I have long been a big fan of Blizzard's games. I was absolutely hooked by the WarCraft titles, and I beat Diablo with every class. StarCraft was another title I spent a good deal of time on in college and like most people - a majority of that time was spent on the multiplayer mode.
The idea is still very much the same in this sequel. Three primary races battle with one another through a real time strategy game that balances landscapes, resource management and whether aggression or defense is the way to play. There is a campaign mode, online modes and in-game achievements to be had in StarCraft II.
Many, many (many) years later, StarCraft 2 comes out and with it a world of expectations that were so high, it seemed likely they could not be met. So, does Blizzard's legendary polish show through, or is this game one that proves not to be worth the wait?
Graphics - 9:
There's plenty of detail and the top settings are something to behold. That said, I've seen plenty of older machines run this game too, and while it doesn't look nearly as good on them, you still don't see much in the way of slowdown occurring. While the majority of your time will be spent on the field of battle, there are plenty of things to look at between levels too, and while the animations can be a bit stiff at times, overall the characters and news broadcasts are fun to watch. The movie cut scenes look awesome, and most Blizzard ones tend to do.
Sound & Music - 9:
And just like the broadcasts are fun to watch, they're even more entertaining to listen to. Music can come at you a few different ways. The jukebox is actually pretty cool between battles and the music during combat ranges from good to amazing depending on the scenario. Some of the voice soundbites you get from units when directing them can get repetitive - just like they could in the old game - but the actual voice acting for cut scenes and scripted sections of combat are well-done.
Gameplay - 9:
There is a lot to do here, but the basic premise works great. The strategy is varied from map to map, the multiplayer is well-balanced and it is easy to move around in menus and on the battlefield. There are some really good tutorials to be had, which helps newer players along and the way you earn new units and progress in the campaign mode is excellent for preparing you for the multiplayer.
One complaint - my video card (a fairly standard Nvidia one) apparently has a known bug with the training videos. I never crashed or anything - the rest of the game ran great, but the training videos are supposed to start on their own and I've seen plenty of other systems handle them fine, but my particular Nvidia card set apparently freezes them on the first frame and doesn't allow the videos to run. I contacted Blizzard's tech support, and the representative I got in touch with was very friendly, but not terribly knowledgeable. I made sure all of my drivers were up to date and included a dxdiag and nfo file upon first contacting them (I do software tech support, after all) and the first thing they suggested was that I update my drivers - even though I had clearly stated that I had in the original ticket and even linked to them on Nvidia's website.
The ticket bounced around for three days and then the agent said he found a post on the forums about my problem, where a moderator had said this was a known issue that would be fixed. The forum post was from April and as of a couple of weeks ago at the end of July, it still was not fixed. Not a huge deal in the end, I still enjoyed what I was doing, but it was a somewhat annoying little episode.
Intangibles - 9:
The campaign mode is not terribly long - I beat it in a couple of days, but there are quite a few achievements you can earn, and things you can do to unlock things like profile pictures for when you play online. There is also some replay value to be had here as you can make several choices along the way that affect the storyline in relatively superficial but still interesting ways. You can also upgrade units based on money and technology points found. It seems to me you would have to play at least twice to fully unlock all of the achievements associated with the technology options.
Add the various online modes (which I have not made much use of yet, but online isn't my primary interest in most games), custom content and achievements to the mix of the single player mode, and you have plenty to do.
Overall - 9:
The game was consistently excellent and there's enough content here to keep fans of competitive multiplayer and single player fans alike happy. I got this game for Easter from my wife and it took me a little while to get at it (silly game backlog), but once I started I couldn't put it down for days. My son, who is not much of a fan of strategy games loved this one as well. He doesn't usually play turn-based strategy at all, and neither of us could think of any RTS titles he had tried before, but he was suddenly interested in them after giving this title a try.