Civilization: Revolution Hands-On Impressions

civrev4.jpgIt's hard to imagine a game like Civilization working on a console. Sure, there's nothing technically stopping it from functioning, but tweaking the controls and interface so they can be managed almost effortlessly using nothing but the limited selection of buttons on your average gamepad has to pose a bit of a problem.

It'd have to be extra painful for a developer so intimately familiar with the PC. Yet, Firaxis has taken up this exact challenge. Civ: Rev represents the first time the series has ventured to other platforms.

Last week I had a chance to play the Xbox 360 version of Civilization: Revolution up at Take 2's HQ in Hornsby. I was hesitant to pick up the control pad, feeling that it would somehow taint my love of the series, but then I wouldn't have been able to write this hands-on.The first stop on the preview train was the civilisation selection menu. At the moment there's 16 civs on offer, and I'm pretty sure this number won't be changing anytime soon.

Rather than throw up a bunch of confusing statistics as you flick through each civilisation, they're conveniently summarised into the pros received during each game age. For example, the Romans get half-price roads and wonders, while the Indians get rapid city growth and free religion technology. I went with the Romans - the classic choice - and started the game.

The most obvious change is the streamlined interface. And by streamlined, I mean streamlined. All the vital details of your civ are compressed into the bottom-left hand corner, including the amount of gold in your treasury, how much gold you're getting each turn, the current year, the progress of research and how long until your next civ hero will manifest. Moving units is as easy as twiddling the left analog stick, and going through a stack requires nothing more than the D-pad. A downward press while over a city will drill into the specifics, and allow you to manage unit and building construction.

Further console tweaks don't appear until you found your first city. By default, a new city will automatically start producing warriors, which can be used to defend your newly established towns and explore the world. There's no auto-explore option as of the preview I played, so I had to move them around manually. Like previous games, you'll encounter barbarians that will slow you down, and special sites to give small boons of gold and other resources.

Once you get your troops moving, you can combine a stack of three identical units into a single force by pressing "Y", providing an additive bonus to their attack and defence values. Unsurprisingly, I found this the most effective way to conquer enemy cities.

Troops gain experience as they fight, and at certain experience levels can be given special abilities, such as Guerrilla, Blitz and Infiltration. The preview build I played didn't provide any descriptions for these, and I'm hoping they'll be added later considering how numerous the other context-sensitive help pop-ups were during the game.

Units with special abilities receive cool names, like "Ninja" for Infiltration and "Lightning" for Blitz, so you don't forget who can do what.

Advisors didn't appear to be fully implemented in the preview, as there didn't seem to be any way to place them on automatic. Not that it's a big deal with everything as streamlined as it is.

There were some speed issues, but nothing that won't be fixed by the time it comes out Q1/Q2 2008. If you can wait that long, then all you'll need is an Xbox 360, Wii, DS or PS3.

Oh, and the main menu had an option "Game of the week", which may be part of a plan for downloadable content, but there's nothing definite at the moment.

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Comments

    On a console? I cant see this working unless keyboard/mouse is supported...

    "Last week I had a chance to play the Xbox 360 version of Civilization: Revolution up at Take 2's HQ in Hornsby."

    Hornsby....like Hornsby on the upper north shore of Sydney. Take 2 has a headquarters in Hornsby... any more information about this? Is there some other Hornsby which I don't live in where they are making this game?

    @Edward: Firaxis is developing the game, Take 2 is just the publisher.

    @Edward - There is a Take2 Office in Hornsby in the upper north shore, I go to school just near it - It's just near the Hornsby RTA, and they used to (they still might) have a HUUGE Bioshock poster out front - It's just near Hornsby railway station and the Hornsby RTA

    Ah thanks, still seems strange that a video game publisher exists down the end of my street. Hornsby must be like the polar opposite of Seattle.

    "Civ: Rev represents the first time the series has ventured to other platforms."

    I had Civilization on my PlayStation and Amiga so it's definitely not the first time it has been on other platforms.

    Wikipedia says: Civilization was originally developed for MS-DOS running on a PC. It has undergone numerous revisions for various platforms (including Windows, Macintosh, Amiga, Atari ST, PlayStation, N-Gage and Super Nintendo) and now exists in several versions.

    Geez, if a reviewer can't even consult Wikipedia before swallowing the PR spin what does that say for the rest of their impressions?

    You're absolutely right. That should read "next-gen consoles", not "other platforms".

    According to Firaxis, it's the first time the game has been designed with consoles in mind, rather than being a straight port with minor alterations. This is the point I was trying to make, but didn't make as well as I could have.

    I do take offense to your comments about swallowing PR spin however. If this were indeed the case, then my impressions of Lost must mean Ubisoft has some really bad spin.

    this isn't the first time this game has been on console, it has been on super Nintendo the play station 1.

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