Command and Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight
The way Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight has come from announcement to release hasn’t been without controverse. No harvesters, no mobile bases, and most of all: the end of the Tiberium series. Is it smart to throw out the entire formula out along with Kane in this last episode? Let’s find out!
The game is set several years after Tiberium Wars, but where in the third part the solution was found to drive back Tiberium our Earth is almost completely lost after the visit from the Scrin. The structure of these crystals has almost completely been altered with as result that Tiberium is almost unstoppable. All hope seemed lost until suddenly Kane, leader of the “Brotherhood of NOD” suggested an alliance with the Global Defense Initiative (GDI), their arch enemy in all previous conflicts. Of course some extremists still prefer the extinction of the other side and a new Tiberium war is the result.
The story starts nice, also because both arch enemies form an alliance, but that’s where it stops. The biggest disappointment is simple the Kane. This part was supposed to give all answers about where this legendary character, but what do we get? Kane is an alien being that stranded on Earth thousands of years ago. Wauw! As if the entire community didn’t see that one coming! But what kind of alien is he? Why did so many people have to die in his wars? Questions we’ll never see answered as this is the last Tiberium game with Kane in the lead. As if that isn’t enough, the Scrin don’t even get mentioned at all. The race wasn’t liked by everyone in the previous game, but when the end of C&C3 talks about a major invasion on Earth you would certainly expect them to come back!
Another disappointment are the cut-scenes. Who doesn’t remember the gorgious FMVs from the first and second Tiberium games? The fragments where your soldiers would talk to you in the middle of a battlefield or saw Kane appear on a giant screen in a room filled with NOD soldiers. These scenes were legendary and beautiful to see. Also due to the fact that quite a lot of attention went into the details like costumes, decors and weapons. All this detail has been thrown away in the last part. Soldiers are wearing military uniforms and sweaters from the 20th century and use weapons like the FN P90, something invented in Belgium in the 1980s. All you get to see are damp command rooms and some corridors.
Now, as you could deduct from the information that was released before the game arrived in stores, the gameplay is completely different compared to its predecessors. Forget the harvesters and perfectly building out bases, they no longer exist. What you now have are giant crawlers the function as mobile bases. There’s three flavours of this vehicle: offensive, defensive and support. Go for the first and you’ll mostly use vehicles while defensive ones use infantry and bunkers. Air units and other supportive means logically come from the last one, support.
Another new addition is a population limit. No longer can you build dozens of tanks to then set up a large-scale attack on your opponent. Now you have to do with about 15 units. The goal of the developers was to go away from the old C&C formula where you build a giant base, pump out loads of tanks and then start a giant attack on an opponent’s camp. The devs now want you to play more tactically by staying mobile on the map and at the same time fight with less units. Nice idea, but if you have to fight with so few units, then the entire building part could have just as easily been left out.
This leaves C&C 4 with a failing mixture. On one hand you miss the epic feeling due to the limited amount of units to fight with, while on the other it’s supposed to feel grand-scale as you’re building different structures.
Also the paper-rock-scissors principle isn’t perfect. You’ll regularly have units that can only be destroyed by one specific enemy unit which is quite stupid and frustrating when you’ve got an entire army without that one specific soldier you need because you’re limited in amount of units you can produce.
The economics also work completely different as you no longer have the famous harvesters. By killing hostiles and completing missions you get experience points which can be spent on a number of upgrades. Building the units is free as long as you’ve got the unit cap. If one of the units gets destroyed the freed up points can be used to buy new ones. In singleplayer the problem with this is that you usually have to fight multiple crawlers which each have their own population limit with as disadvantage that you never have the possibility to build a bigger army than theirs.
It won’t be a surprise that the changes in singleplayer also have their effect in multiplay. First up there’s a co-op function which gives you the possibility to finish the singleplayer with a friend, but for the real multiplayer there’s a mode that puts two teams of each five players up against each other. Fun at first glimpse, but quickly the problems surface. Each team is either completely NOD or GDI and mixed teams are impossible. Another disadvantage is that the goal of this mode is simply occupying the nodes on the map. You’ll constantly be running with your team from one node to the next with your crawler as you leave your team in a weak position when defending. The result is a constant stream of messages that you’re either losing or winning nodes.
To display all the graphical violence on your screen an updated Tiberium Wars engine is used. It looks nice but you don’t really get a feeling of “wow, this looks great!”. Units lack detail and look a bit square and also the surroundings are less detailed, just like in C&C4′s predecessor. The difference is of course that we didn’t really notice before due to the large-scale combat, but with the smaller teams now we get the chance to pay more attention to the surroundings and they don’t really look nice.
Qua sound the units have their typical voices and the actors do a pretty decent job going from crazy commander to the helpful professor. The music quality is quite high, just like we’re used from the previous games and you’ll have a suiting tune for every moment.
Something many players really won’t like either is the new DRM Electronic Arts uses. You need an internet connection not only to activate the game, but also to play it. Even in singleplayer if your connection twitches the game will pause! Forget playing alone somewhere offline.
Instead of using the old, well-known and trustworthy formula, the entire concept of Command & Conquer has been thrown off the table in exchange for something new. As a result we get half-baked gameplay and budget FMVs that don’t really leave us with fond memories on the ending of the Tiberium saga. A true outrage for the loyal Command & Conquer fan!