Command and Conquer games have always been fun, even C&C Generals was fun and regardless of what people say, that's what really matters. You can have a tonne of units and a mass of buildings, but if the game's not fun then there's no real reason to play it other than to trounce the online opposition whilst writing rude words into the online chat system.
But Generals was set in the real world with proper factions, like the US and the Chinese. Where was the love for GDI and NOD I hear you ask? There wasn't any - so we had to wait until now, 2007, for the advent of Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.
Whenever I hear the word Tiberium I always think of Tiberius, which for a Trekkie (and I'm not) is the middle name of Captain Kirk. A whole crystal field of pure Shatner is enough to give anyone nightmares, moving on.
C&C 3 throws us back into the conflict between GDI and NOD by presenting the whole thing Wing Commander Hollywood movie style. With a big and bold cast list of actors from shows such as Battlestar Galactica (new) and Lost you've got some hot FMV on your hands right from the get go.
It even has Michael (voice of Sam Fisher) Ironside and Billy (Lando) Dee Williams in on the act.
The story is presented to you in FMV format with some lavish production values and some nice virtual sets. It's an ambitious game and I won't spoil the plot at all by giving out any information on it, just suffice it to say that you are going to either play as GDI or NOD and do your very best to wipe the opposing faction out.
The game itself is instantly familiar to C&C players using a variant of the BFME II engine, with some extra bells and whistles along with some left-out features. One feature that the game could have done with is more on base defence, walls would have been nice, and we like to build walls. I love nothing more than playing the Dwarves in BFME II and building walls all over the place.
My main gripe with C&C 3 is that it has all been done before. The maps are big, but they don't feel as nice as some of the other games. The units we've seen before are there with some new units and some major abilities like GDI's Ion Cannon, I remember that from C&C Renegade (one of my favourite things to watch).
I like the Commando, he's a bad ass unit that can take a lot of punishment and do all sorts of damage to the enemy - buildings and all, a regular one man army.
But on the surface what looks pretty is pretty dull after a while, you yearn for a little more strategy in the use of the units and the aforementioned walls would have added a lot more tactical options to the game. If the enemy can dig in behind these things with defence towers galore in the game's SP story, why can't I build them as well as use them in MP?
If you've played a RTS game before then you're going to be right at home with C&C 3. It doesn't break the mould of the genre or offer any new way of constructing your base. You build the same types of things, power plants and so on to facilitate expansion. Pit your units against the enemy and fight a war of attrition until you've either won the map and can move on via FMV or briefings or lost and have to revert to a save.
The game is fun however regardless of the fact that it might seem not much has changed and it's all been done before. It's a game that looks nice as well. All the expected graphical bells and whistles are there with a good use of lighting, particle effects and the whole kit and caboodle. The unit models and the buildings are done really well, there's a lovely sense of detail to everything and the Commando for instance looks pretty cool.
Whilst the maps are typical of the C&C series there's also a lot of detail gone into the various ruined buildings that dot the landscape, you can see the change when you take one over and little banners/flags fold out of the windows as your units sit inside and take pot-shots at the opposing enemy forces.
The maps are big enough and there should have been a few more 2v1 maps so you can buddy-up against a superior AI with a friend and play co-op style I'm impressed enough with the variety of stuff in those maps and some of the tactical buildings you can take advantage of, such as the EMP building that allows an EMP strike whilst you're in control of it.
The game's AI is fairly standard, it's pretty dumb at the lower levels, notch it up slightly and suddenly you're battling against an extremely superior see-all opponent and a dangerous adversary that can give you a run for your money even if you have some friends along for the ride. It doesn't push the AI boundaries as much as it should, not when compared to other games.
The animations are likewise, satisfying and there's a lot of detail gone into making them move well, look effective in combat and react to enemy attacks. It's got a physics system and gripping music as well as good sound, again though there's nothing that really wows you here, not after seeing the job that Relic did with their Dawn of War series.
The voice acting ranges from cheesy to superb, with a few often OTT performances by Billy Dee (I never really did like him that much though). The grating tones of Michael Ironside balance all of that out, you can see he's having fun. Along side this you've the usual unit voice work and it's all good quality.
There are the occasional bugs that creep into the unit path-finding and responsiveness to orders. It's nothing that's a massive show-stopper...unlike the bug that's been prevalent in the engine since I can remember - why they haven't fixed the fact that in order to host a LAN MP game you have to disable your primary internet connection on the host machine is beyond me, but that seriously knocks my score for the game right down since that's a show-stopper unless you know what to do.
Its madness, dare I say it without being kicked down a well by an angry Spartan King? We're in 2007 and several games later, BFME, BFME II and now C&C 3 all suffer from it!
All in all though C&C 3 is a good game, it's not amongst the shining stars of the RTS genre since it's all been done before. It does what it does competently enough and presents a fun/engaging story with some classic MP battles both against and cooperatively with a friend.
You can't afford to miss this one if you're a C&C fan.