Kane's back. I'm not sure where he went, but he's back.
Where Command & Conquer is in the overall rank of real time strategy games nowadays depends on who you ask. Back in 1998 (yes, I was three years late to play it) it was pretty hot stuff - all of my friends wanted to play CnC and Command and Conquer: Red Alert on this new-fangled thing called the "internet." Coincidentally, that was the year a company called Blizzard launched a game called StarCraft, which changed the face of Real Time Strategy forever. I had both games, both Command and Conquer and StarCraft, and I played them incrementally, switching off when I needed, let's say, a change of vista. I wasn't terribly cultured, as you might have guessed, one alternate future was completely new
from any other alternate future as far as I was concerned. I thought Command and Conquer was good
, but maybe not as good as StarCraft, but very good nonetheless. Again, it's who you ask.
Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars continues the alternate future started with the first Command and Conquer. Set in 2047, years after the second Tiberium War, Earth is divided into three different sections, the blue (which is protected by the Global Defense Initiative or GDI), the yellow (which is controlled mostly by Nod terrorists), and the red (which nobody inhabits). Command and Conquer 3 campaign begins as Kane, the head of the Brotherhood of Nod, starts the power struggle over Tiberium again. Somehow, it is discovered out very early in the GDI campaign, the Brotherhood of Nod have found a way to weaponize liquid Tiberium - which threatens to throw the Earth into the third Tiberium War: basically all the bad parts of the Bible.
The game's story works only because of the delivery: full motion video acting featuring favorites Michael Ironside from Starship Troopers and Splinter Cell, Billy Dee Williams from The Empire Strikes Back, Tricia Helfer of Battlestar Galactica, and yes, miss Jennifer Morrison from Fox's "House M.D." among other notables.
The cast is so full of celebrity mush that and so overdone, on pretty much all levels. I can't say it's "good acting," because it's not, and there are no exceptions at all: across the board. I can say, confidently, but with some vague embarrassment, that it is one of the most satisfyingly "soapy" productions in video game history, and when you think it can't get any better, or any cheesier, on comes the now infamous Joseph D. Kucan reprising his role as Kane, and the Velveeta keeps gushing. The full motion video is so laughably bad, but satisfying, that I don't think it can get much better than this. It's on the level of "Snakes on a Plane" bad. It's like they knew it was going to be bad, with a script as hokey as they come, and so put on the best bad show they could.
On the gameplay side of things, Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is about as polished as Real Time Strategy comes. Spit, shined, and ready, C&C3 comes off as a very matured game. The units and their powers have been refined over the years, that's for certain, but don't short the game by assuming it's the same thing we've seen before. As the game's units scale up (from GDI's tough but lonely Commando to the towering Avatar Warmech that assimilates enemy units onto it's body). In C&C3, though, we have the addition of the Scrin, an alien force that invades Earth for harvest of the Tiberium.
Three factions fighting over a single planet, haven't we seen that before? Anyway, it's not the plot that's important, but just the fact that the Scrin throw a nice wrench into the mix for the GDI and Nod struggle. The Scrin units, like the Mothership, are pretty awesome.
When it comes to console RTS, there's always a question of the controls. And although I think the genre on consoles is making strides in the right direction, there are problems that I don't think will ever be corrected. One of those problems is selecting single units. Those like engineers that are small, or like the attack bikes that are small and fast, can be difficult to select when they're in ones. And finding a lonely sniper out on the battlefield can be damn frustrating.
But Command and Conquer has always been about amassing huge armies and walking in your opponent's base. Luckily for console gamers, selecting multiple units is done with ease. The R trigger, which is also used to select a unit's special ability, lets you grab all the units on screen and then partition them into groups with a few presses of the "A" button and some quick work of the D-pad to the Groups Tab.
And so things can be built and queued up from the tabs, too. Units, buildings, support, and special abilities are all under the R trigger's press. It does seem that, although it works fairly well, the R trigger ends up doing more than it should, and the slightly shoddy Xbox 360 D-pad makes selecting tabs like "Support" (which looks on a standard TV like "Structure" due to the small print) a little trying.
Instead of the usual mouse cursor's click-and-drag in the PC version, in the Xbox 360 C&C3, the cursor is fixed in the middle of the screen. You can pan around and zoom in, if you want, but if you need to select something, you have to move the entire screen, which can be disorienting at times, especially when you're not sure what direction the camera is facing (and its easy to get turned around). The cursor, then, has been fitted with a "magnet" that sucks itself over units when it gets close. You can adjust the sensitivity of this feature in the menu, but it never really seems to alleviate, but only complicate, the problem of selecting individual units, and so you'll have to hold R trigger, select the whole group, then R + d pad select the individual unit.
And Command and Conquer 3, unlike The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth, is much more of a twitch strategy game. It is much more fast paced than it's middle-earth cousin (although they feature some of the same controls). Essentially, quickly moving across the map and selecting that single unit you need can be a terrible chore.
The computer, however, doesn't have this problem, being as artificial and evil
as it is. The problem won't persist so much in the campaign, which maintains a fairly casual difficulty, even on the hard setting, but it will get difficult in skirmishes.
And online play is a lag-free experience, and a blast. Included in the game are four new modes that the PC didn't have: Capture the Flag, Capture and Hold, King of the Hill, and Siege Mode. Siege Mode is likely the best one. In it, the game encases you behind and impenetrable shield for a preset amount of time before letting you wage war. This, in a game that is all about out-and-out quick attacks, forces you to build up and have a more "turtling" kind of game. It's a lot of fun, and a welcome addition.
I found Command and Conquer 3 to be surprisingly more addicting than I was anticipating. The main quest, although easy, is really enjoyable - especially when you go for all the bonus objectives. The introduction of the Scrin seems long overdue for such a Sci-Fi game series, but fits perfectly in the universe. And the game gives the feeling you're a very small part of something much bigger, and more sinister. If you don't have it already on PC, or you can't run it, pick this one up.