Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars
Tiberium is back, Kane is back, and yes, Command & Conquer is back! With Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars we don’t only get back the stuff mentioned previously but we even get a cast including several members of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and of course Michael Ironside as the general leading the GDI troops. But is that enough to make this a fantastic game?
Well, I’ll cut right to the chase. If I would have written my review after the first couple of hours of playing C&C3:TW I would no doubt have given this game a score over 90% but as you can see, after playing it quite a lot longer the score didn’t rise that high anymore. Mixed feelings are what caused this decline.
When you first start up the game you’ll get baffled by the fantastic cut-scenes that are shot in HD and are really awesome to look at due to the fantastic quality. It’s like nothing I had ever seen before in a PC game and I was truly impressed. This continued as I started the GDI campaign and got overwhelmed by the graphical quality in-game. The detail of the units (including the infantry this time) and buildings is great and the same can be said of the environment. Lightning strikes, different types of foliage and soil, and impressive explosions make for a truly breath-taking experience and it’s a joy to watch armies collide while you just sit back and watch the spectacle (if you’ve got an army that’s strong enough of course, otherwise you’d better take some more control in order not to loose ;p).
The campaigns are pretty standard to what we’re used from C&C; destroy all enemy units, rescue a certain unit, protect a convoy, … and so on. Next to these main ones, each mission has several secondary objectives and when you manage to get those done as well, you earn a couple of additional medals. Yup, each mission comes with medals if you succeed. Not that this changes anything to the gameplay but EA clearly had Xbox360 achievements in the back of their minds when creating C&C3.
Humping the tech tree goes pretty fast so in no time you’ll have your GDI army completed with tons of Mammoth tanks after which just about any other unit becomes obsolete. Just rush a handful of Mammoths into NOD territory and they’ll get the job done. EA clearly knows this tactic and there’s one mission where you won’t be able to get to the NOD base with Mammoths so you’ll have to figure out some other way to destroy them. Not that that’s so hard though.
With this we come to the first minor downpoint. Once you’ve reached the tech level that allows you to produce Mammoths, you won’t need anything else anymore. Give these tanks their upgrade and they’re unstoppable. Why would you even want to make anything else? You do have Juggernauts also and they look mighty powerful, but they’re so slow that by the time they reach the battlefield, your Mammoths will have already done the job. Some more balance in this area would have made things a bit more challenging if you ask me.
Balancing is also something the NOD army could use. Compared to GDI, they’re clearly underpowered. They do have stealth abilities, but with the AI constantly creating anti-stealth devices, this doesn’t really help much. And in pure power they’ve got nothing that can really stand up against a Mammoth. NOD’s biggest unit is the Avatar which has an Obelisk laser, but to combat infantry you’ll need to create Flametanks and assimilate them. And then they still are no match for GDI’s strongest. There’s also a beam canon but that only works at close range so by the time your unit manages to get close to a Mammoth, it will be destroyed already. Yup, NOD are clearly meant to get defeated or EA should get the balancing issues out of the way in a patch.
Once you’ve finished both campaigns, you also get to play a couple of missions with the new race that arrived in C&C3: the alien Scrin. They look pretty alien and strange, but overall they play pretty much the same as GDI and NOD although they do have some properties that remind you of that other great RTS series from EA, Red Alert. A refreshing new faction that adds a little more spice to Command & Conquer.
Next to the campaigns, there’s also a multiplayer mode that can keep you busy for a while but forget about turtling. As stated earlier, the tech tree goes up pretty fast but the game is so quick that if you wait too long you’ll be rushed over by your opponents in no time. A nice addition is the Battlecam which allows you to watch other people’s games, but the question remains how many people will actually use this. After all, it’s always more fun to play yourself than to watch. Even if there’s the possibility of commenting with the Battlecam software.
So, what do we have here? Technically C&C3 is fantastic. The graphics are great and also the sound & music are pretty good. The atmosphere is cheesy, which suits the franchise perfectly, and it’s nice to see Michael Ironside along with Josh Holloway (Lost), Grace Park and Tricia Helfer (both from Battlestar: Galactica) in this game. Still, I stated I remain with mixed feelings so what’s not to like?
I already gave some insight in the balancing issues which are the main problem of C&C3 but that’s not all. The storylines and missions are the same, only from opposite sides. Once you’ve finished one campaign, you’ll know what the other one is all about and you’ll have pretty similar missions in similar terrain, just another point of view and different cut-scenes. After finishing the GDI campaign, I couldn’t really stay interested in the NOD campaign and the balancing issues only made that feeling worse. Maybe if I had started with NOD and then did GDI I would have felt different but it is as it is. C&C3 would have been much more interesting if both campaigns would have been completely different from each other so you wouldn’t know in advance what you would be getting into.
With games like Supreme Commander bringing tactical depth and tech leveling to the next level, EA has walked a different path with C&C3. Tiberium Wars is to Supreme Commander what Serious Sam is to Half-Life 2. It’s a game with a cheesy atmosphere and a great technical backing that makes for quick and fun gameplay. However, the balancing issues are a real party pooper for those that like playing with NOD and the fact that both campaigns are in se the same doesn’t help either. Command & Conquer is back and it’s fun, but it could have been near perfect if EA would have taken a little bit more care of the issues mentioned.