Cortex Command Review

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Eleven years ago, Cortex Command (CC) was a nascent twinkle in Swedish independent games programmer Dan “DaTa” Tabar’s eyes. Through the decades-long development cycle, although the ever-present needs of real life may have forced him to de-prioritise or even postpone his work, they could not deter him from pursing his passion entirely. Now after long last, DaTa’s magnum opus is finally ready to be unleashed upon an unsuspecting gaming public.

Set in the far future, Cortex Command takes place in a universe where humanity has achieved immortality by means of transplanting human brains into durable robotic bodies. Liberated from the constraints of its weak, fleshy coil, humanity has exploded off Earth and into the farthest reaches of the galaxy in search of new resources and markets to exploit. Of course where there are valuables to be found, armed conflict inevitably follows.

Put very simply, Cortex Command is a 2D side scrolling action/RTS with liberal dashes of base building and resource management, all folded together with a generous dose of science fiction fandom. Think Worms: Armageddon with more guns, more base building, more blood and less comical high pitched voices.

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Terminator 1 and 2 quotes were uttered extensively by this reviewer during his playthrough.

The action takes place on side scrolling 2D battlefields upon which you and your minions have ample opportunities to unleash the destructive potential of your arsenal. A carnage riddled skirmish will result in a battlefield pockmarked with craters, stitched with bullet holes and strewn with the tangled metal of fallen troops and downed transport ships. Cortex Command‘s physics engine absolutely shines during battle; bullets fly across the screen in parabolic trajectory and explosions throw the hapless troopers caught in it like homicidal metallic ragdolls.

However, the physics engine does not always make for great gameplay. Movement can be somewhat cumbersome at times, with your troops getting stuck behind some near-invisible pixels or piece of debris. Every unit comes equipped with a jetpack as standard, but this is often difficult to use precisely and can make for some very frustrating situations where a seemingly well designed access shaft ends up being more of an obstacle, with you haplessly bouncing from wall to wall as you try and direct the jetpack’s unintuitive controls.

In addition to their distinct aesthetic styles, each of the six different teams vying for control of the planet possess their own unique weaponry and consequently have different strengths and weaknesses. Once you throw your lot in with a faction, controlling your troops is a simple matter: simply select the trooper you wish to make use of and from there use the keyboard and mouse to move, shoot, jetpack, utilise items and generally, cause as much mayhem as you want. Every action in the game, from setting AI subroutines to purchasing reinforcements, can be accessed quite easily with a few clicks of the mouse. However, although controlling a single actor is a simple matter, the simplistic control scheme does make controlling anything more than a small squad a slow affair.

Should you prefer to keep your hands clean, the AI can more than adequately handle the tasks you assign it. Don’t expect the enemy to go easy on you either; the computer is quite proficient at not only making the best use of static defences, but also taking the initiative and aggressively hunting your forces down.

In order to prepare for when your enemy decides to try and kick you off your rightful claim, you will need to consolidate your gains by building defences. The building construction pallet contains a healthy variety of different components, backdrops and contraptions all designed to add form and function to your outpost, and the base design interface is for the most part, a breeze to use. Bury your forces in the dark, murky subterranean depths, or spread your buildings across the breadth of the map; as long as you have the money to do it, your tireless corp of engineers will work unceasingly to make all of your demented Hitler’s bunker fantasies come to pixellated 2D life.

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Four factions battle to determine who would control the planet’s greatest resource: a series of monolithic Fleshlights so massive as to be visible from space.

Although this game does contain a very brief tutorial detailing movement and combat, the matter of base building remain untouched by any sort of training regime. The fact that the base construction portion of the game is initially a fairly intuitive exercise notwithstanding, it does take a bit of experimentation and trial and error to figure out what most of the doodads available to you are actually supposed to do. In a way this is perhaps a good thing if you’re the sort of person who would rather discover for yourself why spawning a fully fuelled and loaded rocket in the middle of a narrow corridor is probably a bad idea.

If we gamers are known for anything, it is our propensity to ensconce ourselves in cave-like environments within our homes for weeks upon end, subsiding on nothing but instant noodles, pizza and leftover meatloaf as we stare unblinkingly our screens. As such, you could probably see why a game such at this holds so much appeal. Bunkering down in a technology filled cave and ducking out briefly to take pot-shots at an enemy robot is something that appeals to the inner nerd-caveman in all of us.

  • PC

The Verdict

Despite a few niggling control issues and a lack of proper documentation for some of the in-game features, Cortex Command is still a fantastically enjoyable game full of all the things that make a great gaming experience: robots, bunkers, gold, and tons upon tons of guns.
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