Military Madness: Nectaris Review

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Military Madness: Nectaris Publisher: Hudson
Developer: Backbone Entertainment


Platform: Xbox 360
Reviewed on Xbox 360

Near the close of the 21st century, the inhabitants of the Moon have rebelled against their Earthly masters, in a battle fought on the crater-blasted landscape of Earth's major satellite, primarily using dated technology left over from World War III. Will a single commander be able to muster what military forces the Union has on the Moon and suppress the Xenos rebellion?

Rating:
Kyle Ackerman


Military Madness: NectarisMost gamers haven't heard of Military Madness, but it's one of the longest running strategy gaming franchises on consoles. It was released on the TurboGrafx16 nearly 20 years ago, and various versions have reached platforms such as the original PlayStation, the Wii and now the Xbox 360. Military Madness: Nectaris is a genre-defining turn-based strategy game for consoles. On the Xbox 360, it's a solid game, but not quite as exciting as it seemed two decades ago.

Futuristic Combat From The Recent Past


Military Madness: NectarisMilitary Madness: Nectaris provides straightforward, turn-based combat on a battlefield divided into hexagonal spaces. Armor units are the mainstay of the battlefield, but they are easily destroyed with aerial units. Infantry are able to seize enemy headquarters and the factories scattered around the Lunar landscape that allow units to be repaired. Also, an assortment of technical units and artillery are typically weak against most forms of attack, but have special functions such as blasting enemies many hexes away or eliminating pesky aircraft.

Like many such turn-based strategy games through the ages, Military Madness: Nectaris could fundamentally be represented as a series of letters or numbers on a hexagonal grid. The only fundamental change in this latest iteration of the franchise is that the maps are fully 3D lunar landscapes, and the units look far better than they have in past versions when squads face off.

Military Madness: NectarisIn some ways, the game would be better if units were represented as letters or icons. Some of the graphics for units are very similar, so it took me a while, for example, to easily distinguish light armor from mobile anti-aircraft units. This is the steepest part of the learning curve. The single player campaign exists to introduce types of units so players can easily identify their forces and use them effectively. Once I had been through the graphics on the combat screens a few times, and fully understood how odds were calculated and things like reinforcements came into play, I was all-too-happy to hit the "B" button and quickly skip the combat screens to see the results and continue playing.

Wade Into Battle at the Frontlines or From a Vantage Point


Don't take my criticisms of the graphics too harshly. This is a solid franchise, in a genre dominated by independent developers, because, fundamentally, graphics aren't so important. What makes the game strong is its long history, making its units better balanced. Its campaigns are interesting and fun to play. The regular campaign is a great introduction to the game's rules and units, while the advanced campaign provides something of a challenge once a player understands the mechanisms.

Military Madness: NectarisThat said, everything in Military Madness: Nectaris is really a build-up and tutorial for the multiplayer mode, because the game's AI is hardly a match for a skilled player. The coolest thing about Military Madness: Nectaris's multiplayer is that it adds a "Commander" unit to play. These are walking armor – mech-like units – that are heavily customizable. They can either be transformed into the nastiest armor units on the battlefield, or can become exceptional support units that enhance nearby allied units and hinder the enemy. It was often hard to find active games of Military Madness: Nectaris on Xbox Live, but the game offers offline competitive play, so it's easy to sit on the couch with a friend and exchange salvos of competitive fire.

Military Madness: Nectaris is still a strong game, but is fundamentally the same game that has been released on consoles for two decades. The graphics aren't exceptional, but neither are they important. This is straightforward strategic fun, and presents a solid challenge to turn-based strategy enthusiasts. A bit more could have been done to polish the graphics in combat or make the units more easily distinguishable, but these issues are decidedly secondary to the wholly entertaining play in Military Madness: Nectaris.

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