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Ground Control is a 2000 real-time tactics video game developed by Massive Entertainment. It features 3D graphics and a free-floating camera which allows one to zoom in and out and view the action from any angle, from a bird's-eye view to the perspective of one's own assault units at ground level. As a real-time tactics game, Ground Control completely does away with resource and economic management. One must therefore focus all attention on controlling a limited set of units to achieve victory.
Units in the game include various types of tanks, hovercraft, aircraft, and infantry, and are delivered to the battlefield by orbital dropships. However, once in battle, the player is not able to summon reinforcements, so proper troop selection between levels is a key to success. Each unit type has special weapons, abilities, and armor. Players can choose to customize each unit or let the game auto-select the load-out for each mission. The units of the two factions in the game differ in several areas: the Crayven Corporation has hardier units that rely on traditional ballistics and movement. The Order of the New Dawn's units trade heavy armor for a hover propulsion system that grants them increased speed and mobility, and use energy weaponry that give them more damage potential.
Ground Control is set in the 25th century. Mankind emerged from the devastation of the Third World War (known in the game as "The Sixteen-minutes War", which almost wiped out the whole of humanity) and managed to colonize several planets across the galaxy. The Earth is ruled by a council called GCC (Global Central Command) that is formed by elected representatives and representatives of the mega corporations which rose to power after the fall of the Terran nations.
The game's plot revolves around the conflict between the Crayven Corporation and the Order of the New Dawn for the possession of the distant world of Krig 7-B. In the beginning of the game, the player assumes the role of Major Sarah Parker of the Crayven Corporation as she leads the Crayven forces in order to eliminate the presence of the "Dawnies" (her derogatory nickname in reference to followers of the Order). In the second campaign, the player assumes control of Deacon Jarred Stone in his attempt to drive the "Crays" from the surface of Krig 7-B. During the course of the campaign, however, both characters unravel a dark secret hidden within the depths of the planet, a secret that threatens all mankind, and turns out to be the reason for such interest in what seems to be a desolate fringe world.
The plot begins with Major Sarah Parker, a battle-hardened field commander, receiving orders from her boss (with whom she does not get along), Director Enrica Hayes, to attack the Order of the New Dawn with hit and run attacks, much to Parker's dismay due to lack of reinforcements. During her assignment in the Oracle Dunes, she meets a defecting Order Bishop, Bishop Delondre. He is gunned down by Order troops, but Parker gets to him and he gives her a data disk, and citing that the Order are no longer good in any meaning, but devils. She keeps the disk in her safe-keeping as it has something to do with "Project Garm".
As she excels in her duty, Hayes brings in another field commander named Major Thomas, with whom Parker immediately does not get along after he puts down her battalion with his gung-ho attitude. After securing an Order base, Thomas and his forces open fire on an Order medical facility and destroys it, killing almost 100 wounded soldiers. Parker is furious at Thomas due to the fact that the Order soldiers had surrendered to Parker and had no weapons inside. She vows to get even with him when Hayes gives Thomas a special commendation for his action.
She is later reassigned to pull guard duty to a facility named "White Asem". Before she begins her shift, another field commander named Major Mackenzie on patrol has lost contact with the CSS ASTRID after sighting Order troops. Sarah is sent down as reinforcements and destroys the entire Order force, but the order does not give any retreats in the chaos. This shocks Sarah deeply as the Order always give retreats like anyone else. The Asem facility is hit again, very effectively this time, but Parker pushes them back, and this time the Order give a retreat. Parker pursues them, and finds an Order base of operations, and, surprisingly, finds an alien relic. Hayes orders it captured, and it is brought to a Crayven command base. This raises an interesting issue, as Parker does not know why Hayes is so interested in the relic.
As the war unfolds, Thomas and Parker seem to get along, for now. Parker learns what these "Relics" mean, as they are called "Xenofacts". Finally, after driving the Order warship from the planet and stranding the remaining Order troops. Parker and Thomas finally destroy the last Order base, and capturing a very large relic, much bigger than any other Xenofact ever seen. The Crayven Corporation now assumes victory over the Order on Krig 7-B, and now begins to mop-up any stragglers.
From here, the player now assumes Deacon Jarred Stone, who explains how the Order may be down, but not out. After being briefed by his commanding officer and old friend, Magnus (who is a Paladin), he begins a series of hit and run missions, and destroying key targets to the Crayven forces. As this progresses, Stone is afraid that without their warship, the Clergy, they will be hunted down even for as long as He and Magnus hide.
After Magnus orders Stone to rescue crucial data from getting captured by Crayven forces, Stone asks Magnus to check on its condition, but Magnus quickly tells stone no, and to head to the evac zone. After returning to their hidden base, Stone checks the condition and what he finds startles him. The data is highly classified and has something to do with Project Garm, which deals with the Xenofacts. This information can only be seen by a member of the Order with the rank of cardinal, but Magnus accessed it anyway. But even before that, Bishop Delendre accessed all the data before Magnus did a month ago.
Putting this aside, Stone continues the guerrilla attacks on Crayven bases, until finally getting word from Magnus that the "Great Cardinal" Aegeri in command of WCS RETRIBUTION is arriving on Krig 7-B to aid the badly outnumbered Order forces. Stone quickly is frightened about this, and is about to tell Magnus about the data crystals when Magnus interrupts him and tells him that now is not the time. This proves that Magnus knows that Stone has read the information and is on the same track as Magnus is heading to: trouble.
After destroying the Early Warning System that the Crays used to detect enemy ships in orbit, Cardinal Aegri debriefs him, but is extremely curious about the choice of targets Magnus picked. Very surprisingly, Magnus disappears without word. Aegri asks where Magnus went, but Stone denies where as Stone did not discover this until Aegeri brought it up. Aegeri gives a series of missions to the player now that the Order is reinforced and the CSS ASTRID was pushed away to another part of the planet.
As this continues, Stone questions his fate and why they even worship the relics. He even questions what "Makes a man doubt all that he believes?". Cardinal Aegeri is growing more suspicious of stone, and sends high profile priests into Stone's command staff, prompting more fear into the eyes of his troops. Stone goes through the information of the data crystals, and shockingly finds out that there are more Xenofacts spread throughout the galaxy, even as close as to Earth, located in Mars. Krig 7-B is the first world that has multiple Xenofacts in the planet. Later on after destroying a major Crayven air base, Magnus makes contact with stone and forces Stone to see him alone. Stone frantically asks what has come over to Magnus, but Magnus gives Stone codes to the Project Garm crystals, and the ID codes of Bishop Delendre to stone so he can have access to the full codes. When stone questions what to do with the codes, Magnus says "I dont want you to do anything but follow your inner voice", prompting that there is a bigger reason why Crayven and Order forces are fighting about the Xenofacts. Magnus quickly leaves before Order Spy Satellites achieve his position.
The battle at Krig is now becoming a tie, with both sides taking even more losses than before. After pushing back a well organized cray counter-attack (after completing the series of missions that required destroying high value targets to the crays), the Order makes one final attack on a Crayven base that was built around another small alien relic. After he destroys the base, the Crayven and Order forces in Krig gather around the Polar region, where the Giant xenofact was found by Parker, and declare a cease-fire, which shocks the crowd.
Enrica Hayes and Cardinal Aegri begin talking to the crowd about the cease-fire agreement. Aegeri claims that "These relics are works of god, and it is sacrilege to continue to spill blood over them", while Hayes says "All resources formerly wasted in conflict will be put to use in unlocking the secrets of Krig 7-B". However, this deeply angers both Sarah Parker and Jarred Stone. Sarah curses under her breath, saying Hayes wanted the pillars all along either way. Stone however, says Aegeri "cannot do this, I will not allow it". On Stone's tactical computer, Magnus appears and tells stone to "Ready your armor old friend", preparing for one final fight. It is clear that both now know that there is a real reason why the alliance was even formed, or why the 2 factions come to Krig in the first place.
The next mission is where Stone finally meets Magnus once again, and they must destroy the Xenofacts before the Joint Order/Crayven force does anything with them. Stone is at first reluctant to open fire on the Joint force because there are order troops, their "own brothers", but they have no other choice. After starting the attack on the joint Order/Crayven forces, they regroup and destroy a Crayven convoy and retrieve a hidden Crayven operative who is an old friend of Magnus, Sergeant Cole (Whom the player meets when playing as Major Parker). After fighting off another Order battle group, Stone meets Major Parker who is introduced by Cole.
After meeting with Cole, Magnus, and Parker, Stone finds out that Aegeri and Hayes were in talk with each other 2 weeks before the cease-fire announcement, proving that the last few missions were just Aegeri's bargaining point. The Crayven force then discovers the base for Magnus's unit, and attacks it full force. Stone is unable to hold the line, and Magnus gathers the supplies and gives it stone as they retreat to a secured drop-zone. Magnus dies gathering the attention of the Crayven and leading them away from stone's unit, and is rescued by Major Parker.
Stone has now fully read the entire Project Garm CDs, and what he finds shakes him frighteningly to the core. The Xenofacts that the Crays and Order have been fighting for are actually a supposed signal to an ancient race so old, that humanity is an unruly infant in comparison. They built weapons to combat a deadly threat coming for them, and hid these weapons in the Xenofacts. They also created war machines that had one motive: Kill. It is unclear what was the threat, but disaster struck as Krig 7-B was the first world struck by this "Invasion", and because Krig is used to deliver a message to these Xenofacts, the pillars never got the warning to activate the fail-safe. Stone now knows that this alliance was formed so that they can use the weapons and take over the colonies, even Earth. Magnus was trying to deny the enemy by destroying the equipment that was used to unlock these "Cyborg war machines".
Stone and Parker destroy a major Crayven/Order base, while taking heavy losses for both sides. As soon as Cole, Parker, and Stone move on to attack the next and last Polar base surrounding the Huge Xenofact, stone meets cardinal Aegeri who is flying an aerodyne. The 2 argue and call each other heretics and Stone and his troops shoot him down, prompting Stone to curse him for all the deaths amongst Stone's closest friends. The Order/Crayven forces are about to activate the fail-safe system, but are stopped by Stone regardless. As stone plants DXT charges to blow up the Xenofact pillar (The only explosive that can destroy the pillar as everything else bounces off), Major Thomas arrives to kill Stone in a final confrontation, but Stone kills him and his troops.
Stone, Parker, and Cole detonate the explosives, destroying the Central Xenofact along with the smaller ones grouped near it. It strangely sends a Large Red signal shooting up to the sky, destroying the WCS RETRIBUTION and damaging the CSS ASTRID, sending it off course somewhere else off the system. The 3 gather around and congratulate each other on a job well done by saving millions and millions of lives, and they discuss on how to get both Jarred's and Sarah's Order and Crayven forces out of Krig 7-B safely. Thankfully, this alliance did not seem to capture the attention of both Order and Crayven central command, prompting that this was a possible uprising. Sarah says as long as Enrica is still out there, she can weasle her way out of the predicament.
As the CSS ASTRID is heading off somewhere else, Hayes is seen talking to a man on a laptop, and she says the whole plan was flawed from the beginning, enforcing the idea that this could have been an attempted uprising against the galaxy. This unnamed man asks why Parker was not killed as soon as she started asking questions, but Hayes could not do it as Parker was on to her already. As she curses the man that she will be in big trouble and disconnects from the line as she is wanted at the bridge to answer questions, the man says "We may have lost Krib 7-B, Enrica, but we will still win the galaxy...there are things even you don't know about". From there, the CSS ASTRID fades into black and the credits roll.
The most notable game mechanic elements revolve around the game's focus on tactics, carefully designed to discourage tank rush strategies. Armoured units (Terradynes and Hoverdynes) are weaker at the sides, rear, and from above; consequently, flanking maneuvers can be effectively used. High ground offers many major advantages; from such a position, the attacker can take advantage of lower enemies' weaker topside armour, and the attackers also receive increased accuracy and sight range and is especially useful for placing artillery.
Suppressive fire is also simulated; units being suppressed will fire less accurately. Suppression fire can be applied by any unit against stronger opponents; therefore, infantry units can effectively suppress heavy units such as tanks, even if the target is not taking any damage due to armor.
Stealth tactics can be used; units can take advantage of shadows cast by higher terrain to camouflage themselves. Infantry can also use foliage to hide. Thus, commanders too will have to scout ahead of their tanks to preempt any ambushes.
Friendly fire is taken into account; units behind the front lines will shoot friendlies in their lines of fire. Since damage in the rear is multiplied, careful attention to squad placement is required.
Units are organized within squads. While units within a squad move, fight and receive damage as individuals, they must be given orders as a squad. Each squad belongs to a certain category (Infantry, Armour, Support, or Aerodyne), and the player can select the specific unit type for each squad before each battle. For example, a Crayven armour squad can be adjusted to Scout, Light, Main Battle, or Heavy Terradyne roles. Because each unit type has its own strengths and weaknesses, as well as a distinct role, various unit combinations are required in order to achieve success.
Squads are rewarded with experience throughout the campaign, including medals awarded for each squad's combat performance, giving improved abilities. Any losses taken by a squad are replenished at the end of a mission; however, if the whole squad is wiped out, it will be removed and replaced with a new, inexperienced squad in easier difficulty levels.
All units, except for the Command APC, can select one finite special weapon and one special equipment for each mission. Special weapons range from infantry mortars and anti-tank rockets to improved missiles and tactical nuclear warheads. They can be used to improve a squad's effectiveness in its specialized role, or allow it to defeat targets which it would otherwise be virtually ineffective against. Special equipment can include medkits, repair kits, image intensifiers, afterburners, various stationary turrets, or, for the Crayven Corporation, repair stations. Most specials can usually be used two or three times during a level, although the most powerful special abilities, such as the bomber's tactical nuclear warhead, are limited to a single use.
Dropships are used to transport units to the battlefield, and are deployed at the start of a mission (with some exceptions). Each dropship can carry up to four squads regardless of squad type. The player can use up to three dropships (for a total of twelve squads plus the Command APC), although early in the single-player campaign only one or two dropships are assigned to the player.
Most units for one side are similar in function to equivalent units of the other side; some however are quite different. For example, the Order's Templar Infantry is an all-female squadron equipped with powerful anti-tank missile launchers who cannot attack infantry. Their Crayven analogue is Jaeger Infantry - a four-man squad of snipers useful for scouting.
Online play is no longer supported.
Expansion and Sequel
An expansion, Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy, was released for the game. It added a new faction, the Phoenix Mercenaries, and a new 15-mission single-player campaign, expanding on the storyline. Two games were released in 2001 in a bundle, called Ground Control Anthology.
A sequel entitled Ground Control II: Operation Exodus was released four years later with an updated graphical engine and story, but with a faster-paced game mechanics that are more in line with contemporary real-time strategy games. The most significant introduction to the game mechanics were control points and a form of economy.
- Ground Control: Dark Conspiracy
- Ground Control II: Operation Exodus
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