Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars PC Review
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.
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.
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.
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars PC Review
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.
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.