If you're a PC gamer in almost any shape or form, you should know of Command & Conquer, if not know it very well first hand from its numerous appearances since 1995. It is perhaps the most identifiable RTS series ever made next to Age of Empires and for good reason - when you fired up a C&C, you knew a few things to be certain; lots of action, lots of explosions, and lots of fun. While the series did dab in the genre of FPS with Renegade, it's primary
focus is definitely RTS gameplay and this is exactly what we see in the series' latest, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars. In some ways, C&C 3 is an epic addition to this prestigious series, but in other ways it is little more than a technology update to the same tried and tested RTS gameplay.
The first sign of C&C 3
's conformity to the formula that is RTS gaming is the modes on offer from the main menu, as they are basically the usual suspects - campaign mode for offline storyline gameplay, a tutorial for getting used to the game's controls and functions, a skirmish mode for quick action against the CPU on 20 maps, and of course a multiplayer mode featuring both network and online support. There are few surprises when it comes to the modes on offer as they're
basically the same we've all come to know and love in many RTS's prior to C&C 3
. This is neither a good or bad thing per se, although it does somewhat set the tone for the game as a whole - that being 'few surprises'.
As promised in the build up to release, EA have put a lot of effort into the live action sequences between missions in the single player campaign mode which come to you via video transmissions usually detailing your next mission or the impact of the one you just did, or both. While the cast on offer is not exactly world class in terms of name power, fans of productions like Battlestar Galactica and other sci-fi's will see a few familiar faces and, in turn, the performances of these actors suggest
a good job of casting as they do come off as natural fits for this genre. As far as video and computer games go, it is definitely one of if not the most ambitious live action implementations ever attempted and it pays off for C&C 3 as it does add a very movie-esque quality to the game, although the fact it is supplemented with a sincerely interesting storyline doesn't hurt either. With all this in mind, it is clear that the single player campaign mode was EA's primary focus which I'm sure will please
a lot of gamers. This is not to say the other modes on offer are lacking, but it's a safe bet to say the vast majority of gamers will want to jump straight into the campaign mode before anything else with perhaps the exception of the tutorial mode for those new to RTS games.
Aside the attention given to the storyline and how it is portrayed, the campaign mode also boasts a beefy thirty missions of gameplay across three playable factions - which include the GDI, the NOD and another force I'll simply refer to as the 'unnamed third' to prevent spoiling the storyline. To give the gamer a full understanding of the story, the game plays the same major course of events for each faction's campaign from their point of view although obviously with different outcomes
in key battles depending on who you are controlling. This means the game does recycle some maps between faction campaigns although this is not a regular occurrence so there is plenty of variation in maps between all three - for instance, the Australian and England maps aren't unlocked until the NOD and 'unnamed third' campaigns are played respectively.
There is one distinct short coming in the campaign mode however and that is its linear unlinked structure of the missions. You will often have a choice from a few active missions to undertake but all you're really choosing is the order as the ones you skip will still need to be done to progress the storyline. Basically, there just isn't any real connection between missions besides what the storyline tells you - units aren't carried over, tiberium isn't carried over, and how you do things has no real influence
on the next mission at all besides in maybe one or two instances. If you ask me, this type of campaign mode of almost random linear missions connected by a storyline is a little dated; I would have loved to have seen a much more epic and dynamic army vs army turn based style mode where you maintain fronts across the world and a failed mission doesn't automatically mean a halt in the storyline but rather just a loss of territory. The campaign mode is definitely very solid as it is, but there was a chance
to be fairly innovative here let by.
With that said though, any disappointment you may have with the lack of innovation from C&C 3's game modes is quickly forgotten by the time you start one of the many intense missions in the campaign mode, or in the skirmish/multiplayer modes. Like the RTS based C&C's before it, this game is pure action packed fun and on top of that, I feel it will offer a very tough challenge to even the most seasoned RTS veterans on its hardest settings, which can range from the basic 'easy, medium and
hard' settings to tweaking CPU AI tendencies (in skirmish mode). Some maps and missions can have you playing for hours as you juggle between defending your base and fulfilling the objectives at hand, while others can be completed in the matter of minutes.
This is another area of good variation in C&C 3 as not all missions are about building up and destroying the map - sometimes you will find yourself escorting and protecting an important convoy or sometimes you'll find yourself having to capture
key buildings with a handful of units as you navigate through heavily fortified areas, amongst other one off unique mission types. In one memorable mission for the 'unnamed third' faction, you are given one 'special' unit which has the ability of mind control and basically the whole time you're required to move from one side of the map to the other with the aid of only one enemy unit under your control at a time - sounds simple enough, but the execution creates a very tricky and unique experience.
Admittedly, the variation in missions can test your patience as some are definitely not as fun as others, but it is ultimately a good thing to have a bit of variation as otherwise things can get repetitive very quickly - particularly when playing an RTS.