|Editor Rating:||8/10, based on 1 review|
|User Rating:||8.0/10 - 1 vote|
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If you mention the film Dune to just about anyone, their reply will be either "It was a bit hard to follow," "It wasn't as good as the book." or "Ah yes, it had Sting in it. didn't it?" And you can't really argue, can you - especially with the last one? It's ridiculous really, putting Sting in a film. Just think about it... think of all the work and money that goes into making a movie. All that time and organisation. The conception and writing of the script and the agents touting this script around the film companies until someone says "Yes we'll commit". Then the rounding up of all those people, from the lighting technicians to the sound engineers, from the 'gaffers' to the people in charge of making the sandwiches, from the actors and actresses to the stunt team, from the producer's 'secretary' to the director's 'travelling companion'. And that's just the manpower side of the equation. Added to that there's the equipment - all the cameras and lights and things. And then, of course, there are the location shoots... all the above have to be flown around the world, set up, taken down, moved on, flown around a bit more, and so on. And that's only a simplistic view - in reality it's far more complicated and far more nightmarish. So why the buggery, with all this time, effort and money on the line, does a casting director say: "Hey. let's cast Sting in it somewhere"? And more frighteningly, why do the producer and director agree? After all suggesting that Sting goes into a film is the same as suggesting that giant posters be stuck up outside cinemas, saying "This film has got some shitty bits in it". But I digress (I'm not sure we want to know about that. Ed). And anyway, the first excellent thing about Dune 2 (the game) is that it hasn't got Sting in it anywhere. But what exactly is in it, if not Sting? Bear with me...
So simple it's brilliant
There are about a billion ways one could approach the design of a game such as Dune 2, but most of them would end up being crap... pseudy at best anc over complicated at worst, in a sort of 12 disk megs extravaganza taking up 30 megs of hard-drive space and coming with a manual thicker than Henry Cooper. Virgin, however, have gone and done Dune II in a way that you simply wouldn't expect (well I didn't, anyway). It's one of those approaches that's so simple it makes you kick yourself and say "Aaaah, of course." Dune 2, basically - and you'll have gathered this from the screenshots already - is very much along the lines of Sim City in that you have tel build things but have limited resources with whichj to do so... and it's viewed from above.
Death, carnage and destruction
Now call me Mr Unpleasant Personality if you like, but when I'm playing a computer game I like to be able to kill things. And if you're familiar with the Dune books, you'll know that violence and death feature quite heavily (in-between all the 'clever' bits, of course). So is Dune II just about constructing buildings and doing a bit of town planning? Not onl your nelly. It's about constructing buildings, doing a bit of town planning, making loads of vehicles/ weapons and then killing every single other thing on the map. And the vehicles/weapons with which you do this killing? Effective, to say the least. The number of vehicles/weapons at your disposal at any one time? Lots. And the control interface? One of the best I've seen. Tactics? Yes, there are some serious tactics involved - blit not so serious that they get in the way of the fun. So now what we have is a Sim City clone which is also a real-time shoot 'em-up. In fact, although I hate the term thinking man's anything. I'm forced to conclude that this is a thinking man's shoot 'em-up.
From the opening level (a simple instructional scenario in which the object is to make 1000 credits and not to bother attacking anything) through the middle levels (where you're eating away at the enemy's hold on Arrakis), all the way to the final level (in which - er. I don't want to give anything away but let's just say it's a nightmare). Dune II will have you totally hooked. It actually cured me of my withdrawal symptoms from having completed Star Control 2, and is so simple to get to grips with that I had it sussed in five minutes. The artificial intelligence is brilliant, as is the interface (as I've said already) - allowing you to control 50 mobile units as instinctively as if they were your own fingers. ("Speak for yourself on that one, pal" - Joe Thresher Incident' O'Grady, ex-farm labourer). The pace of Dune II can easily be described as frenetic, and the overall atmosphere (especially if you've read the book or seen Sting in concert) is evocative... I liked it so much I may even go down to the bargain basement and pick up an old Police album for 97p.
So what's going on?
If you've read the book, seen the film, worn the T-shirt, bought the pencil case or are a Sting fan, then the following will make immediate sense to you. But if you've done none of the above, don't worry as it'll still be fairly clear... this game doesn't let itself get bogged down in any intricacies of plot. Here's a brief scenario, and It's all you need to know.
The planet Arrakis is a desert planet, consisting almost entirely of sand and rock.
There's a life form indigenous to Arrakis called the Sand Worm, which can grow up to 500 meters long with a diameter to match. A Sand Worm will 'eat' anything that it sees.
The Sand Worms produce a substance called Melange, which, when consumed by humans, turns out to be a powerful mind-altering drug. Melange is commonly known as Spice, and whoever controls the Spice controls the universe. (Or something like that).
Spice fields litter the surface of Arrakis and are crying out to be mined, but sometimes they are guarded by Sand Worms.
There exist three tribes', three space faring 'factions'. They are The Atreides, The Ordos and The Harkonnen. (Although I only remember the Atreides and the Harkonnen from the book: mind you. it's been about seven years since I read it...)
The Emperor (of the universe or whatever) has decreed that The Atreides, The Ordos and The Harkonnen all have equal claims to the planet Arrakis. He has proclaimed that it must be a free for all, and that whoever can harvest the most spice will prevail. In other words, he's told the houses to go to war. On the surface of Arrakis. Each house must wipe out the other two.
To actually harvest the spice, each house must construct a base of operations and then produce harvesters - large, slow, defenceless tracked vehicles which have to return to base every time they attain a full load. To protect the harvesters (and the base, which can grow to city size over time), each side has a number of different defence/attack vehicles at its disposal. Foot soldiers can be manufactured too. But all this costs money. It costs Spice.
While one vehicle can attack another vehicle and win, it can do nothing about a Sand Worm... the only protection from a Worm is for the vehicle or vehicles in question to get off the sand and onto some rock. The bases/cities can only be built on rock, by the way, in case you were wondering - so no worries there.
And that's about it. All there is to add is that you can choose to play the part of any one of the three houses. Will you be the saintly Atreides. the insidious Ordos or the unbelievably evil Harkonnen?