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General Chaos (Genesis) artwork

General Chaos (Genesis) review


"I'm a huge strategy fan, so imagine my delight when I was chosen to review General Chaos for the Sega Megadrive. Its one of the founding fathers of the genre and a lot of RTS details we're now all familiar with made their premier here. Players take control of either General Chaos or his nemesis General Havoc as each team tries to capture their opponent's capital city. You can jump into battles instantly, although there's also an option to play on a large, extremely simplified, RISK-type m..."



I'm a huge strategy fan, so imagine my delight when I was chosen to review General Chaos for the Sega Megadrive. Its one of the founding fathers of the genre and a lot of RTS details we're now all familiar with made their premier here. Players take control of either General Chaos or his nemesis General Havoc as each team tries to capture their opponent's capital city. You can jump into battles instantly, although there's also an option to play on a large, extremely simplified, RISK-type map in campaign mode. Battles themselves are also fairly basic. Before fighting, each side picks one of four sets of prearranged squads. Three of these set teams have five soldiers with various weapons. The final group composition is made of two commandos, which have a greater selection of controls available. Chaos and Havoc pick what soldiers they want to use then duke it out. The victor gets to decide where to attack next.

The unit types are precisely what you'd expect, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Gunners carry rifles and serve as fodder so you can move your more powerful characters to the front. Amongst these are the Launchers and Scorchers. The former utilises ranged attackers while the latter has a flamethrower. The final two classes are the Chucker and Blaster, which come equipped with explosives, making them effective against clusters of enemies. However, both of these require protection from the other members of your team, lest they become vulnerable and die before actually doing anything. The diversity of these units makes them easily identifiable on the isometric overview, despite the low quality of graphics.

Each fight plays out the same way. The aim of every battle is to eliminate the enemy team. You give basic commands to your men, like telling them to attack their nearest foe, or to move around the map. While terrain does vary depending on where you've chosen to assault, it often makes negligible difference to how proceedings pan out. Instead, there's focus on where your men move and what formations they take. Bunching together defensively will protect them from Gunners and Launchers, but they're sitting ducks for the blokes with bombs. Similarly, spreading your line too thin will cause your men to be picked off easily by the enemy's ranged weapons. Deploying your troops is a careful balancing act which has to constantly change depending on what the AI opts to do. Little extras such as soldiers entering hand-to-hand combat when they get close enough to each other make the experience fun and interesting – even more than a decade after its initial release.

There are a fair few problems with General Chaos. The opening titles claim I was about to play an 'arcade, action battlegame of paramilitary pandemonium'. I won't disagree that the fights are fast paced, but for the first few battles I simply mashed buttons and won without employing any real thinking. Furthermore, the small size of every zone makes battles claustrophobic and units are easily obliterated by a well-placed stick of dynamite. Most maps have extra, bonus objectives to destroy but battles are won or lost before either side can get near to these additional installations. Taking them out has no impact on the progress you make in the main game aside from giving a nifty point bonus. The lack of incentive makes these secondary goals go ignored for the most part and thus their inclusion in the game is somewhat purposeless. Perhaps if General Chaos had been specifically designed for arcades then gaining points would take priority. Unfortunately the Megadrive is a home console and people expect to be more invested in a story rather than topping a scoreboard in that setting. In addition, the campaign is simply too short to become properly attached to the General's cause. There's far more emphasis on poor attempts at slapstick, cartoon humour and quick fights than story development. Of course I'm not suggesting the developers should have slowed down the pace, but its a bit ridiculous to play a war game without knowing what the two sides are actually fighting about.

The presence of a co-op mode was obviously supposed to bring an arcade feel to the experience. Unfortunately the controls feel stiff and I was constantly competing for screen space with my partner. This does not make for an enjoyable activity, especially when you have to make quick decisions while your view is obscured by other units. Many strategies since have thankfully realised the problem with this sort of clutter, but even this title from the 16-bit era should have easily fixed such a basic issue by some play testing.

One redeeming feature in General Chaos is the music. Unlike many other games from this generation, the soundtrack is actually enjoyable to listen to and is still tolerable on the twentieth time of hearing it. This is certainly a matter of personal choice, but the up tempo, electro beats really bring a sense of urgency to each battle. The fun sound effects also add to the comic side of the game successfully. Music can make or break immersion, but its obvious that there's been effort in refining and perfecting the small selection of songs here.

There are other, subtler positives to the game too. Everything here is very basic. The controls, the story and the battles themselves are almost too simplistic for a strategy. Conversely, there's a tonne of replayability to be had. The constantly changing dynamics of the AI allow for every time you play the campaign to be different from the last. You can choose a totally different route to the enemy city and different team types to fight with. Your opponent also alters its own tactical decisions on each playthrough, making every battle appear original. The small, squad-based strategic gameplay is a precursor to huge titles like Company of Heroes. On this alone, General Chaos should be highly respected and appreciated for what it did for the genre.

Rating: 7/10

Melaisis's avatar
Community review by Melaisis (October 08, 2009)

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