Assume the role of one of the three enigmatic commandersThen we come to the story. Obviously it’s one of the main components here, tying all of the missions together, and it’s told primarily through each of the commanders’ close allies who advise them during the missions through video feeds. The voice acting is fairly passable, but the scriptwriting is shockingly bad at times. You’ll be watching a cut-scene, with only minutes until the enemy arrives, when your commander asks for a recap of the mission. The advisor obliges, and goes through the entire minutiae of who the enemy are, why you are at war with them, what your motivation is for fighting, and probably mentions your favourite sandwich filling just for the hell of it, to the point where you ignore everything they say. It’s plainly obvious that the commander would already be well aware of these facts, making you feel entirely disconnected with the character and thus the story. When, half-way through the game, you realise that you have utterly no idea who is fighting who and why, you wonder whether there’s a problem. When you realise that you don’t care either, you know there’s a problem.
With the restricted research options, limited mission scope, and hugely irritating (and unskippable) cut-scenes, once you’ve completed the missions, there’s no way you’d play any of them again through choice. As a result, I feel confident in stating that there isn’t a worthwhile single-player mode. Yes, you can play skirmish matches with CPU opponents, and the AI is fairly decent for the most part, but it doesn’t scale up properly; however high you put the difficulty setting, you will always reach a point where your defences and troops can repel the most vicious of enemy attacks, and the AI won’t increase the pressure any further – instead of coming up with a new tactic, they just keep rebuilding and resending the same ineffective attack force.
Effectively then, Supreme Commander 2 is a multiplayer game for the most part – and to be fair to Gas Powered Games, they’ve invested a lot of time into their online system. Rush timers can be set to pen units inside their bases, preventing players from falling victim to enemy tanks before they’ve got their base up and running, there are a range of customisation options so you can play land-only battles or ban experimentals from combat, and there’s a huge variety of maps to choose from. Of course though, there’s always one big problem with online play – how likely is it that you’ll get the “exciting and challenging game” I mentioned earlier? As things stand, I’d say that maybe a quarter of the matches are actually enjoyable. The other three times, you’ll have an inept ally who shouldn’t have bothered turning up; a pair of enemies who team up their ACUs on yours 25 seconds into the game; and a commander who disconnects when they realise the battle isn’t going their way... or when they remember they’re about to miss an episode of Jeremy Kyle. Naturally, this isn’t something you can pin on the developer – but it’s nothing new in the strategy genre, and is precisely why a good single player mode is a necessity.