EA Games Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
- Stunning cinematics and visuals, online and skirmish modes extend playability.
- Questionable A.I, redundant infantry.
Command & Conquer 3 is a welcome return of the C&C brand and a fitting conclusion to the Tiberium trilogy. One of the finest RTS games to date.
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Back in 1995, Westwood Studios released its seminal masterpiece, the original Command & Conquer. The real-time strategy genre has evolved considerably since those days, but the memory of the original C&C still lives on, periodically refreshed by a new iteration in the series.
The latest of these is the third--and final--installment in the Tiberium trilogy that was begun all those years ago. It's been a long wait, but it has been worth it. The developers at EA Los Angles have pulled out all the stops for C&C3, delivering an immensely satisfying experience that serves as a perfect endnote for the legendary series.
Going Down in History
The story behind Tiberium Wars should already be familiar to fans of the previous games, but let me recap it anyway: With the supposed death of NOD leader Kane at the end of Tiberium Dawn, the world enters a twenty year period of relative calm. The growth of tiberium has now become the most significant threat to humanity--over thirty percent of the globe has become uninhabitable red zones, with a further fifty percent largely damaged, leaving a scant thirty percent relatively intact and hospitable.
The Global Defense Initiative, having won the Second Tiberium War, begins to focus heavily on eliminating this growing threat, and by the year 2047 has carved out several safe zones. NOD on the other hand has kept itself busy with military matters, beginning the game by destroying the space station Philadelphia with a nuclear strike and launching a planetary wide assault against GDI forces. This is just the start of Kane's latest plan, involving the extraterrestrial origins of tiberium and the mysterious third faction known as the Scrin.
That's a lot to take in, but even gamers who aren't diehard fans will appreciate C&C3's story, if only because it's told through the series' trademark FMV cut-scenes. Best of all, EA recruited some major talent that includes the likes of Michael Ironsides, Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, and Jennifer Morrison. But, of course, the biggest draw is the return of Joseph Kucan, who once again reprises his role of the charismatic NOD leader, Kane.
As you'd expect from the impressive backdrop, Tiberium Wars has plenty of gameplay to go around. There are three absolutely epic campaigns, each from the viewpoint of one of the factions, with roughly forty missions in all. Likewise, the action takes place throughout much of the world, with missions occurring in the United States, Egypt, Brazil, Australia, Germany, and Italy, just to name a few locales. The missions all follow the same old formula of build a base, collect resources, start cranking out units and rush the enemy until victory is assured. It's pretty standard fare, but the game never becomes tedious or overly repetitive thanks to its dynamic feel. Each mission has several main objectives, but there are also several secondary objectives that can help ease the burden of overcoming your foes. Completing secondary objectives also has the notable result of often providing you with new intelligence briefings and the occasional in-mission cutscene, which really helps flesh out the game's story.
Augmenting this excellent backdrop is an excellent graphics engine. While it may not have the complex scope or specialized physics of other contemporary titles, the game is one of most beautiful we've seen yet. With every setting pushed to the max, the game is simply a joy to behold. The different settings allow for a great assortment of battlefield locations, from urban areas to quasi-rainforest and desert environments, all of which offer a visual experience that has rarely been achieved before.
Of particular note is the attention to detail that has been exercised with every unit--tanks eject shell casings after firing, vehicles smolder and burn as they take critical damage, and heavy vehicles throw up clouds of smoke as they traverse the battlefield. Adding to the full visual sensation are some exceedingly well done particle and lighting effects that fully bring out the sensation of fighting in a barren, tiberium-transformed wasteland during some of the latter missions.
As Starcraft demonstrated, diversity is a good thing, and while all three sides play roughly the same--each builds its base in fundamentally the same way, for instance--the differences between the three factions' units help set them apart. GDI units are largely modeled after the premier military powers, so they're big on direct firepower machines like tanks and aircraft. The NOD faction, in contrast, prefers to sneak high-tech units around base defenses, finding weak spots and exploiting them with a bevy of stealth equipped units. Finally, the Scrin manage to outright dominate air warfare in most respects, though they suffer in ground-based skirmishes. Old school fans will appreciate the return of classic units, which include the original Mammoth tank and the NOD's flame tank, but new units, such as the NOD Avatar--a unit that can destroy its comrades to steal their combat abilities--are welcomed additions.
But for all the praise that I've heaped upon C&C3, and there still are some flaws in the single-player design. For instance, the path finding is generally good, but tends to trip up large groups of units whenever they attempt to move through small passages. Also, the artificial intelligence is somewhat suspect in its decisions, often forgetting to rebuild defensive structures or launch regular scouting raids upon your forces. The largest issue, however, is the near uselessness of infantry units. They're effective in the first two or three missions but beyond that, they're mere fodder for the far more useful vehicular units.
Multiplayer has always been a key part of the C&C franchise, and this latest offering is no different. After completing the three campaigns, players can hop aboard the Gamespy-powered match-up system. While the system is not as advanced as many others, it is the best we've seen in the series, and offline there is also a robust skirmish mode. Together these two additional features should ensure that Tiberium Wars remains on hard drives for a long time to come.
In conclusion, Tiberium Wars is the perfect synthesis of the Command & Conquer series. It's not as innovative as some of the other titles that have been released in the past few years, but the series has never been known for novelty. Instead, Tiberium Wars does what the series has always done best; providing the most enjoyable RTS experience around via excellent storytelling, enjoyable campaigns and a lasting multiplayer experience.
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