In an event that journalists all over planet Earth referred to as "sad times", Blizzard's recently released StarCraft II wasn't available to play before midnight on the day of launch. That means my usual trick of playing games a week or so in advance (so I can get a review out before the game is on store shelves) has been well and truly scuppered, leaving me up until the wee hours of the morning, and then straight back to constructing additional pylons after a few hours of sleep.
I've had about seventeen hours to play StarCraft II, and I spent a large chunk of that time sleeping and then fussing with my Battle.net account which, for some reason, wouldn't let me play until this morning despite having the game displayed prominently whenever I logged in via a web browser. Still, it works now. PC gaming is back, baby!
It also takes chuffing ages to install, though you're treated to a rather fancy recap of the first game as it chugs away. You'll need it, too: I've completed StarCraft a few times over the years, but was left scratching my head at some of the bits - did they really happen? Maybe I wasn't paying attention all those other times. There's also a patch you need to wade through, but once that's all done you're hot to trot.
The first thing you notice is that, while it might not be the most beautiful game of all time, there's a staggering amount of incidental detail scattered all over the place. I don't think I've ever played an RTS game with this much attention to detail - the art team at Blizzard have gone overboard on creating wildlife, fauna, billboards and architecture for you to click around. I'm playing it at max detail on an Alienware PC, and someone else in the office said it looked beautiful on his MacBook Pro, but the engine also scales well to fit on lower spec machines.
Most of my time has been spent plugging away at the single-player campaign, of which I have just cleared the eleventh level. Expect the following to be loaded with spoilers for the first(ish) half of the game, so you might want to avert your gaze for the time being if you're pretty big on your StarCraft lore.
It opens with a traditionally spiffing cinematic of a space marine (who later joins your posse) getting plonked into one of those sweet suits of armour, and then we're off to our old buddy Jim Raynor (the primary protagonist of the original) drowning his sorrows in JoeyRay's bar on Mar Sara - the same planet that the original game started on, for those keeping up. Bearded nemesis Arcturus Mengsk, king of massively corrupt human government establishment the Terran Dominion, pops up on the telly and subsequently incites Raynor to "kick this revolution into overdrive", which means you're off to Backwater Station to cause a ruckus.