Passing judgment on the most eagerly anticipated game of the last few years is no easy task; it's difficult to set aside prejudices that would sway one's opinion either way. Let's face it: Starcraft comes with a great deal of anticipatory baggage, and it would be easy to say that it's either a huge disappointment or the greatest thing since real-time strategy became a household phrase. Truth is, it's neither. Weighed on its own merits, Starcraft is an extremely well-crafted game, albeit one with a few notable problems. It doesn't stray far from the blueprint created by its predecessors (namely the Warcrafts and Command & Conquers), but it is, without a doubt, the best game to ever adhere to that formula.
Starcraft offers a lengthy single-player campaign featuring ten missions for its three diverse races, totaling 30 single-player missions in all (there's also an unsupported veteran campaign included as part of the campaign editor). The story is compelling enough to make playing through all three worthwhile, and the campaign difficulty is tiered so that each is more challenging than the last. While this may seem like an uninteresting point, it helps Starcraft to avoid the problem that has plagued every other game in the genre: Each side is not the same. You don't have to go through a set of training missions once you've already mastered one side. The missions themselves mainly stick to the "gather, build, and conquer" philosophy, but there are a few innovative missions thrown in, and Blizzard has added some narrative elements to the missions themselves that help to keep things interesting. With the exception of the installation missions (in which you are given a handful of units to raid an enemy base, an attempt to break from the mold that is only occasionally successful), the missions are well designed. The solo player also has the option of skirmish missions, though the computer opponents have the annoying ability to see everything you are doing and defend accordingly, making the dreaded "rush" tactic one of the only viable means of emerging victorious.
Starcraft offers an equally nice suite of options on the multiplayer side: There's head-to-head and up to eight-player battles over LAN or Internet (though Internet play is only available over Blizzard's Battle.net server, which includes a ranking list and seems to be as lag-free as it gets nowadays). There is a good variety of multiplayer game types, and you can easily download new maps. Multiplayer has its own set of negatives, the major one being the predominance of rushing. Like it or not, creating a horde of the most basic units and attacking the enemy immediately is an effective tactic. Only a heavily defended base will survive an early rush of Terran Marines or Protoss Zealots. Starcraft has a built-in safeguard to discourage rushing, but it's one of the game's most problematic areas.
This safeguard is in the interface, which only allows you to select 12 units at a time. This isn't especially effective, considering six Zealots will smoke a base early in the game. The selectable unit cap does make rushing more difficult, but it also becomes frustrating at times, especially for those used to the ability to select unlimited units at once. Often, selecting the chosen units from a large group becomes a time-consuming effort. During battle, it can be an exercise in frustration. You can assign groups to hotkeys quite easily, however, lessening the frustration of the selectable unit cap - but this system isn't nearly as good as in Total Annihilation or Dark Reign, and units aren't marked by their group number like in said games. Multiplayer battles can often be decided by who has the best manual dexterity and can overcome the built-in limitations of the interface the most quickly.