Instead of two similarly powered enemies facing off, the three distinct races in StarCraft have unique capabilities and strategies. Everyone still competes in the RTS genre''s typical race for resources, but that''s the only shared trait. Terrans can move their bulky mechanized bases as necessary, while the reptilian Zerg grow their colonies and warriors from mutating larvae. Meanwhile, the noble Protoss warp in equipment from their home world using psionic powers.
Not only does game maker Blizzard juggle the races'' playability and match it with superb art and sound effects, it also weaves together an engrossing three-act plot. Early on, as a Terran magistrate, you spend a breathtaking 30 minutes defending against a Zerg onslaught. As the story unfolds around you, you''ll experience the Zerg''s hive mentality and decipher the mysterious Protoss by the game''s dramatic conclusion.
Missions vary in scope and are effectively framed with dialogue, chapter screens, and in-mission exposition. Multiplayer games are also very well represented by Blizzard''s own free Battle.net service. If you''d rather play over a local area network, StarCraft will generously "spawn" up to seven copies so your friends can join in.
In keeping with StarCraft''s groundbreaking design, Brood War presents you with three sides of a galactic conflict. Scheming humans, insidious Zerg, and proud Protoss collide again, with stunning new cinematics setting the stage. Old friends and foes and ominous new arrivals give the story a breakneck pace, while a handful of additions to each race''s arsenal makes for tense battles. Brood War also features stellar new environments and ambient art, as well as more than 100 additional multiplayer maps.
Some missions require a bit of finesse, breaking the resource-gathering routine while making good use of the new units. Humans now have Valkyrie missile frigates as well as medics who automatically try to heal your grunts. New for the Zerg air force is the acid-spewing Devourer; the new Lurker unit provides heavy-duty (under)ground support. Along with the Corsair fighter, the Protoss reenter the fray with Dark Templar, which can merge to form the devastating Dark Archon. Unfortunately, units old and new still suffer from weak artificial intelligence in path finding.
Real-time strategy games don''t get any more epic or any more satisfying. --Jack Gardiner