four years after Brood War but from the look of Raynor, you might think it'd been a decade. When Raynor abandoned Mengsk in the wake of Kerrigan's death, he swore to expose the tyrant for who and what he was, but four years later, his success at doing so has been minimal. The game kicks off with Raynor returning to Mar Sara to investigate suspicious Dominion activity and ends on the volcanic Zerg homeworld of Char. In between, you'll dodge natural disasters, steal cargo, capture military prototypes, and experience the Protoss equivalent of a mind meld*. This last is a nifty plot twist that lets players experience the game from the Protoss' perspective, with enough missions to get a feel for the race.

In between missions, players are free to wander the Hyperion, where most of the game takes place. While access is initially restricted to certain areas, the game eventually opens multiple distinct areas on the ship, each with its own NPCs and functions. As the campaign progresses, you'll be offered the chance to research Protoss and Zerg technology, upgrade units, and hire mercenary bands to improve your chances in the field.

The RTS genre has always been plagued by the difficulty of designing individual missions that feel unique when each game follows exactly the same path of building up a base, managing resources, and building enough of Unit X to succeed at Mission Y. SC2 tackles this from several angles, including unique mission challenges, unit flexibility, and a wide variety of mission types. Because the single-player campaign is entirely separate from the multiplayer game, there are a number of single-player units to experiment with. This also allows every unit from the original game to return, which makes for much preferred continuity.

Hydralisks: Not friendly, not domesticated, and definitely not vegetarian.

If you've got nostalgic memories of hosing Zerg with firebats, you can opt to buy their upgrades back on the Hyperion, or alternately use the Factory-built Hellion ATVs which trade staying power and bunker capability for speed, base damage, and maneuverability. (Fully upgraded, the Mercenary Firebats can take a massive pounding when backed up by Medics - Ed).

Available difficulty levels include Casual, Normal, Hard, and Brutal; difficulty level can be adjusted on a mission-by-mission basis. We started on Normal, just to get the hang of things, then graduated to Hard for the remainder of the game. If you enjoy near-frantic pacing, some of the last stand style missions are great fun to play on higher difficulty. All of the missions include achievements, all of which are split between the Normal and Hard difficulty levels.

*Pro Tip: Game devs and sci-fi writers, please stop using the word 'universe' as a substitute for 'galaxy.' Describing impending doom in ludicrous terms is annoying; it's the functional equivalent of claiming that a hurricane or tsunami threaten to destroy the entire planet. Describing the Xel'Naga / Reapers / Goa'uld / Whatever as threatening the universe doesn't build tension, it just makes the speaker sound overwrought and uninformed.

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inspector 4 years ago

HEHE :P "Pro Tip: Never, ever trust a Zerg player who tells you he's new after his partner DCs. " i think that was me... lol jk

The game looks much better on my eyes in ultra graphics. i have them all set to low and some medium :(.

marco c 4 years ago

What do you guys think of us posting more game reviews? Is this something you'd like to see more of on HotHardware?

jturnbull65 4 years ago

[quote user="Marco C"]

What do you guys think of us posting more game reviews? Is this something you'd like to see more of on HotHardware?


Video game coverage is a crowded segment as I'm sure you know.  I do think there is an opportunity to use your technical expertise to distinguish yours from a run-of-the-mill review, just as Joel did with the first page of this review.

sackyhack 4 years ago

I think doing PC-centric reviews would be awesome. Too many sites list their multi-platform reviews as PC reviews, like Dragon Age's reviews for example. I saw so many reviewers complaining about the controls, only to realize that they're talking about the 360/PS3 version. I'm willing to bet few reviews of the "PC version" of Crysis 2 will mention how well it scales on various graphics cards.

Just don't focus too much on it. Everybody and their grandmother is doing reviews these days. I know consoles are also fall under the "hardware" moniker, but PC-focused reviewers are far and few in between. Stick to the hardware news and reviews, and maybe post a review on huge release that could potentially greatly impact or be impacted by hardware, like Metro 2033, Crysis, Starcraft 2, etc.

inspector 4 years ago

Sure, i enjoy reading though it, would be nice to include a video review as well :)

animatortom 4 years ago

Oh yeah! Definitly post more game reviews!

They are alot more fun than all the cell phone reviews! It also makes more sense, since the Hot Hardware we are always talking about is designed for the latest and greastest gamesGeeked

Virtua-Balls, Flight yokes, FFB Driving wheels, and all the other cool gadgets that we could spend all day talking bout?

I dont understand Starcraft? They have all this amazing game art, and kick-A Cinematics...All for a RTS top-down? It would make more sense if they parlayed that into a setup like the last Halo, where you could switch between TD and FPS.  This game has an intersting concept, and if they could put that realism into a RTFPS then it would be incredible! The only thing that makes me not want to blow my time on WOW is all the elves and faries:P I like Sci-Fi, and always love running around blowing up aliens!

animatortom 4 years ago

How bout movie tech review?

There might be a few of us old enough to remember this one from when we were Inspectors ageCool

Japanese CGI, ...Not bad!

Joel H 4 years ago

I'm not sure what was meant by "video review."  If you mean "In-game footage captured using a tool like FRAPS," that's one thing, but it seems quite silly to me to try to get good quality video out of a hand-held camera that'd be filming footage directly off a screen. Similarly, I think it's important to discuss the hardware aspect of games and how they run, but a full-on article about "How X Cards Run SC2" would be an altogether different beast than what I wrote here.

fat78 4 years ago

I got a game for you to review

I was thinking about trying it because it seems very fun from the description. Teddy bear goes on killing spree because he isnt invited to a party.

animatortom 4 years ago

I saw that when it came out at E3, Pretty amazing initially!

I was beginning to wonder how someone was gong to top Conkers BFD.

This one is kinda reaching though? It turns out to be a serial killer teddy bear.  Kinda like, Is that what we want to teach our kids! The neat thing is that it is a completely open world, you can destroy everything and use everything to kill other bears.
I think I'll wait for Conkers 2. That one is fun demented, Not Manson demented:P
fat78 4 years ago

man conker was one of my favorite games, it was my first rated m game i played, and loved it. Bought the remake a few years ago on xbox.

Joel H 4 years ago

Fat78, I'd be happy to. Please ship me a PS3, a copy of the game, and accept a 30 day window for review production. PS3 and game will not be returned.

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