As soon as Westwood announced details of Dune 2000, alarm bells started ringing. Dune 2 was the first decent real-time strategy game, and without any hint of exaggeration has shaped the genre as it stands today. Without it, Total Annihilation might never have been. Imagine that. Sends a shiver down the spine, doesn't it? Let's extend the scenario to the world of first-person shooters: what if Wolfenstein had never happened? It doesn't bear thinking about. Anyway, the thought of a sequel to Dune 2 sent saliva glands into overdrive - until we read later on that Dune 2000 wasn't really a sequel, but rather a Cremake' of the original classic. Now, remakes can either be a good thing or a bad thing. While remakes of films tend to be bigbudget money-rakers with nothing but special effects to sell them, it's the new and improved effects that make games remakes better. The truth is, though, what games publishers call sequels, we call remakes. When they start calling them remakes, you know there's something fishy going on.
The Good. The Bad And The Ugly
For those of you too young or too stoned to remember Dune 2, it was loosely based on the David Lynch film Dune, but without the pseudo-religious overtones. It was a heady mix of resource gathering, building and chaotic destruction to the last man. The resource was the spice melange, the setting was the desert planet Arrakis, and you had a choice of three sides to choose from: the Atreides were the good guys, the Harkonnen the bad, and the Ordos were mysterious, underhand and downright ugly. (Actually they were all pretty ugly, what with everyone sporting a pair of eyebrows even Dennis Healy would be ashamed to display.)
For this 98 remix, the game remains largely unchanged. All Westwood have done is meddle with the missions to make them more balanced, film some FMV and slapped it all into an updated Red Alert box. Consequently we have multiplayer options, hi-res graphics and the ability to group units, rather than having to direct them one at a time as you had to do in the original. The only evidence that this game is new is a few graphical effects like coloured lighting and smoke. Even with these enhancements -and certainly next to TA - Dune 2000 looks a year out of date. Dune 2000s biggest selling point is its simplicity. Against TA or Dark Reign, the limited number of units available make this game easy to get into. While you're there, it's fun in a back-to-basics kinda way. However, playing through the same missions with the same units does little to bring back the fervour with which the original was played; in fact the experience rather soiled the memory. In its favour, the missions played quite well, but there is absolutely nothing new here that isn't in 1001 other real-time strategy games. The novelty of building a new base every mission has long worn away, and the flat, beige terrain soon makes you reach out for something altogether greener.
Here Comes The Sun
Some die-hard Dune fans are bound to find some redeeming features (probably the worms), but those of you who haven't will just wonder what all the fuss was about. Where the first game was ground-breaking, this is just another clone, albeit from the originators. It's obvious that Dune 2000 is at best a stopgap before Tiberian Sun appears; at worst it's an excuse to print money. Westwood may have once been the bosom of creativity, but Tiberian Sun will have to be something special if they want to regain their crown.
The paradox is that from a developer of Westwood's standing, Dune 2000 is substandard. As an updated version of Dune 2 it's fine. If that was Westwood's aim in developing the game, then they have succeeded. But maybe they should have aimed their sights a little bit higher and created a sequel. They've had long enough to do that, after all.
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What we thought
"The only evidence that this game is new Is a few graphical effects like coloured lighting and smoke. Even with these enhancements - and certainly next to Total Annihilation -Dune 2000 looks a year out of data"
What you think
- "I expect everyone will slate it, as it offers nothing new. I've found it thoroughly enjoyable and have played it pretty solidly for two days since I bought it. I don't see what else this kind of genre can now offer. From here on in, everything is gonna be a variation on a theme. If you played the original and want an updated version, it won't disappoint."
- "Jesus, the graphics are awful can't believe they've done this -just copied Red Alert and changed the colours lor the worse. I've never played Dune 2, but Red Alert was one of my all-time favourite games, and I expected more from Westwood than a cut-down version of a year-old game. Building foundations for all the base units is the most annoying feature I've seen in a game of this sort, and the maps are so dull I can stand it no longer. It's back to the shop for this one - unless someone wants to swap?"
- "Your round-up of Dune 2000 'C&C Beige Alert' was cool. How about this one then: Dune 2000-it's like Dune 2but with added zeros."
- "I loved Dune 2.I remember playing it till all hours back when it first came out. I've bought nearly every real-time strategy game since, but have to say that Dune 2 remains the one I have fondest memories of. "I was obviously looking forward to this remake, but somehow it just doesn't do the same thing for me any more, ft's like being given the opportunity to go back and relive your adolescent years, only to find out that those raging hormones were actually more trouble than they were worth. "The games industry has come a long way since 1993, and the real-time strategy game along with it. It seems to me that Westwood have been given a little too much respect, and maybe it's time they started taking leaves out of other people's books (Cavedog, for example) rather than letting people take leaves out of theirs."
- "With games such as Commandos: Behind Enemy Lines around, with graphics that look very crisp and feature an engine which enables zooming, multiple cameras and superb Al, it makes me wonder if Westwood were just trying to make a quick buck."
- "I'm fed up with people slating this game - it's nothing like Red Alert tor a start! In Red Alert you can make your base as big as you want and have as many power stations, turrets, air strips and factories as you see fit. In Dune 2000, you're given a minimum of space to build your base - it's up to you to configure the base to its maximum production level. "You also said that all Westwood had done was "meddle with the missions a bit". Rubbish! found myself adopting strategies I'd never dreamt of before. In the Harkonnen seventh mission I was fighting for survival, having to watch where every Solaris went on repairing vehicles, structures, defences - and fending off dozens of Atreides attacks at the same time! And to top it all, there was an Atreides base opposite my camp where they pumped out tanks. I had to defend myself against Ornithopters with turrets, build walls to shut out the Sardaukar and all the while think about an attack... in short, it's amazing."
Back In April 1993, Two Things happened that were to irreversibly alter the face of computer gaming forever. Both events were understated affairs that barely registered as farts at the time, but four years down the line each has mushroomed into a gigantic gaming air biscuit. Often imitated (especially of late), neither has actually been bettered.
But hey, instead of me gushing on about the mag which you are reading, let us concentrate instead on the phenomenon that was (and still is) Dune 2, essentially the first decent real-time strategy game and one of the first games to be reviewed. Dune 2 was an evolutionary leap onto dry land for a genre characterised by hexes and halitosis. Gone were the reinforcements that amved in turn 13, and instead players had to create their own kick-ass units by collecting resources, building bases and defending them from relentless attack. It was Sim City with tanks; Utopia in real-time; a strategy/action game, no less. And it was fantastic.
Wavy lines (don't do it)
The first game was based on the film of the book and was an interesting mix of adventure and strategy that, somewhat ambitiously perhaps, almost managed to capture the pseudo-religious ambience of the movie. Although it was well received, the characters (as in the film) all sported hairstyles reminiscent of the Bay City Rollers. French developers Cryo were responsible. Rather than go one better by upping the adventure element, new boys Westwood changed things somewhat. The rest is legend. But enough of the history lesson. We don't want to get too misty-eyed just to build up the fact that Dune 2000 is a remake of a four-year-old game. Or do we? Lewis Peterson, the game's producer, maintains that their make-over is still something to shout about.
"Dune 2000 is an RTS, much like the RTSs you know and love, like CftC. However, it's set in the Dune universe, an exotic setting full of political intrigue and danger. It was a classic game that we wanted to give devoted fans a chance to revisit, and give a new generation of gamers the opportunity to experience for the first time. The engine in Dune 2000 is new. It has been developed to support various new features that were not found in the original. It will contain all of the simplicity and excitement that made the original, CftCand Red Alert fun to play."
What will be apparent only to people who battled through Dune 2 are the changes made to the control system. For any gamer worth their salt it will be nothing new, ported as it is from Red Alert, but compared to the fiddly old Dune 2 interface it should be a massive improvement. Players will be able to group units so that,.at the press of a key. hordes of infantry and tanks can trundle over the sand to crush the enemy base. Anyone with even a vague memory of Dune 2 will remember how frustrating it was to manually select and direct your attack unit by unit, resulting in weak and uncoordinated attacks. Those who already own a copy of both Dune 2 and Red Alert may well ask just how different Dune 2000 will be from the classic they know and love so well.
However, the fact that Westwood are updating all the old maps is perhaps testament to their longstanding playability.
'There will be nine missions for each of the three sides, making 27 missions in total,' says Lewis. "Each mission from the original game has been redesigned to take advantage of the new technology and interface used in Dune 2000. This should provide fans of the original with a new experience, even if they played through every mission in Dune 2. Our designers are now finishing off the process of creating alternate missions for each side to add replay value."
The redesign has also prompted a new set of cut-scenes -those old ones would never do. "Yes, each House will also have its own set of specially shot video sequences." Lewis explains. "On top of that we have brought in different actors to play the parts of the mentats (advisors) for each side, as well as the Emperor, Bene Geserit truthsayer and a few others. We have also gone in and redone the artwork for each of the sides. This way, players can distinguish and really get a feel for the Houses they have chosen."
It's the multi-player element that Dune 2 fans have been crying out for ever since Command & Conquer was released. Before starting a campaign, I myself have often wondered which of the three Houses would be the best in an out and out fist fight, and soon we'll all be able to find out. Lewis has always made it clear that the emphasis will remain on the diversity of the infantry units. They won't be just cannon fodder, instead they'll be harder to hit and able to dash up mountain sides via predefined routes. The idea is to keep multi-player Dune a very different experience from Command & Conquer. It seems that Westwood can't stress enough how fresh the ideas behind Dune 2 still are: "With updated graphics, sound, special effects and multi-player capability, we expect Dune 2000 will stand on its own, New and old players alike will get another chance to conquer the desert planet Arrakis,"
Spice. It is the nexus of all civilized societies. Often called Melange, Spice serves many purposes. The elite who consume Spice regularly can live for hundreds of years. Indeed, widespread use of Spice has prolonged the lives of millions. But all of this comes at a price. The rarity of Spice has sparked a bitter conflict on Arrakis (the only known planet with Spice) between three powerful houses of the empire. In Dune 2000, you take control of one of the three houses in their campaign to dominate Arrakis and control the flow of Spice. He who controls the Spice, controls the universe.
Dune 2000 is a real-time strategy game that dwells an the universe of Frank Herbert's Dune series. Often considered the grand-daddy of all RTS games, Dune 2000 is an updated version of the 1992 classic Dune 2, Some would argue that Dune 2 is one of the most influential strategy games ever made. The structure of managing resources, building a base and controlling troops, all in real time, has spawned a market in size that's comparable to the likes of first-person shooters. However, Dune 2000 on the PlayStation will be more than just a straight port of the PC title.
For starters, Westwood has entirely reworked the graphics engine to bring Dune 2000 into the world of polygons. Each building and unit in the game has been remodeled into 3D. This allows the engine to flex some of the special effects available to PlayStation games like lightsourcing, shading and particle effects. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to using 3D. For instance, compared to its 2D PC counterpart, a lot of the buildings and units look less detailed. We'll have to wait to see how the game looks once it's finalized, but from what we've seen so far, we think it's worth the tradeoff. While the terrain is still a 2D background, the game now takes into account 3D factors like elevation, ridges and plateaus.
Like all PC titles which rely on using the mouse, controlling the game on a PlayStation is always an issue. Sure, there's mouse support but you probably don't own one. Luckily, Dune 2000 has excellent analog support for mouse emulation. It's easy to navigate around the map and after a little getting used to, the menu system will become second nature. Of all the RTS games for the consoles, we've found that Dune 2000 has one of the better control schemes. Finally, Dune 2000 supports the PlayStation link cable for true head-to-head two-player action. That's good, because in a market that's quickly filling to capacity with real-time strategy games, Dune 2000 needs to stand distinguished.
- MANUFACTURER - Westwood Studios
- THEME - Strategy
- NUMBER OF PLAYERS - 1 or 2
The planet Arrakis, also known as Dune, is the sole location of the Spice Melange. Three great houses have come together to fight for control of Dune: noble House Atreides, insidious House Ordos, and evil House Harkonnen. The Emperor has decided that whichever House produces the most Spice will be given control over the entire planet. This will grant power and money, because the Spice must flow.
One of the current buzzwords in the gaming community is "real-time strategy," or RTS. Back in 1993, RTS was defined by the Westwood Studios game Dune II. The player could manage resources and fight against opponents that would react fairly realistically, without having to do things on a turn-by-turn basis. Dune II is extremely limited by today's standards, but it paved the way for other RTS games like Age of Empires and Starcraft. Dune II is one of those games that I would occasionally install, play for long hours, then forget about for a while. Six to eight months later, I'd reinstall it and play some more. My wife would say, "Didn't you just finish playing this game?" I'd say, "Yeah, but it's FUN! And this time I'm gonna try something new!" Once other RTS games started to hit the market, I found myself playing Dune II less and less often. One of my main complaints with Dune II was the fact that I couldn't play against any of my friends. We'd have a rousing fragfest of Doom 2 over modem or network, but I couldn't do the same thing with Dune II. This really bit.
So what is Dune 2000? Basically, it's Dune II with a makeover and some extra polish. Westwood either decided that the fans deserved to have the added thrill of the old 256-color Dune II revamped with 16-bit color and multiplayer capabilities, or they saw the chance of making more money by repackaging an old game and selling it again. There are many new features in Dune 2000, but there's still a lot of the old flavor and gameplay of Dune II. Could this be the best of both worlds?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
All my experience is clouded by my knowledge of Dune II, and I have based my explanation of Dune 2000 on this experience. If you're familiar with Dune II, you can jump in and play Dune 2000 pretty much from the get-go.
There are three teams you can choose to play: Blue Atreides, Green Ordos or Red Harkonnen. Each House has its own flavor, history and attributes, but almost every building or fighting unit you can create in the game is identical from House to House. Mastering one House and its capabilities will get you 95% of the way to mastering the other two Houses and their capabilities. You just have to learn a few different nuances that separate them. This is, unfortunately, a drawback because it does decrease replayability for the sake of novelty. Also, if you're familiar with Command & Conquer, you will recognize the basic controls and interface because Dune 2000 was built with the C&C engine.
You start off with very basic units: individual troopers and armored trikes. With each new scenario, you get more buildings and better fighting units, from tanks to rocket launchers to even stronger defenses. Spice harvesting is the basis for each scenario, as it provides the funding for buildings and vehicles. You must achieve a specific goal in order to move on to the next scenario. The Harkonnen and Ordos scenarios are all variations on two themes: kill everyone, or harvest X amount of spice. Only the Atreides scenarios have goals with any additional depth: rescue hostages, or capture a specific building. It seemed that most of the creative work went into the Atreides side of the game.
There are several changes from the original Dune II. Multiplayer support has been added via modem/serial, over a LAN with IPX, or over the Internet with TCP/IP. It was great to be able to play with others, because the AI of the computer players was sadly lacking. However, not all changes are for the best. One common tactic I used in Dune II was to build multiple buildings so I could produce more than one unit at a time. But regardless of how many heavy factories I had, I could not produce more than one tank at a time in Dune 2000. As far as I could see, having multiple buildings did not aid me at all, other than as a backup if one was destroyed.
The graphics have been updated to 16-bit color, although if you have a slower system or a video card that can't quite handle it, there is an 8-bit option available. While the isometric three-quarter view looks rather flat, it is an improvement over the top-down view of the original. The landscape looks very nice, and I could swear the cliff edges were taken from real images and nicely melded into place. There are games available with more exciting graphics, but since Dune 2000 was written with the C&C engine, it was limited to the graphics capabilities of that game.
One of the things that really make this an enjoyable game are the cut-scenes that kick off each level. It's apparent that a lot of quality time went into creating these, and they really set the stage. I found myself looking for a game cheat specifically so I could skip the levels and watch the videos in between. (Yeah, I know, I shouldn't have done that, but they were fun.) Westwood hired John Rhys-Davies to play the role of the Atreides Mentat, and he did a very nice job; his was the most enjoyable performance. The other cut-scenes were also very well-done, but they seemed to lack the extra plot writing that the scenes with Rhys-Davies evidenced. It seemed like the writers really spent their time working on House Atreides more than the others to create premium gameplay.
Dune II featured typical MIDI music, but it was easy on the ears. Dune 2000 jumped on that theme and expanded it, weaving a lot of the themes from the Dune movie soundtrack into the background audio. I never found myself distracted by the music while playing, which is frankly what you want from a RTS game. The quality of the explosions and the units talking are better than the original Dune II.
Windows 95/98, Pentium 90 MHz (133 MHz or better recommended), 16 MB RAM, 16-bit color video card (2 MB video RAM recommended), 4X CD-ROM drive, 60 MB hard drive space, mouse, 28.8 Kbps modem or better (for modem or Internet play), DirectSound-compatible sound card
I was impressed by the documentation and its coverage of the forces and buildings available to the player. There are also good explanations of setting up multiplayer games. It isn't the most detailed documentation, but it is much better than many other games I've seen.
Unless you are an avid Dune fan, I would not recommend purchasing this game. Some very good work was put into upgrading the original Dune II, but since Westwood based Dune 2000 on the older Command & Conquer engine, Dune 2000 was outdated the day it was released. I will probably dust this game off later this year and replay it to see if has the same hook that Dune II had. Other than that, it will sit on my shelf while I spend time with other games. I give Dune 2000 a score of 67. It has some very good points, but the drawbacks keep it from getting a better score.
Snapshots and Media
- Command & Conquer Red Alert
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 - Yuri's Revenge
- Command & Conquer Red Alert Retaliation
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert The Aftermath
- Emperor: Battle for Dune
- Defcon 5
- Earth 2150
- Submarine Titans
- The Moon Project
- World War 2
- World War III: Black Gold