I'll see you on the dark side of the moon (you poor, doomed sonofabitch).
Once again, the universe bifurcates.
On the one fork, people who fell instantly, madly in love with the terrific-looking 3D action of Earth: 2150 know what to expect from its sequel, and want more more more of the same. On the other fork, people who want real-time strategy games in general, who were raised in the less-realistic but fun C&C school, and who will approach The Moon Project as a stand-alone 3D strategy game only to be frustrated, confounded and befuddled, not perhaps at every turn, but likely at every other turn. Well, hell; as comic Bill Hicks once remarked, whaddaya gonna do about living?
It's a sequel, but the timeline actually runs more or less concurrently with the story in E2150. Once again the three factions (the Eurasian Dynasty, the Lunar Corporation, and the United Civilized States) are at each other. This time, rather than trying to scrape up the resources for an Evacuation Fleet (following a war that - D'oh!- knocked Mother Terra out of what was, strictly speaking, her correct orbit), the factions are scrambling around the discovery of an alien technology. The Lunar Corporation is researching a creepy new weapon for use on the home world, and the other two groups are trying like hell to prevent them from using it. So if you're one of these guys, you're invading your own Moon. Remember the Moon? Good so far, no? Just you wait.
The Moon Project looks absolutely beautiful. Progressive real-time lighting and weather lend a startling sense of realism as a battle rages on from a drizzly gray afternoon to a long, deadly night lit up with the roving headlights of armor units to an absolute pisser of a rainy morning. The weather really doesn't have that much of an effect (you may note some effects on movement during bad weather, however), but the lighting certainly does. When a battle is getting hectic and you need to be able to take in the tactical situation at a glance, and there are lots of enemy forces growling around in the shadows with their lights off and evil on their minds, you'll wish for a flashlight.
And here's the rub: the tactical situation is always hectic, even when there's not much technically going on. The game's less-than-thrilling excuse for a tutorial can easily leave inexperienced players hanging, having nearly completed their mission but given no clue regarding the niggly point remaining that keeps them from 'winning.'
There's a lot of try-and-die going on in this game (as in the original), and that's okay, if realism is your thing. There's a point where Realism and what we call The Fun Factor collide, and The Moon Project will make you decide which side of the line you're on. Getting shot up because you ran out of ammo? Sorry, that's the way the world works. If you're an E2150 vet you'll jump right in, but newbies beware.
F'rinstance, the aboveground/underground scheme (where you must coordinate attacks at ground level as well as in subterranean situations, a nice touch) can easily overwhelm. By the second mission you'll be scratching your head. Frankly, Metal Fatigue handled this kind of thing better from the start (but of course there was always the chance that game would freeze up when one of your Combots made the wrong movement. Again, whaddaya gonna do about living?).
The Moon Project doesn't muck about, and by as early as your first few missions in, you're being assaulted with intense, post-traumatic-stress-inducing attacks. We're talking multiple bases, evil raining out of the sky, boom boom boom everywhere you look. I mean, fuhgeddaboudit. Again, the universe bifurcates: If you're an E2150 vet, you can't wait to start cranking out more of your customizable-chassis units; if you're relatively new to the 3D RTS thing, all you can think is I've gotta get the hell out of here!
Once you're familiar with the interface and the rules, however, your personal style comes into play. The customizable-unit thing isn't taken to the extremes it has been in some games, but your preferred flavors regarding weapon loadouts, defense, etc. can make the difference. Again, realism intrudes, and you must decide if this is a good or bad thing in terms of Fun.
I personally think it's hysterical when somebody's rocket-fire can hurt their own structures, when the last remaining smoking skeleton of a building blocks line-of-sight, when a unit is sitting dead-duck-screwed in front of an enemy and going click-click-click because it's suddenly out of ammo. I love when the detonation of a nuke shudders and whites out the screen, when somebody cuts loose with an Earthquake Generator smack-ass under an enemy base, when I'm playing against some ambulatory brain-death who forgets that, by golly, that big hillside I'm hiding behind might just block his incoming fire. Even when The Moon Project pisses me off - and oy, there have been times when I've told a unit to dammit, stop moving, and it apparently had other ideas - it makes me decide: Are you a man, or a mouse? Remember, the moon is rumored to be made of cheese.
Some of these little details gets in the way of gamers, no doubt; they sure as hell got in my way from time to time. Also, the AI fails in both directions. There are certain tactics that, once discovered, the computer simply cannot counter. My own units directly disobeying my orders to stand still and do nothing is also maddeningly irritating.
Fair enough - that's what multiplayer is for. Playing The Moon Project against another human who knows the score is totally rewarding, especially if you're both sneaky bastards.
Hate to resort to a cliché, folks, but again, whaddaya gonna do? If you loved Earth: 2150, you'll be instantly into The Moon Project. If you never played E2150 or have any doubts about leaving your entertaining Red Alert 2 Flatland (and I love Red Alert, don't get me wrong), take the advice any Eagle Scout could give you for free: Be Prepared.