Great budget RTS, with plenty of charm and style

The Good: Good, interesting RTS gameplay; Simplified, yet with enough challenge to maintain the fun for most of the single player; good story, with some engaging characters; great jumping off point for newcomers to RTS gaming; good graphics and overall feel is excellentThe Bad: Gets repetitive; lacks the depth regular RTS gamers would expect; some voice acting is terrible, and borderline jingoistic; tower defence elements get stale quickly
Gameplay: Gameplay - 8 out of 10 8
Graphics:   Graphics - 8 out of 10 8
Sound:      Sound - 7 out of 10 7
Overall:     Overall - 8 out of 10 8

Bronze Y AwardBronze Y Award
Oil Rush – I’m sorry, but not the most exciting gaming title ever. Iceberg Interactive have managed to make this futuristic RTS-come-tower defence title, with it’s fast paced combat and simple build mechanics, sound like a plodding strategy sim set the Old West. But don’t let the title fool you – this little beauty actually has more going on under the hood than first seems evident, and although it won’t challenge longtime genre fans, it’s accessibility makes it a very intriguing prospect for people looking to dabble in the world of fast combat command.

So, set the scene: it’s the future, and the world is flooded, very much like the Costner snoozefest Waterworld. The remaining survivors are fighting over the worlds last oil reserves, and fast tactics and strong defences help the strong survive. Into this, your character, Kevin, has just gained his first military rank, and is guided by The Commander into defending his people and their resources.

What struck me first about Oil Rush is the speed of play: you start with a base or oil platform of your own, and a few units circling it. You can then select the units by left clicking the base, and right clicking the destination for the available units. Don’t want to send all your forces? That’s fine, you can select whether to send 25%, 50% or the full fleet from a simple bar above your minimap. You can also click on the units themselves.

Units are split along traditional lines, from small and fast to slow, hulking and powerful, and over the course of the game you unlock new vehicles and capabilities. Defences are simple nodes attached to the base you are defending, and again vary depending on what you expect to be attacked by. Finally, you can unlock talent points as you play, allowing units to be upgraded, or perks to be used. Again, it’s simple, but again, it really works well.

What all this means is accessibility – I’m not a huge RTS fan, but found this quick to understand, and simple to play. The game ramps the difficulty slowly, and although the first few missions are a breeze, later maps mean a need to really consider how to use your resources wisely to achieve your objectives.

Visually, its bloody good too – detail on units and buildings adds a touch of personality, and variance between terrains in different levels help add to the authenticity of the world. Floating about between skyscraper tips is great, for example, and although targetting is quite wayward, watching the gunfire flash between fast moving vehicles never gets old. Oil Rush is a great little title, and considering the price of it, worth every penny

Audio is a bit mixed – the voice acting is suitably hammy, and the combat effects work, but the odd dodgy accent borders on the offensive (one Chinese commander seemed only a smidge away from bursting into a verse of “I’m So Ronery”). However, the original soundtrack is great, and really adds atmosphere and pace to the action.

However, there are a few small blemishes – for example, long term commander will find the lack of options frustrating, and at times the game can be wildly outbalanced; the tower defence elements simply don’t really vary enough to be useful, and instead units are best deployed as guards at important outposts. One particular mission involves defending a civilian convoy, and yes, it’s a painfully nauseating as it sounds. It’s also best played in shorter bursts, or else the gameplay can get a little repetitive.

My only real gripe is that, at times, the lack of depth makes it a slightly shallower experience at later levels, which can lead to the same tactics being employed in every level. It’s easy to win most maps by simply building up all your forces and sending the entire caboodle at an enemy outpost, securing them one at a time. Units generally respawn quickly enough that you can keep a constant stream of reinforcements rolling in and overwhelm with a sheer force of numbers. Captured towers then spawn more units, so a simple game of picking your targets makes most rounds a landslide.

But don’t let these minor gripes put you off: Oil Rush is a great little title, and considering the price of it, worth every penny. Able to stand close to, if not shoulder-to-shoulder with, genre greats such as Dawn of War II or Company of Heroes, Oil Rush picks its fights well, and will certainly attract many people who find the idea of a regular RTS a bit too daunting. With good graphics, interesting characters and a simple-to-learn interfaces, it’s not going to challenge the biggest boys, but certainly makes a good argument for being an interesting diversion.