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Video Game / Cortex Command

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Mine precious gold from the deformable pixel terrain in order to buy more and better ships, soldiers, weapons, digging tools, and deployable defenses. Use these assets to defend your disembodied brain and bankrupt your opponent! Old-school 2D sidescroller pixel graphics coupled with an extremely detailed physics simulation makes for a mix of nostalgia and surprising gameplay.
Product Description

So in the future, you're a Brain in a Jar, on a Worms-like 2D battlefield controlling Mooks. You're competing with other factions on a new, Earth-like planet to find resources and ship them back to civilization, or at least whatever you have left, since you spend pretty much all your money on weaponry. Notable for having an impressively advanced physics and destruction engine, which can allow for a variety of emergent gameplay.

The game spent the majority of its time in the public in an unfinished beta state. Created by Data Realms, the Retraux game spent several years as a demo with several test levels, some of which had a six minute time limit, making it in essence a sophisticated toy. Regardless, Data Realms encouraged players to buy the game while in its development stage, for a reduced price than that of the finished game, a model also used successfully by Mount & Blade and (On a cheaper scale) Minecraft. Cortex Command 1.0 was officially released on Steam on September 28, 2012, with a new faction and improved campaign mode.

The game features a slowly growing single player campaign with five scenarios currently available. There are several levels available for skirmish mode, and the game features splitscreen multiplayer but no online element. The creator is currently focusing on expanding the campaigns and code for the game while having additional staff work on content as the code rolls out. The game also has a very active modding community and a wide variety of mods that add or change many features in the game as well as adding campaign missions and skirmish areas.

The Steam release (and beta Build 27, released several months prior) introduced the campaign mode, which up to four teams compete for control of the planet. A slider allows for determination of the number of mining sites and brains in a game (effectively controlling the game length), with teams capturing and holding said sites to generate income so they can build elaborate defensive installations for their sites, and launch massive assaults to take a site from their foes. The winner is whoever seizes total control of all the sites on the planet and kills all the brains of the enemy.

The last update for the game was on July 11th, 2019 and fully open-sourced the game. Various game mods have arisen to continue development and many have evolved into more or less fan games. On August 22nd, 2023, one of the lead developers of one of these fan projects, Cortex Command Community Project, announced they would cease working on CCCP to instead work on a Fan Sequel officially backed by Data Realms.

Cortex Command Main Site LinkThe link for the fan forums which also houses the mod community: Forums & Mod Community

Cortex Command provides examples of:

  • 2-D Space: The entire game is 2D, space as well, evidenced by the TradeStar that orbits the planet exactly perpendicular to your eye.
  • Abnormal Ammo: The Ronin Rocket-Propelled Chainsaw Launcher fires chainsaws, while Dummy nail weapons fire construction nails. Meanwhile, the Imperatus Mauler is a shotgun that fires fragments of iron chain, which act as small physics objects; harmless at a distance, but destructive up close.
    • This is a popular subject for mods. One of the most abnormal is the rocket gun. it doesn't fire explosives, it fires landing craft.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The RPC can dig through what every other weapon can't,even bunkers.Its actually the most destructive weapon in the game, if you aim it right.
  • A Commander Is You:
    • Coalition: Balanced and Generalist with a dash of Ranger. The most diverse weapon selection of all the Techs and one of only two factions to have an in-Tech Mech and Turret, but their units are otherwise unremarkable.
    • Techion: Elitist and Technical. Techion weapons are exotic and deadly if used properly, and their mechanical Heavy Infantry is comparable to the Browncoats' in terms of durability, but they suffer from a fairly limited and expensive roster.
    • Ronin: Balanced and Ranger. Fragile and poor-quality units, but their deceptively cheap and crude weapons are some of the most deadly in the entire game.
    • Dummy: Spammer and Brute. Cheap mechanical Light Infantry with superior deployment options (a more durable dropship, and a rocket that presents a smaller target), but weak 'weapons' improvised from construction equipment. Completely lacks Heavy Infantry, but compensates with an armored anti-infantry Mech and a compact Turret. They also employ a special armored Brain Case when designing bases.
    • Browncoat: Elitist and Brute. Durable close-range specialists with numerous flame-based weapons, but expensive and lacking in both range and mobility.
    • Imperatus: Balanced and Brute. They possess three mechanical Infantry types instead of just two (including a sub-Light Infantry with a longer-than-normal jetpack duration), as well as a unique Brain Bot mounted on a tougher chassis. Imperatus guns are slow-firing and focus on dealing as much damage as possible with individual hits.
  • Action Bomb: Aside from equipping troops with dropship bombs and having them run up to people, it's also possible to kill enemies by gaining momentum with the jetpack and ramming into the ground so hard you explode. The force of the giblets can often be enough to blow the limbs off of any enemies nearby. Caution is strongly advised when removing limbs or liquefying mooks at close range- there is a chance that their jawbone will smash into your face at a high speed and decapitate you.
  • Anti-Air: The Anti-Air Drone, which is capable of launching guided missiles to swat landing craft out of the sky.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The A.I. of the game will continue to drop its mooks into your kill zones, crash drop ships, and generally have horrible accidents. They also frequently forget to leave any units near their brainbot to protect it.
    • Units only have a set of commands that can be given, and largely do not exercise much initiative of their own. Entirely justified, however, given that they are literally brainless, which also explains why you can control them in the first place.
    • The AI is highly aggressive and will eagerly Zerg Rush players with hordes of quickly-deployed units at the start of the game. If this initial onslaught is weathered, however, the AI will very often be left bankrupt and open to a decisive counterattack. This is especially likely if the map doesn't already provide them with gold-collecting units, as the AI will rarely bother to deploy their own unless they're already near-destitute.
  • Artificial Brilliance: Despite frequent accidents and a lack of strategic planning, given the physics-driven and unpredictable nature of the game, the AI does fairly well. They do a great job navigating underground tunnels and damaged bunkers, and can deploy and command units with frightening speeds. They are also masters at improvisation, will frequently drop bombs and soldiers right on your head unless you place AA guns or sturdy roofing, and they frequently scavenge for fallen weapons when theirs has been destroyed.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Pretty much every single sprite in the game.
  • Anti-Hoarding: A unit can carry an unlimited amount of equipment, if you so choose - however, the more stuff a unit holds, the heavier they get, which makes it harder to gain height with a jetpack. A heavy enough unit can end up unable to fly at all, and will even sink into soft terrain with no way to climb back out.
  • Attack Its Weak Point:
    • Dropships have a surprisingly sturdy body which will resist a lot of firepower before blowing up (though it might shed a door or two in the process). However, the VTOL engines on the sides are relatively unarmored: Sustained fire will destroy a thruster, upsetting the dropshop's delicate balance and sending it into an uncontrollable spin. Most of the time, this results in the craft crashing down onto whatever hapless troops it had just delivered.
    • The Dummy dreadnought is covered in layers of armor plating, but its vital components are actually located in its fragile underbelly, where the legs are. A dreadnought that gets turned belly-up or wedged on an angle can be destroyed by even small-arms fire.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • While the Rocket Propelled Chainsaw is the most powerful weapon in the game, it's also expensive, inaccurate, extremely heavy and has a painfully long reload time. It can be handy for tearing down a wall and it's tons of fun to see it tear through someone, but you're generally way better off using just a standard rocket launcher or assault rifle.
    • Using Heavy Infantry equipped with heavy weaponry/tons of equipment in a snow or sand map that lacks solid structures to stand on. Your powerful-but-weighty elites will quickly sink into the soft terrain and be left as potholes of wasted Oz.
  • BFG: Several in the core game, including the aptly named Uber Cannon.
    • Another contender is the Coalition Auto Cannon, which weighs thirty kilograms and fires grenades full auto.
  • Bifurcated Weapon: Cluster mine bomb and cluster grenade.
  • Big Bad: The fluff-only Remnants of Mu-Ilaak. They have since been added as a mod, though they function as a re-skin of the Coalition tech and are just a standard tech.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Organic soldiers have been grown to be stronger, faster, brainless and incapable of feeling pain or flinching. They even have a thin layer of muscle-goop stuff on their bones that allows them to keep moving even after all their muscles have been removed.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: With luck or a precise weapon, you can destroy a unit's carried weapon to disarm them, though they'll automatically swap to whatever additional weapons they carry or seek to grab something off the ground. This can be a lifesaver when your brainbot is cornered by a Heavy Infantry unit packing a gatling gun or other large and easy-to-hit heavy weapon.
  • Bloody Hilarious: Blowing off a unit's head will often cause them to spew blood everywhere and flop all over the place while making absurd death sounds (HURK HUEGH BLARGH). This frequently bears an uncanny resemblance to a chicken with it's head cut off and a rocket booster strapped to its ass.
  • Brain in a Jar: The player is present on the map as one of these, either attached to a ceiling somewhere in a fortified bunker or perched as the 'head' of a dexterous robotic body.
  • Brain Uploading: Humanity engages in this, creating the Brain in a Jar technology used by the playable factions to control armies of mindless Mooks.
  • Bullethole Door: A possible tactic for entering enemy forts or for tunneling through dirt if you forgot to bring a digger or explosive device.
  • Cannon Fodder: Zombies and skeletons. They're incredibly cheap, incredibly fragile, and can be purchased by any Tech to serve as disposable gun-holders in a pinch.
  • Chainsaw Good: The Ronin have access to a Rocket Propelled Chainsaw, which happens to be one of the strongest weapons in the game.
    • They now have access to a non-rocket propelled chainsaw, which functions as a melee weapon. It inherits all the traits of its projectile brother, excluding the exploding and physics defying cutting abilities
  • Chunky Salsa Rule: If a unit doesn't have a head, then they will die instantly. Even creating a unit that doesn't spawn with one will cause a corpse to be deployed from your dropship instead of a soldier.
    • An ingame cheat now exists to avert this, note that if the torso is destroyed the soldier still dies.
  • Clone Army: What most battles are fought with.
  • Critical Existence Failure: You can end up bleeding and legless but assuming you still have arms, work perfectly fine in combat until the fatal shot. Heck, even totally limbless people can still "help" by flying around and headbutting people. Downplayed in that units will gradually bleed out once they suffer enough physical damage, though they can continue to fight and move however they can until that last hit point drains away.
  • Colony Drop: The delivery vehicles that your stuff comes in make remarkably good disposable weapons. The quickest way to win a metagame battle (if neither side has any fortifications in the territory) is to simply take control of your initial delivery dropship and careen it towards the enemy brain-bot before it has a chance to dig itself into a protective pit.
  • Death from Above: The above mentioned crates make a very cheap delivery system for high explosive ordnance, and with the self destruct option can be easily detonated above groups to rain shrapnel on their heads.
    • Also, dropships can be used to drop bombs on your enemies, which come in Standard (frag) and Napalm variants. For a cheaper option, you can also load them up with stick grenades or molotovs, since they have an impact fuse.
    • For added fun, combine the two! Load a dropship with bombs and self-destruct it above a crowd of enemies. Cue a shower of bombs and general destruction of anything and everything that can be destroyed.
    • A difficult but hilarious method involving dropships is also to fly over enemies and open the doors; this can effectively abduct the enemy unit, letting you fly them back to the TradeStar (or fly them into a mountain).
  • Difficult, but Awesome: The Ronin. Their units are extremely weak, but they have the cheapest equipment in the game and hands down some of the best weaponry. Used correctly, they can wreck any other faction in the game, no problem.
  • Disability Superpower: A character's jetpack power is directly correlated with how much it weighs. Losing both legs can actually improve your mobility.
  • Drop Ship: In the game, two are available, and they are fairly important in terms of gameplay. Crates are cheap but total-loss delivery vehicles, and rockets are so very hard to fly that they might as well qualify as total-loss too (as the AI so efficiently demonstrates). The dropships are the only delivery vehicles that can be reasonably expected to make it back to orbit and give the player their purchase price back. They're also easier to use as disposable impact weapons than rockets.
  • Dug Too Deep: If you set some troops to mine for gold and ignore them, it's entirely possible that they'll mine down so far they'll fall off the map and die — or end up joining their tunnels to an enemy faction's.
  • Elite Mooks: Heavy Infantry units are heavily-armored troops capable of withstanding punishment that would glib lesser infantry. They're more expensive (and heavier, making them less mobile), but far more reliable than grunt troops.
  • Enemy Exchange Program: For an extra cost than normal, you can opt to purchase units and equipment that belong to Techs other than your own. A good way to compensate for a Tech's weaknesses, adapt to particular situations where foreign equipment would be handy, or simply get better guns.
  • Energy Weapon: The game used to include a laser rifle, though it was since removed. There are many mods to add laser weapons, however, though due to how the game's engine works, even the more realistic ones are technically a clever arrangements of bullets and particle effects rather hitscan.
  • Everything Breaks: Everything on the map can be destroyed. The terrain, the architecture, your gun, your body...
  • Excuse Plot: The pretty cool premise, which gives room for modding and more potential story, is currently a justification for having a crash-test dummy blow a super-soldier's legs off with a blunderbuss. It ended up being largely ignored and the lead dev decided to instead focus on a board-game styled campaign.
  • Flechette Storm: Rather than fire conventional projectiles, the Imperatus shotgun fires tiny physics-affected fragments of metal chain to lacerate victims.
  • Game Mods: One of the main selling points is the game's mod community, which has produced many different armies (including the SPESS MEHREENS). Mods can cause Loads and Loads of Loading and, if poorly coded, error messages.
  • Gatling Good:
    • The Coalition faction employs the most traditional examples; they have sentry gun and drone varieties, as well as a handheld version. Both suitably reduce everything to itty bitty chunks after a few seconds of direct fire.
    • The Ronin used to have the YAK7000, which has since been removed.
    • The Imperatus Bulldog is slower, but more powerful than the Coalition Gatling Gun.
    • The Techion have the Giga Pulsar, which is the Coalition Gatling Gun but with Frickin' Laser Beams.
  • Giant Enemy Crab: You'll fight one of these as your first boss.
  • Global Currency: Oz, a notation for ounces often used to measure an amount of gold.
  • Gold Fever: The various factions compete for rich gold deposits scattered across the planet, and the ultimate goal of the metagame is to eliminate your rivals and thus claim uncontested mining rights to the entire planet. The currency of the game, as noted in Global Currency, is simply raw gold ore measured in ounces.
  • Goomba Stomp: Entirely possible, often accidentally. In earlier builds it wasn't uncommon for one or two of your troops to accidentally stomp each other into oblivion as they hopped out of a dropship, although now your troops can freely walk past each other. Doesn't stop you from body-slamming enemies into the terrain, however.
  • Gorn: You can blow off arms, legs, heads, or splatter entire characters into a spray of blood and gibs.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Ronin MAC-10 submachine gun. Wield together with an Uzi for More Dakka. Additionally, several Game Mods have 'offhand' variants of weapons they add (usually only SMGs or Pistols), designed to be used with their non-offhand variant.
  • Improvised Weapon: Almost anything. Shovels, Digging Tools, Dropships, Automatic Doors, Jetpacks, Corpses...
  • Implacable Man: Heavy units can take a massive beating, but troops in general seem to have no ability to feel pain and will stop at nothing to kill the enemy. Seeing a limbless torso attempting to kill a foe by ramming into him with their jetpack (And usually winning) is a common sight.
  • Infinite Supplies: Your troops have to reload, but they always have more magazines. Throwable items like grenades and bombs avert this, as they need to be purchased individually.
  • "Instant Death" Radius: If you find yourself a foot or so away from a drone you are screwed.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune
  • Jack of All Stats: The Coalition faction is extremely well rounded and are capable in any situation. They are great for learning the ropes and enjoy the largest selection of different weapon types, but are less powerful overall than some of the other factions.
  • Jet Pack: Most characters have one, and they're both a.) vital for getting around and b.) comically difficult to steer.
  • Joke Character: You can buy crabs, which are tiny, unable to fight and cannot carry anything. The skeleton and zombie bodies are this to a lesser extent; They're cheap and can be armed, making them handy as Cannon Fodder in a pinch, but they're pathetically fragile and lack the jetpacks necessary to traverse most terrain.
  • Kill It with Fire: Molotov Cocktails, incendiary bombs from drop ships, incendiary grenades, flame throwers.
    • The Browncoats specialize in this. Among their weapons are flaming shotguns, flaming assault rifles, flaming artillery cannons, and a very special grenade launcher that can either shoot explosive fireballs or coat the ground in a flammable layer of fuel.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Though energy weapons do exist, the most common and powerful guns in the game are ones that were invented in the 1900's or are similar to modern-day weaponry.
  • Lethal Joke Item: The crab body is tiny, defenseless, and can't do anything but crawl around. However, they're also free—if you pack several dozen of them into a single rocket or crate, you have yourself a very cheap Big, Bulky Bomb that will kill everything on the map in a holocaust of flying crabmeat. Especially notable in that the only reason this works is because you have to use so many crabs (Not actually that many) that the explosion overrides the game's entity limit, causing everything on screen to insta-gib.
    • In the Steam version of the game, doing this with 500 crabs is a hidden achievement.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: A minor case. When a brain is destroyed, its minions — and even the doors inside its base — may fall to bits, although not explosively so.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: This is not a game for the squeamish. Legs, heads, organs, torsos, arms and many, many unidentifiable bits will be sent flying, either by a high speed Dropship collision, explosion, or sometimes even just a pistol shot.
    • It's possible, although difficult, to gib an actor in such a way that you literally liquidize them, with a laggy spray of hundreds of blood particles being all that remains of them. Usually requires so much force that whatever caused it probably broke the physics engine in some way.
  • The Medic: The Medic Drone, which wields no weapons but instead generates a passive healing aura around itself.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • A Heavy Infantry unit (particularly of the Browncoat or Techion factions) carrying a heavy weapon like a gatling gun. They'll be slow as molasses, unable to fly and will quickly sink in soft terrain such as snow or sand. However, their armor protects them from most light weapons and their own weapons will typically chew through anything short of a mech within seconds. Perfect for clearing out bunkers or defending a fixed position.
    • Drone units. Man-sized Spider Tanks that waddle around on tiny legs, they cannot fly and they cannot climb ladders, which limits their usefulness in moving battles. However, the Anti-Air Drone is capable of easily swatting dropships out of the sky with its missiles, the Coalition Gatling Drone is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and the Dummy Dreadnought is covered in multiple layers of tough armor.
  • Mind-Control Device: Your brain is this, technically. The troops under your command are mindless drones that can only perform basic tasks on their own and aren't entirely accurate, so you need to take direct control of individuals every so often to get things done.
  • More Dakka: Plenty of automatic weapons with high rates of fire. The Coalition in particular boasts three different ways to supply their forces with Gatling Good weaponry.
    • Suitably, there's also an Ork mod that adds in a number of ridiculously powerful automatic weapons.
  • Nail 'Em: Dummy nail guns, which range from crude 'pistols' to extra-large nail guns comparable to the Gatling Good weapons of other Techs.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The Avenger (which has, alas, been cut) and Mauler shotguns, the Destroyer and Annihilator energy weapons, the Banshee sniper rifle and the Devastator flak cannon.
  • Nanomachines: The Techion faction specialize in nanotechnology. Their Nanolyzer is a digging tool that turns anything it shoots into inert sludge; as a result it's useless for mining gold, but invaluable for breaking into enemy bunkers. Their Nanorifle is a sniper rifle that disintegrates targets' limbs. And their Nanoswarm grenades explode into vicious clouds of enemy-seeking nanites.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Fanmade content includes RoboLichLer, aka Cyber-Lich Hitler.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Even if all but one of their limbs have been blown off and they're slowly bleeding to death, if a clone still has a gun in his hand, he'll keep on fighting as best he can. And when even that has been torn off, they can always be flown at high speed across the map until a dropship flies low enough and gets an engine shredded by the mad flying clone torso. Mind, most actors have some sort of 'bleedout' state, making it less than ideal to fight with missing limbs.
    • Except the Dummies, who have no bleedout state and fragile bodies; they will frequently lose most of their limbs before attempting to headbutt their target to death, making a usually rather weak soldier slightly more terrifying than intended.
  • Pinball Projectile: The Techion Nucleo fires slow-moving projectiles that bounce off hard surfaces.
  • Roboteching: The Techion Nucleo Swarm shoots seven plasma projectiles which home in on a target. While they don't turn sharply enough to make them useful in enclosed spaces, out in the open they're a real menace.
  • Rule of Cool: Zombies and Skeletons are buyable units, and one of the weapons available is a Blunderbuss. Why? Why not!
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: The Ronin Shortgun.
  • Sentry Gun: Comes in armored dummy variety and Gatling Coalition variety.
  • Simple, yet Awesome: In a universe with laser Gatling Guns, normal Gatling Guns, Autocannons and Missile Launchers, the Ronin use now ancient 20th century weapons including the AK-47, M60, M1 Garand and Kar-98. Despite being hundreds of years old in-universe, they are some of the most effective guns in the game, being extremely powerful and cheap at the same time.
  • Shareware: The free version has a 6 minute cutoff per session.
  • Shields Are Useless: The base game includes a riot shield, and while it can save a unit's life in a pinch, it falls apart very easily (Approximately 8 bullets/bits of shrapnel makes it disintegrate) and prevents the user from firing anything other than one handed weapons.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: Mostly averted, played straight by the Blunderbuss.
  • Shout-Out: Spathi
    • In addition, there are many Easter eggs hidden on the maps, such as Metroids in zombie cave, the Pac-Man-shaped rock in one of the background images, and one of the alien fossils being a scrab.
  • Space Station: The TradeStar
  • Space "X": Though they don't appear in the game, the backstory tells of a war against giant Space Amoebas. Yes, Amoebas as in the unicellular organism. Giant ones. In space.
  • Spent Shells Shower: The bullet casings and discarded ammo clips left behind by troops reloading their guns are physics objects that obey the same rules as corpses and other debris. Units that have been defending a fixed position for a prolonged period of time are likely to be surrounded by piles of spent shells and magazines.
  • Spider Tank: Drone units slowly scuttle around on four stubby legs. The inherit usefulness of multiple legs is subverted, however, as without the ability to fly and climb ladders drones can frequently end up trapped.
  • The Enemy Weapons Are Better:
    • Dropped equipment persists until actively destroyed, so a good way to save money on outfitting your fresh troops is to simply scavenge guns off nearby corpses. Need to chase a Brainbot underground, but can't afford a decent digging tool? Good thing that random Dummy you just dismantled was carrying a Turbo Digger!
    • You can purchase equipment and even unit types from Techs other than your own at any time, allowing you to mix and match loadouts from the get-go, but the items cost more Oz than if you simply played as those Techs yourself.
  • Weaponized Exhaust: the dropships are unarmed, but can be used to quite deadly effect by flying them on top of enemy units and hitting the throttle. The rockets, on the other hand, must be used with extreme care, because their exhaust has the tendency to kill the units they just delivered.
  • We Cannot Go On Without You: If your brain is destroyed, you will automatically lose. Justified, as the units that you order are literally brainless and have to be controlled by you. What isn't justified is why they all simultaneously explode.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer…: While using diggers is the best way to tunnel through the ground, bullets can also very slowly erode terrain and props, allowing you to carve open a gap to fire through. Inversely, diggers can be used as an emergency short-range weapon.
  • Yet Another Stupid Death: Expect to happen. A lot. From all sides.
    • Improper handling of the Browncoats' weaponry.
    • Grunt dying due to a sprained ankle making him tumble downhill.
    • Not accounting for a frag grenade's shrapnel sniping your eye out from a distance.
    • Failing a mission because your robo-brain's jetpack suddenly decided to headbutt the boulder ahead of you, Rocketman style.
    • Accidentally crushing your freshly-bought and expensive custom troops with the very rocket or dropship that had just delivered them.
    • Surviving the Maginot Defense mission after many brutal waves of dropships and enemies, just so the escape rocket tumbles down, crushing your robo-brain, due to irregular footing resulted from bullets and explosions from said raid marring the concrete platform.