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The current obsession with 3D graphics means that few genres are safe from the ravages of polygon excess, and the real-time strategy genre is no exception. To date, most RTS games have been angled more towards action than strategy. Machines, however, takes the switchable overhead and first-person camera views of Battlezone, but the gameplay is pitched firmly in the Total Annihilation camp.
It won't come as much of a surprise to learn that the game is about managing resources and crushing enemies. The raw minerals, though, must be found by little locator droids before they can be extracted. Once the droids have established where the goodies are, it's business as usual - build a mine, and transporters to ferry the stuff to your seed pod where it can be turned into BMUs (Building Material Units), and you're in business.
In addition to the regular base structures, you can build military and civilian research centres to upgrade the available technology. There are more than 25 weapons to research and build, such as plasma rifles, napalm ion cannons, big fat nukes and other useful means inflicting death and destruction.
As you'd expect in this accelerated age, the graphics are fast and smooth. Although the undulating terrain is fairly featureless, the units are nicely animated, and firefights are a glorious blaze of lasers and pyrotechnics.
Acclaim have paid attention to some of the glaring AI faults that have plagued more established RTS classics. In Red Alert, for example, one side of your base could be under heavy attack while a troop of your tanks lazed unaware on the other side. The machines in Machines, however, recognise when nearby friendlies are under fire, and can come galloping/crawling to the rescue. The true 3D terrain also enables you to indulge in some cool ambush and stealth tactics.
Machines is not completely fault-free though. The overhead view camera can't really pull out far enough, so you often feel a bit too close to direct the action. The true-perspective 3D (ie things get smaller the further away they are) also means that it's easy to get more distant units confused.
Nevertheless, Machines is an involving addition to the burgeoning 3D RTS field. And though not quite as good as Warzone 2100 it is a solid, satisfying game. Still, you can't help feeling that you've seen it all before.