Multiplayer Insanity Abounds with General Chaos
What would you get if you took the over top explosion and destruction from an action war game and combined it with the pacing and planning of a real time strategy game? Probably something like General Chaos. General Chaos takes the over the top action and insanity, and throws in some squad based tactics and a rock-paper-scissors troop balance to create an experience unlock any other on the Genesis. While the single player leaves much to be desired, grab a second player and the fun never stops.
The squad selection is a large part of the game. Your troops are armed with one weapon, be it an RPG, Flamethrower, Grenade, Dynamite, or Machine Gun. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and each can beat any other weapon in a 1v1. The real joy comes from selecting a squad that is balanced in a particular way to bring out the strengths of each. For example, the Blaster, armed with dynamite, does top damage, but is highly vulnerable. However, if you can first knock the opponent down with a grenade, the Blaster can move in for the kill. Each unit is easily distinguishable on the field, and each has its own idiosyncrasies to master.
The weaknesses, however, also begin to show their face. First of all, controlling 5 units is nigh impossible, so you are given "indirect" control over each of them. You select a unit, place the cursor on the map, and then "order" that unit to run to that location. You then cycle to the next, select his position, and repeat. Pressing the "fire" button causes all of your units to discharge their weapons. While this is awesome the first time you do it, it becomes cumbersome. The machine gun has a short reload time, while the launcher has a much longer one. The flamethrower has an "overheat" mechanic the prevent continuous fire. So simply hitting the fire button works for some of the units, but not all. Additionally, it becomes very hard to keep track of them, and you will often look over to see an opponent has cornered one of your units and dispatched him. I think the game would be improved even the most rudimentary AI system for your other units. Also, when units get too close, there is a "Close Quarters Combat" mini-game. This game is completely unbalanced, and at times the computer AI will simply force a win.
Having said that, the 2 player co-op is about the most fun you can have with your Genesis. Seriously. With 2 players, you select instead a squad of 4 units, to go up against the enemy's 5. Each player controls 2 units, and this makes all the difference. You can easily watch both, and now the game turns into a madcap strategic battle. You can actually use your units strengths to exploit enemy weaknesses! Additionally, you can work with the other human player to really punish them. The AI scales nicely, adding challenge as you progress. The only problem is the occasional cheapness of the AI simply having more health and doing more damage, but this is easily overlooked. There is also a 2 player competitive mode, which is a nice distraction, but once you have a friend to play with, you will always be thinking, "We could just be playing co-op, laughing madly the whole while."
This game has no appreciable story, but there is a ton of charm to the characters and settings. Everything is a caricature of what a real army may look like, from the square jawed generals with sexy blonde assistants to the Rambo rip-off Gunner. The music is annoying, but the sound effects are amazing. Replay value depends entirely on having a second player, if you do, you will never tire of this.
General Chaos is a middle of the pack action/strategy war game. The squad tactics aren't as deep as an RTS, and the control isn't tight enough to compete with the best action games. If you have a second player, however, this game comes alive. If you can find someone to play with regularly, this game is 5 out of 5 stars, as a single player experience, about 3 depending on how much time you are willing to devote to making the controls work for you. As a whole, a memorable experience, and worth a look.