Perhaps the best example of how the finer details of army management have been made more comprehensible is with the improvements made to that most basic of unit: the engineer. If set on "Patrol Mode", they'll potter about repairing your units and structures as and when, and harvest scrap metal. It's all automatic, so you don't have to fumble about with micro-management. Brilliantly useful.
Layered on top of your base and army building is an upgrading system that works similarly to RPG tech trees. Here, you spend points in one of five areas: land, naval, air, ACU and structure. Advancing down these tech trees is essential to success - the most powerful units, the eye-catching "Experimentals", only become available once you've spent a considerable number of points in one of the five paths (you can pump them out half finished if you're short of time, but they're likely to malfunction). The point, again, is that it's quick and easy to see what leads to what, and what benefits your choices will have; an important mechanic made easy.
These days, a strong single-player (or indeed co-op) story campaign is key to any successful RTS, and Gas Powered Games knows it. SupCom 2 begins 25 years after the events of standalone expansion Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance. Three factions are playable across the 18 missions: firstly the United Earth Federation, then the religious Illuminate, and finally the tech-obsessed Cybran Nation. The UEF campaign begins with the player in control of an ACU driven by veteran soldier Dominic Maddox. The Cybran invade, and it's your job to fend them off as you learn the game's ropes.
Eventually, you're ordered to purge an Illuminate colony. The only problem is, Maddox's wife and kid, who are Illuminate themselves, live smack bang in the middle of the UEF's targeting reticule. Cue a refusal to follow orders, a fight for survival and a three way war between enormous mechs, robot dinosaurs and teleporting UFOs.
It's all predictable pantomime stuff. The human interest narrative is mindless enough to keep you occupied in between the carnage, at least for the first quarter of the game, but the production values aren't up there with the likes of Dawn of War II or, certainly, the upcoming StarCraft 2, and the voice acting and cutscenes aren't particularly inspiring. But Gas Powered Games is keen to stress it's improved the single-player side of SupCom 2. Our hands-on shows better work has been done, but the campaign will still struggle to stand out, as it so often does in the RTS genre. In reality, many of its fans won't care - multiplayer and online leaderboards are still the focus.
SupCom's sheer scale should stand it in good stead. In 2010, it feels even more unique than when the series debuted in 2007. It's an intriguing proposition: as addictive, tactical and huge as before, but more accessible. That word will no doubt give some "the fear", but really there's nothing to worry about. As the World War II poster said: "Keep calm and carry on."