As always, the latest instalment in the classic StarCraft series is a game of two halves, with the single player offering a completely different experience to online skirmishes with human players. But whether you’re a solitary gamer or a multiplayer junkie, Heart Of The Swarm is real-time strategy at its best.
For solo players, Heart Of The Swarm is a blast from beginning to end, gifting gamers with a wide variety of missions that encourage you to experiment with different tactics, a kick-ass central character who is impossibly powerful and fun to control in battle, and an epic story that subtly makes you care about the central characters and keeps you gripped until the end credits roll (even if the dialogue is often as cheesy as hell). Choosing permanent evolutionary paths for units also throws new challenges and possibilities into the mix, and even experienced StarCrafters will be kept on their toes as this interstellar tale of revenge unfolds.
On the multiplayer front – the main meat for most StarCraft players – Heart Of The Swarm doesn’t attempt to fix what ain’t broken, and places players on a completely level playing field where raw strategic skills rather than luck dictates who’ll emerge victorious. A wider variety of buildings and other new units add extra depth to the multiplayer and make it fun to get to grips with all over again, while gentle tweaks designed to embrace newbies and avoid them being shafted by hardened experts the moment they step online also enhances the beloved StarCraft formula.
On the downside, while the single-player game is tremendous fun, most of the missions are painfully easy and won’t pose any challenge for seasoned fans, and it often feels as if you’re being pushed down a narrow, predetermined route, with little freedom to freewheel or leave the beaten path. But as Heart Of The Swarm will be embraced by most fans for its multiplayer majesty, this is another excellent showing for the series and an expansion StarCraft nuts will be playing for years to come.
Reviewed by Matt Kamen