As you'd expect, the game also has quite a lot of variation in the units for each of the three factions on offer which is a key reason why C&C 3
does play as well as it does. While each of the three factions have the same basic units and weapon types - e.g. an anti vehicle ground unit, an anti infantry base defense, a large powerful all round unit, a super weapon etc - the abilities and functions of some are very unique to the faction they belong to. For instance, the large and powerful
NOD 'Avatar' unit can engulf other NOD units to take their abilities, the GDI 'Juggernaut' unit can team up with a sniper team for long range artillery attacks, and the 'unnamed third' faction, amongst other cool abilities, can create worm holes capable of sending units across a battlefield in a split second. While much of the methods of play can be carried over from one faction to the next, such as tiberium collecting and the way in which bases are constructed, there is still enough variation between the
three to influence how you play with each, particularly when you take the game online and go up against some quality human competition where not knowing your faction's strengths and weaknesses can be brutal.
In fact, for a game that is very much like the stereotypical RTS, C&C 3 does an all round great job of variation, whether it be in how missions are structured to how the game feels under the different factions. This is well supplemented by the fact the game simply plays brilliantly well even if almost everything about it is the definition of a textbook RTS - that is, build a base, order units, and collect resources. Really, the only fault I can lay down on the gameplay in
C&C 3 besides the fact it feels similar to other RTS games both in and not in the C&C series is the occasional AI quirk, consisting of stuff like harvesting units casually strolling across enemy lands to reach a tiberium field, or your units not always responding to attacks with the urgency you'd expect.
Even with these slight quirks there is no doubting that C&C 3
plays a very good game of real time strategy, although on the other hand there is also no doubting that
part of me was hoping for a little bit more than just a very well executed stereotypical, textbook RTS. Even though it may very well be the most fundamentally sound RTS ever made, I can't help but feel the fact C&C 3
will also see release on the Xbox 360 has resulted in somewhat of a 'dumbing down' regarding the game mechanics, particularly in the area of unit control which, while having the ability to control an awesome amount of units at any one time, lacks anything more advanced than the ability
to select the amount of units you want and either move them to one location or have them attack one enemy while controlling a few basic behavioral settings. There is a way-point system available, but in a game where units are little more than expendable commodities, it probably won't be overly useful for most gamers.
If there is one area C&C 3 does excel beyond the norm in however, it is the graphics. Visual quality has been an area of focus for RTS gaming in the past few years particularly since the move from 2D-isometric to fully 3D engines, and since that time I don't think there has been an RTS that looks prettier than C&C 3, at least definitely not significantly. The environments are perhaps the most exquisite eye candy on offer, ranging from the destructible buildings and landscape
to the eerie mist dominating some of the more isolated maps. The visual quality of the units themselves are not much worse although, as per usual with RTS games, the closer you zoom the camera view in the less impressive they seem - I guess it's a good thing then than the furthest view on offer is easily the most effective to play with. C&C 3 is of course rendered in a pure 3D engine although at times it doesn't really seem like it function wise - the impression you get is the game was definitely
designed to retain that old C&C feel which is fine really, but once again we come back to the lack of innovation in the gameplay and this extends well into the engine itself. Besides having the ability to rotate the camera, the game doesn't really 'use' the 3D engine in any other practical way.
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is a very worthy addition to a very successful and enjoyable RTS series, but in case you haven't comprehended the message so far, let me point it out to you again - it is not an overly innovative title from an RTS gaming perspective. It is indeed very innovative when it comes to its impressive and immersive storyline and live action sequences, but when it comes to the actual gameplay between these live action sequences, you're more or less playing a very familiar
game with a few gameplay enhancements and better visuals. This is not necessarily a bad thing as I'm sure the fans of C&C would prefer a game they're comfortable with, but ultimately, if you didn't find yourself enthralled by any RTS based C&C before this year, you probably won't find yourself much more enthralled with C&C 3. It is very much a traditional RTS with generic fundamentals that is supplemented by some minor unique aspects like units and technologies. Basically, if
there has ever been an 'arcade' RTS game built for quick, simple and fun consumption, C&C 3 is it.
With all this said though, you'd be hard pressed to find another RTS out there that beats C&C 3 in quality when implementing said traditional and generic fundamentals, and while the live action isn't what I'd call premier movie grade, it is definitely some of the best acting and story telling the gaming world has ever seen giving a rather "big budget by gaming standards" impression. If you're expecting the end all one-of-a-kind RTS in C&C 3, you will be disappointed,
but if you're expecting some no-nonsense, down right fun and addictive RTS gaming based around a proven formula, you'll be pleasantly surprised.