What we have here is an avalanche of new material, which, depending on how you view it, may or may not be a good thing.
This expansion pack for Cavedog's Total Annihilation features 75 new units (plus all of the units that were made available for download and through other sources), 25 new single-player scenarios, and 50 new multiplayer maps (including six new terrain types). Bearing this in mind, "expansion" may be a bit of an understatement. What we have here is an avalanche of new material, which, depending on how you view it, may or may not be a good thing. Sure, there's a bunch of new stuff, and a large portion of it is really great. But much of it borders on overkill.
The single-player mode features one new Arm campaign and one new Core campaign, and if you complete these, you gain access to a bonus mission. The single-player campaign is solid, and fans of the original will be pleased to try out some of the new units and buildings in a structured setting. But single player has never been Total Annihilation's strength, and, frankly, the missions seem downright dry when compared with the excellent story-driven campaign of Starcraft.
Total Annihilation's strengths have always been in the multiplayer department. The Core Contingency continues this tradition, offering more than four dozen new maps for skirmish games or multiplayer battles. Many of these new maps are set on the six new worlds. Unfortunately, two of these worlds are somewhat difficult to play on - namely the crystal world (which features a monochrome magenta hue that's a little hard to look at for long periods of time) and the gas world (featuring large, ugly, floating "gasbags" in enormous numbers), but the other four counterbalance the visual problems of these two. Most of the new maps facilitate certain types of play, and there's less emphasis on straightforward battle maps. On the plus side, The Core Contingency features the latest version of TA, allowing you to play against computer opponents in multiplayer games.
Of course, the real treat here is the new buildings and units. There's a lot here, and there's a lot to like. Both sides get the same basic upgrades. The new hovercraft class vehicles are excellent, and their maneuverability and versatility is a welcome addition to the arsenal. Likewise, the minelayer is another excellent addition - a little mobile production facility that can set six types of cloaked mines, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. On the structure side, there are two excellent additions - the advanced targeting facility and the Krogoth Gantry (available to Core only). The former gives your units the ability to target enemies out of their line of sight but in radar view (make sure you have a surplus of energy before turning it on). The latter is a production facility that builds Krogoth, a super Kbot that is rivaled only by the commander in terms of destructive power.
But that's just a handful of the new units and structures. The rest run the gamut from the clever-and-somewhat-useful (the decoy commander) to the why-in-the-world-would-I-ever-need-that (three words: floating metal maker). To be fair, many of the new maps require the use of these structures, but it seems like a usefulness that is simply forced upon you. Even more disappointing are the units that are just slight variations on existing units - such as the medium assault Kbot, which, it seems, was created to fill that glaring gap between small and large assault Kbots.
Of course, it's easy to find something to criticize among the staggering amount of new stuff (which, unfortunately, does not include any new music). The Core Contingency is sure to prolong the life of the game, especially for those who have played it to death. The included map editor only helps to extend this life, giving you a versatile, though somewhat user-unfriendly, means of creating your own scenarios. Cavedog should be commended for making such an open-ended game and continuing to support and enhance it regularly. Now if only it could come up with more minelayers and fewer floating metal makers.