StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm - Review

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Release Date: 21/03/2013

StarCraft II Heart of the Swarm Review for PC at GAME

Brood Awakening

StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm may be classed as an expansion, but it's also a couple of games in one. Like Wings of Liberty, the foundation it builds upon, it's a real-time strategy game with a multiplayer mode that's a genuine gaming phenomenon - as well as a full singleplayer campaign, an in-built 'Arcade' of community mods and minigames, and an incredible community hub.

Insecticide

Part galactic soap opera and part chess match, part game and part sport, StarCraft II is built around the conflict between three galactic races: the humanoid Terran, high-tech Protoss, and rapacious insect-like Zerg. Heart of the Swarm's campaign is themed around Zerg, and they're a great fit for developer Blizzard: erupting from eggs and racing across the landscape in a thick-pile rush of dripping mandibles, they're an irresistibly gory biological tool.

This finds its most obvious expression in the way you evolve the Zerg between battles; picking from a trio of neat soft-choice perks one minute and more elaborate hard-lock paths the next. Do you want roaches that slow enemies with acid, or roaches that split downed foes into two mini-roaches? Do you want Ultralisks that release poison gas, or Ultralisks that return from the dead?

StarCraft 2 Heart of the Swarm Review for PC at GAME

Call That A Claw?

With no need for the strict balance of multiplayer, the campaign explodes into a babbling froth of gimmickry, and counters the Zerg's wild strengths with equally elaborate opposition. Maps feel snug and rather narrowly channelled at times, but they always channel you past things you'd want to see - whether it's that ice world where flash-freezes descend with alarming regularity, or a jungle where a sleeping monster can be roused with a snack.

It's the most tidal RTS campaign you'll ever play. By the final missions it feels like directing an ocean across a series of knotty plains, a chance to revel in mindless power for a few minutes, and to wield the swarm you've taken pains to amass. Other RTS campaigns may give you thrillingly deadly toys, but few provide meaningful opportunities for using the best of them like Heart of the Swarm does.

Killer Instinct

Solo players may be extensively catered for, but the true beating Heart of the Swarm is multiplayer - the product of several years of Wings of Liberty being stress-tested by the finest players on the planet. There are now several ways for new players to ease themselves into this section of the game, including practice matches against increasingly competent AI and, beyond this, the opportunity to play others in unranked games. But StarCraft II's reason for being is its ranked multiplayer, and specifically the laddering system that divides players into leagues based on ability.

Star Craft II Heart of the Swarm Review for PC at GAME

Heart of the Swarm's multiplayer is exceptional - involved and always exciting, with endless depth and an exquisite balance of power between its three asymmetric armies. There's a reason this is the only videogame that supports a full-time professional league. The expansion's new units enrich the interplay in little and big ways. The Terran widow mine, for example, an explosive burrowing robot, can be used to support small infantry pushes, defend an exposed part of your base, or even just sit outside the enemy's gates to say hello.

The Zerg's new units unlock horribly effective tactics; the flying Viper can 'blind' enemy units to let you rush in close, while Swarm Hosts siege enemy positions with endlessly spawning, high-damage locusts. The Protoss? They merely get the Oracle, an innocuous-looking floating deathball capable of destroying enemy workers in seconds. And the Tempest, a new capital ship shaped like twin sickles with a larger range than anything else in the game (farther than it can even see).

Real Strategy Time

Heart of the Swarm's multiplayer gives every race more offensive options than ever, and this focus on aggression leads to much more exciting games. Heart of the Swarm doesn't reinvent Wings of Liberty, but builds on and hugely improves it - to the extent that one of the best multiplayer games ever made now feels like a dry run for this. If there's a single competitive bone in your body, you really need to play Heart of the Swarm. If you're only interested in singleplayer strategy games - you still need to play it.

GAME's Verdict

The Good:

  • Incredibly balanced multiplayer
  • Best matchmaking system in games
  • Infinite replay value

The Bad

  • Cheesy single-player story
  • Requires a copy of Wings of Liberty
  • Needs a big time investment
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Pegi Rating:

Suitable for people aged and over.

Genre

Strategy

Customer Rating:

No rating yet

SKU:

Reviews-214773

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