Command & Conquer Generals
Command & Conquer is probably one of the most well-known RTS series in the history of games.
Westwood created the genre with Dune 2, refined it with the original Command & Conquer and with the exception of Tiberian Sun, which was a game that should never have been released, it is by far the best RTS series that has seen the light.
The latest in the series is Command & Conquer: Generals. A new game with new features and even a new development team. That’s right, its bye bye Westwood, hello EA.
The fact that EA created Generals has brought some major changes to the C&C game. The Command & Conquer universe and even the Red Alert universe are gone for instance. One could wonder why Generals listed the Command & Conquer tag as even the FMV movies which separated the missions are gone. Instead, we now get some in-game graphics as separations between missions. Well, we must have loved Tanya too much…
So let’s see what’s left.
When you first start up Generals, you get the choice between three side: The US, The Chinese or the GLA (Global Liberation Army, a nice name for a bunch of terrorists).
You’re a one-star General in one of these armies and you have to command your troops and ultimately get your side to win. By doing so, you have to try to keep casualties to a minimum and that way you’ll increase your experience level, giving you the possibility to get a higher rank and with that, new units.
That’s about it for the new stuff in Generals. Of course, there’s lots of units we haven’t seen in any of the previous C&C games, but that’s kinda obvious as the complete backstory of those games has been thrown overboard.
Each side has its own specific strengths and weaknessess. The US is very high-tech but needs loads of money. The GLA are very cheap but don’t have the weapon arsenal of the US, while the Chinese are somewhat in the middle of both.
Each side has its pro’s and con’s, but for skirmish battles, I can promise you that tactics will not be the main thing. You’ll see that it’s all about creating the most units and the biggest army in the shortest time after which you all start a massive attack on each other, and the US having the heaviest weapons will definitely be the most popular to choose.
The nice thing about Generals is the possibility to upgrade your units by adding extra pilots, making them harder to be destroyed. This is much the same to what you were able to do with the civilian buildings in the previous C&C games, but still nice.
The AI is much like we’ve seen before, including many of the bad things. Units tend to take a long detour when going somewhere, or stand in front of a mountain, not knowing where they wanted to go. When a unit is being shot at, it will just keep standing there, waiting to be killed and it’s like all your units have absolutely no brain of their own. When enemy units pass by: they follow them as chickens without their heads and once the enemies are destroyed they’ll just keep standing there without any reason… and when you are trying to keep your casualties to a minimum, the last thing you want is units wandering around somewhere…
The only improvement is the collision detection. At least when a couple of units are in each others way, they’ll make room for the unit to pass instead of just standing there. I would say that after all these years of C&C games, this is the least we could expect.
The graphics are the highlight of Generals. From the moment you start up the game, you’ll get to see incredibly beautiful graphics, definitely the best I’ve seen in an RTS for a long time. Explosions look pretty realistic and when you have a guy getting struck by a bomb, you won’t just see him splattered all over the place and turned into a pool of blood after which he disappears. No, in Generals you’ll see him flying in the air with his legs and arms floating around after which his body smacks into the ground, breaking every little bone he had. Really cool
But does that make up for the getting rid of the FMV ? Does that make up for disappearance of the original universes of C&C and Red Alert ? Does that make up for the possibility to identify yourself with certain characters ? The answer is: No.
One of the strongest points Command & Conquer and Red Alert always had, was a good storyline which was easily understood and with which real people could identify themselves with. In Generals you have missions to accomplish but the broader picture seems to be missing, making this game a very beautiful but unfortunately also a bit too standard RTS.
Generals is a good game but compared to the Westwood games it feels like gray matter with beautiful graphics, while Westwood always used to give their games that extra angle which made you want to continue playing. The fact that Westwood has been closed down makes me fear that we will never see a *real* Command & Conquer or Red Alert game again and I would be really sad for that to happen.