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Posted on Apr 29, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

C&C 3: Tiberium Wars Review (PC)

By Ryan Stepalavich

Passed Inspection: Intense, addicting gameplay. Great graphics. Excellent sound. Movies are delightfully cheesy. Great post-release support from EA.

Failed Basic: Doesn’t do anything new. Jennifer Morrison needs to brush up on her acting lessons. Multiplayer balancing needs tweaking. Music is bland.

Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is here. The long awaited sequel to the original Command & Conquer and Tiberian Sun has been released with an absolute vengeance. Be prepared for yet another cataclysmic battle between the benevolent Global Defense Initiative and the insidious Brotherhood of Nod, as the two have their global rumble for planetary domination along with a new unwelcome guest, the alien Scrin.

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The first and most striking aspect that the player will notice here are the graphics. The folks at Electronic Arts have spared no expense to give the most intense battles equally intense animations, explosions and effects. Flying units such as Orcas and Firehawks spew jet wash that distorts the sky as they blaze bee-lines towards their targets. Stealth units like tanks and bombers curve light around them, giving a strange watery effect to the terrain. Explosions rock and roll, sending shockwaves through legions of troops. Buildings crumble, superweapons roar, infantry duck for cover and tiberium – the almighty resource – glows an eerie green over the oft-times dusty, barren landscape. While the jaw-dropping scenery may make the casual PC gamer hesitate to try C&C 3, never fear. Even low-end systems can still handle the game throughout, with marginal decreases in detail to compensate.

The sound effects are a perfect fit for Command & Conquer 3. The voiceovers for each unit sound appropriate, if a little campy. For example, the Mammoth Tank features a rather baritone commander as he rolls across the terrain in search of the enemy. Orcas have the stereotypical "radio chatter" going on. Nod units are decidedly sinister and conniving, not to mention often British, as well. The explosions are scintillatingly loud and satisfying, even the smaller grenadier blasts have that certain something that makes the enemy cringe as his infantry run to safety.

The music can’t share the same success. No longer composed by maestro Frank Klepacki, the background music has changed its theme from industrial in-your-face rock to a more militaristic orchestrated style. While I did enjoy the effect of the music transitioning depending on what’s going on in the combat, I was definitely missing the heavy metal riffing that ol’ Frank was so famous for.

Much of this fades into the background when the gameplay begins to heat up. The interface is so wonderfully streamlined over previous Command & Conquer titles, it’s a wonder it wasn’t designed this way before. Every action is now contextually based for both the hardcore fan, and casual RTSer. For the stubborn old-school commander, the interface is just as it was years ago. The control sidebar still rests neatly on the right side of the screen, allowing players to select to build units, structures, or defenses at any time, regardless of what the commander is looking at on the map. Alternatively, the player may opt to go the traditional RTS route, and click directly on buildings to produce units and other structures. This hybridization is incredibly intuitive and smooth, and I found myself frequently switching between classic C&C and traditional controls. Another part of the interface, which many Command & Conquer fans will celebrate, is the ability to fashion multiple construction or training queues. No longer is the gamer limited to selecting a primary building and constructing units from a singular structure. Instead, the player is allowed an infinite number of queues to build from any location where a particular training structure resides.

The three factions, in terms of single player, are well balanced and play solidly. GDI sports the conventional "walk softly and carry a big stick" motif, with Mammoth Tanks and Juggernaut artillery flattening the very ground they rally across. Nod favors the far sneakier and sinister route, making haphazard minefields appear from out of nowhere and using invisible stealth units whenever possible. The third side, the Scrin, plays like a freaky amalgamation of the two previous sides. Neither heavy-handed, nor entirely sneaky, the Scrin have an eerie method of play surrounding them, which bodes well as they are aliens. The single player supplies about 15 missions for GDI and Nod, and 5 missions for the mysterious newcomers. On the one hand, this may seem like the Scrin have been added as an afterthought, but there are always the future expansions that will inevitably fill in the gaps. The movies were equally excellent, supplying just the right amount of campy-ness and entertainment to leave you wanting more. I found myself frantically completing mission after mission just to see what happens next in the juicy and formative storyline and acting. Though I must say, Jennifer Morrison was far better off sticking to House M.D. than coming into the Command & Conquer franchise.

Balancing being well and good in single player, it didn’t exactly flesh out quite as nicely in multiplayer. The main problem with EA wanting to make the online gameplay fast and furious is that gamers don’t usually have the opportunity to fully explore the technologies and special features of their selected sides. Matches, especially ranked matches, usually result in low-technology light tank rushes against each other until one side runs out of resources, thus ending the battle at about six minutes. It was a frustrating affair for me, as I usually prefer building a massive city of a base, and then raining down superweapons and air strikes from the safety of my own battlements. By the way the balancing currently works, this is not the favored strategy of Command & Conquer 3.

I have to say I’ve been very impressed with the way Electronic Arts has been handling things like bugs and balance issues this time around. In the first four weeks of release, EA has released no fewer than four patches, resolving balance, bugs, and other issues. This sets a precedent for Command & Conquer in the hands of EA, as their last title, Generals, received four patches in six months. As such, there’s no doubt that whatever current balance problems and exploits plague the multiplayer functionality will invariably be squashed by EA’s fervent desire to keep the support going at a rapid and efficient pace.

If I absolutely have to nitpick at C&C 3, it’s that there’s really nothing "new" to be delivered here. Shy of the interface updates, and the obvious graphical evolution, Command & Conquer 3 plays just like the previous C&C titles, with very little extension beyond the norm. Nod is Nod, GDI is GDI, and while the Scrin are a new faction, all three sides play identically, with little gameplay mechanic changes. Yes, their balancing is different and forces the commander to wildly switch up tactics, but the control and features of each side are markedly similar. If gamers are looking for an RTS with something new and evolutionary, I’d recommend they wait for something like Spore, because they’re not going to find it here.

For those gamers who are fans of the Command & Conquer franchise and haven’t bought Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars yet, I recommend they close their browser right now and go pick themselves up a copy. For those unfamiliar with the franchise and looking for a delightfully in-your-face battle royale in RTS form, this is clearly the game for you. If you’re looking for a brand new experience, then take a pass and wait for something else. But, all things considered, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is the polishing, refinement and enhancement of everything that’s ever made RTS fans what they are. It’s a reminder to us as to why we play the RTSs we do, and why we do it well.

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1 Comment

  1. I love this game, the acting I have to admit… Is kinda corny. The only thing they should change is the acting, Ive been a Command and Conquer fan my entire life but this one is better than all of them combined. Including Red Alert and Tiberium Twighlight.

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