QUICKTAKE: Freedom of choice reigns supreme in Bohemia Interactive's upcoming RTS/action hybrid. Carrier Command: Gaea Mission can be played as either as a full-on RTS or players can jump into the cockpit of their own units for a more direct approach. Both ways prove to be fun and intuitive.
THE DEMO: The PC version showed off a polished skirmish between two different factions fighting over 33 islands. After the Bohemia rep showed off the three different island types (mining, production, and defense), the demo showed off the game's combat system and some brief snippets of the campaign.
DETAILS: At its core, Carrier Command: Gaea Mission is an RTS game, centered around two factions battling over control of a system of islands using naval carriers. The Bohemia rep demonstrated classic elements of this genre, sending out aerial (Manta) and ground (Walrus) units to attack enemy islands. Commands could be issued on the fly, in case players need to hastily change their strategy. For example, players could set waypoints to assist a Manta unit on the brink of destruction. In addition to issuing these commands with the mouse and keyboard, the Bohemia rep also made sure to demonstrate the ease of shuffling units using the Xbox 360 controller. It was not only impressive to see player units moved around so easily, but I was also pleased to see how friendly the controls would be to console players.
For those preferring a more direct approach, however, players could take control of any of their units through a first-person or third-person perspective. At this point, the genre completely changes to an action game, with players and their AI partners fighting off enemies to seize control of the neighboring island. If a Manta or Walrus receives too much damage, players can simply hop into the cockpit of one of the friendly AI vehicles and start fresh. It's an interesting alternative to the traditional RTS formula and I think it will appeal greatly to players less interested in the game's strategic element.
One last thing the Bohemia rep showed off was Gaea Mission's campaign, which introduces FPS stages in addition to the core RTS gameplay. The first stage showed one of the game's characters traversing an island inside one of the Walrus units before exiting to infiltrate a facility. These FPS stages were added in order to tie the game's story together seamlessly, as seen in one of the opening stages that required the player to infiltrate an enemy facility. The FPS stages looked decent, but I can't help but wonder how well these levels will fit within a game built mainly to be an RTS experience. From what I gathered, however, the story appears to be a supplement to the main experience. Those looking to jump right into the RTS part of the game can jump into a skirmish right away.
RTS and action game fans will both find something to love in Carrier Command: Gaea Mission. On top of that, Xbox 360 owners that have been craving a console-friendly RTS will likely find what they're looking for. This is a title I think skilled tacticians and hotshot pilots will both be able to enjoy. Look for Carrier Command: Gaea Mission to arrive on PC and Xbox 360 in September.