|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: 3000AD||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 3000AD||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 7, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-32 (online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
When the going gets rough, players can input commands and engage an auto-pilot mechanism to handle navigation or combat maneuvers. While this is an interesting and occasionally life-saving feature, it's not much fun sitting around waiting for the on-board A.I. to finish cleaning up whatever mess you got yourself into. Doing the dirty work yourself is not as engrossing as it should be. Unfortunately, teamwork doesn't pay off much either. Your squad mates are unreliable at best. Usually they'll follow your commands and provide needed assistance when going toe-to-toe against large numbers of enemy ships, but they have the unfortunate habit of getting themselves killed. Also, the enemy A.I. adapts and responds to your tactics on the battlefield. It's a nice way of saying it doesn't take long for them to find quicker ways to kill you.
One of Echo Squad's strongest points is in the graphical department. 3000AD did a great job of making space combat a colorful affair with a background of brightly hued nebula, gaseous anomalies, and other interesting visual elements scattered throughout the cosmos. After playing in similar regions of the galaxy for a while, it does begin to feel like you're looking at the same backdrop over and over again with little variety, but it is pretty.
The cockpit HUD is elaborate and colorful. It's not nearly as interactive as it looks, but it does contain important readouts on navigation, armament, and enemy vessels. Getting down to planetary surface is also quite stunning with beautiful water and cloud effects. In the tutorial, dipping down into a planet's atmosphere to cruise the surface is pretty cool, and it's expected to come into play in future episodes, but getting back into space from within the grasp of a planet's atmosphere is another story completely. If you've taken damage at all, you can forget about escape without repairs and refueling at a surface base. Even with a mint-condition ship it's difficult to breach the atmospheric barrier without a struggle.
Aside from the fact there's no one playing on the online servers, the multiplayer experience is buggy and unstructured. NPC vessels flit in and out of existence mysteriously, and playing against the computer offers little new from the main campaign. It's a free for all to be sure; it's just not an enticing one by any means.
Despite some substantive attempts to make the genre revival easier for new players to pick up, Galactic Command: Echo Squad SE remains a niche title through-and-through. If you hunger for oldschool space combat, then it's possible to derive a certain level of nostalgic enjoyment from the first installment of Echo Squad. However, the game fails in making the space combat experience more accessible to casual PC players.
CCC Staff Writer