It’s taken a while, but Rebellion’s James Bond villain simulator makes the journey from PC to consoles in triumphant fashion.
Somewhere deep down in all of us, there’s a wannabe Bond villain and Evil Genius 2: World Domination aims to bring it to the surface. The first game was released way back in 2004 but Rebellion resurrected the franchise for a PC sequel back in March, and now it’s available on consoles as well – opening up a whole new audience of secretly megalomaniacal gamers.
Rebellion clearly didn’t rush the process of porting Evil Genius 2 from the PC to consoles, and that was a wise move. It’s very much the sort of game that you would associate with the PC: a multi-layered, complex sandbox simulator, whose most intuitive control system would appear to be a keyboard and mouse.
But on consoles it works just as well, thanks to a sensibly mapped control system that uses every one of a gamepad’s buttons and triggers. One button is used solely for bringing up the game’s main menu, the triggers and the joysticks take care of zooming in and out and scrolling around the classic Bond villain lair that you must build, while the D-pad lets you move through menus.
While that control scheme means it occasionally takes slightly longer to reach some of the items you need to build, it quickly becomes intuitive, enabling you to relax and concentrate on Evil Genius 2’s deep and utterly moreish gameplay. A word of caution is required for console owners attuned to more instantly gratifying gameplay, though: Evil Genius 2 starts relatively slowly and requires a lot of initial patience if you are to prosper in it.
Your first big decision is which evil genius you want to play as: there are four, each with their own distinctive storyline, and three islands on which you can build your base, each of which presents different architectural challenges. You must build a vast array of different room types to accommodate the various types of minions you will eventually have at your beck and call, fronted up by the cover of a casino.
Research is usually dependent on the types of minions you have generated along with individual items of laboratory kit and lets you upgrade various aspects of your base. This includes your operation on the global stage, the overall quality of your minions, and the dastardly traps with which you safeguard your base from invading superspies. Research is a fairly glacial process, so it pays to have it going on in the background at all times.
The first part of the game involves stepping out onto the global stage, via a board game style interface reminiscent of Risk or Diplomacy, and fulfilling side stories that involve kidnapping specialists who allow you to create new minion types, as well as meeting a welter of criteria which eventually enable you to build a doomsday device.
Evil Genius 2 doesn’t kick into top gear until you’ve built and test fired your doomsday device: it’s all very well having the ability to erase cities from the Earth with a giant death ray, but there’s still an awful lot to do before you can parlay that into total global domination. Particularly given that the Forces of Justice, with their pesky Bond-style agents, will unite to give you as hard a time as possible.
To counter them you’ll have to generate exotic minion types like martial artists, hitmen, and nuclear scientists and, as the number of minions you control drastically increases, embark on money-making criminal schemes to pay them all. Various types of super-agents will invade your base, so you’ll have to be ready to deal with them, plus you’ll need to disrupt these do-gooding forces on the world stage.
Recruiting and upgrading a henchman helps massively, but you’ll still find yourself engaging in a major plate-spinning exercise, keeping an eye on what is happening at your base (where fires will frequently break out unless you have a small army of technicians), on the global stage, and within the ranks of your minions. If you have too many of a certain type all you have to do is send your evil genius to perform a few public executions, which helps keep the rest of your staff in line.
All this proves infernally, at times obsessively, addictive. Everyone who plays Evil Genius 2 will at some stage become unhealthily fixated on one aspect or another, such as generating vast amounts of cash or kitting your guards out with the most lethal kit.
Given that you’re looking at a minimum of 20 hours to complete one of the four evil genius’ campaigns, it’s a supremely meaty game. It’s also not quite like any other game on console, even as while turn-based strategies have become relatively commonplace a primarily real-time game like this is quite the novelty.
Rebellion’s decision to take its time and work out how to port Evil Genius 2 without diminishing its gameplay deserves praise and while the game is clearly not for everyone, whatever format they might be on, this is high-quality fare that offers an enjoyable sandbox of evil delights.
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