Cortex Command

Today I am looking at Cortex Command, a very interesting game to play, though not very story-intensive. What story we do see is solely in the intro, explaining that the game takes place far into the future, after humanity has taken to the stars, colonized new planets, and met alien species. However, while they all have formed a network of trade and economy, that relationship has to be based on something- in this case, further expansion and the promise of riches.

Thus, the game proper takes place on an unnamed planet being fought over by various forces wanting to mine it for resources. Rather than battling each other in massive armies, each side controls robots and clone bodies, all manipulated by a single brain. So long as you have money, you can order more weapons and bodies, but if your brain is destroyed, it’s game over.

So, the plot is somewhat interesting, but it doesn’t really impact the gameplay beyond explaining the mechanics at work. However, what the game lacks in compelling storytelling it more than makes up for in sheer fun and variety to play with. The game offers six main factions to order weapons and warriors from, along with generic stuff from the trade service that they all reach you with. Specifically, the trade service offers skeletons and zombie-like clones that are cheap and weak, mostly useful to be deployed as guards in tight quarters or as gold diggers for money, because they lack maneuverability.

All of the factions offer proper soldiers that can take a hit better thanks to armor, and move much better thanks to jetpacks. As for how all of this reaches you, you actually have many choices. The default option calls down a rocket that lands, opens up to let out your cargo, then shoots back up. There is also a drop ship that doesn’t actually land, but instead opens up in the air to drop your items, as the name implies. Lastly you have a crate, which is simply a well cushioned box full of whatever you ordered dropped from orbit. It is the cheapest option, but it is inferior for a couple reasons.

First, you do pay money for your delivery method- the crate is the cheapest, but unlike the others it cannot fly back up to its sender, so that 20 gold is spent for good. Second, where exactly it will land is always a bit off from where you tell it to due to wind and such. This is important to me at least because you can often use rockets to land on top of enemy troops and crush them, along with using them to deliver your fighters right at your enemy’s door.

If you want to play things safe and be sure to get your money back though, drop ships are the way to go, because they don’t bother to land. This reduces how long they can be fired on, meaning your enemies are less likely to blow it out of the sky and possibly damage your cargo- or the chance that the ship’s explosion might hurt something else of yours. Alternatively, if you don’t mind the risk, you can use rockets and drops ships to ram and crush foes.

But enough about the ships- what about the cargo itself? As I said, you can order from the trade corporation itself, which gives you generic and basic weapons like pistols and shotguns, and weak but cheap bodies for guard duty and manual labor. For instance, the first suggestion the game hands you is a skeleton with a blunderbuss- a weak body with a powerful, if short-range gun. It only has one shot, but guns can reload indefinitely. This is a perfectly suitable body for defensive purposes in many cases, but the factions themselves are much more varied and impressive.

For starters, we have the Coalition, a powerful military group. Their weapons are basic pistols and rifles as well, but they come in more variety, like the Compact Assault Rifle, which trades accuracy and stopping power for rate of fire, as well as adding a rocket launcher, sniper rifle, remote detonating grenade launcher, and two more unique toys- the Auto Cannon and Uber Cannon. The Auto Cannon fires out quick explosive rounds, with the only drawback being a long reload time, and the Uber Cannon fires out a cluster bomb that shatters into exploding shrapnel, covering a fairly large area.

As for their bodies, they offer light and more armored soldiers as you might expect- note that the heavier ones cannot fly as capably with their jetpack due to weight, but can take more hits. Adding weapona only increases the weight. They also have a walking gatling gun drone you can control, or a unmoving and bigger galting turret with more ammo.

Next we have the Techion faction, a conglomerate of corporations that focus on high-tech research. Fittingly, their soldiers are robots. The Whitebot is fairly basic, but the tougher Silver Man has special nanobot protection that stops it from bleeding out as other solders due from injuries. All of their weapons are energy based; this doesn’t confer any special benefit other than appearance, but they still get he job done, and some of them are very interesting.

For instance, the Nucleo can fire out up to three slow moving energy balls that are connected via lasers. If an enemy is caught on a laser, the connected balls of energy will slam into him, doing heavy damage. The Dihalical Cannon charges up, the fires out a spiraling blast of energy that pierces through groups of enemies. And my personal favorite is the Nanorifle, the longest range sniper rifle in the game, but with only two shots. However, these are no ordinary bullets. No, they fire concentrated nanobots that eat at whatever part of the target they hit, destroying the area entirely. It could be their gun, their legs, or even their head.

The Imperatus faction are the ‘brute force’ group, and it shows. All of their weapons are simple but effective, like the Mauler, which fires out literal bursts of metal to shred enemies, or the Banshee, a very powerful sniper rifle that can blow people apart from a glancing blow. They too use robots, coming in light, average, and heavy varieties. They aren’t flashy by any means, but they get the job done.

The Ronin are a group of bandits that use ‘classic’ weapons like the AK-47 machine gun, and the RPG-7 rocket launcher. They also have a specific sniper you can order, but I have yet to figure out what sets him apart from anyone else. Sadly these guys are my least favorite, but they certainly aren’t to be underestimated- and they do have one very creative and silly weapon- a rocket-propelled chainsaw launcher that digs into whatever it hits before detonating.

The next faction is my favorite- the Dummies. Run by a factory AI that took control of its own business, it gives you crash test dummies to work with, which can survive just about any impact with no issue and are very light- though they won’t take a bullet as well as others. They also offer a small box turret and a walking tank with a machine gun attachment, but the real creativity is in their weapons.

They come in two varieties- nailguns, or energy blasters. I prefer the energy weapons myself, but I can’t argue with a Nailer Cannon that fires a barrage of red-hot nails either. Their Blaster is a fast energy weapon with low range, while my favorite of this bunch, the Annihilator, charges up to fire a very quick and long range bolt of plasma, or can fire several low-impact small bursts, and it never has to reload.

Lastly we have the Browncoats. While basic in troop choice, if you like fire they are definitely the way to go, because they have a flamethrower . Not to mention less traditional choices like a flame-spewing shotgun and a grenade launcher that fires fuel canisters to be lit up, as well as a machine gun that fires flaming bullets. For the purposes of brevity, I won’t go any further into weapons like grenades- you’ll just have to see the game for yourself.

Complementing all of this is the game’s physics engine, which keeps track of wounds, gravity, and other such things to give you the best experience possible for blowing up enemies. They bleed, they limp, they stagger, they can be blown to pieces or land with a shattering crunch from a long fall. Even better, while all of this will happen to you too, both you and your enemies have the advantage of the soldiers not being your actual brain- so you can keep calling in more to help turn things to your advantage and beat your foes.

The game doesn’t have a story mode, as I said, but it does have plenty of interesting scenarios to try out, such as fighting your way through a zombie infested cave, battling an enemy fort, surviving with one body for a full three minutes against overwhelming odds, wave defense, or you can create your own base and fortify it as you wish to battle an onslaught of foes.

The only true flaw I see in this game is the campaign mode, which I honestly have great difficulty understanding, since the game doesn’t really explain how it works at all. You’re welcome to try if you like, but the scenarios are where all the fun is, and have given me days worth of fun. All in all, the game has intensive combat and variety, and it is best played for a good battle for an hour or two at a time, something to kill time and just have fun. I would greatly recommend checking it out if you’re up for some mindless destruction and battle, but it has little else to draw you in if that isn’t your thing. Still, I greatly enjoyed it, and I hope that all of you reading can get some fun out of it too.

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