For those of you that don't like excessive preambles and just want to get right down to the nitty-gritty of the game, well, here goes. I'm back again and this time I've got my sights on EA's Command and Conquer 3 for the Xbox 360. Just like BFME II the game runs on a similar engine (C&C Generals) and suffers from the same dodgy frame rates and glitches (when the action heats up)
It looks nice enough, don't get me wrong. It has everything that you'd expect from the C&C franchise except a decent control system. You see, other people might find that the control system works for them but I'll take a mouse and keyboard over a fiddly controller in a RTS game any day of the week thanks very much.
You have a magnetic selection mode in the console version; it kind of works but has a habit of selecting the unit that you least want. This is all right if you're just looking to move your units about without much thought for tactical placement, but it falls right down if you want to place a small unit somewhere for a bit of spying or a commando for a bit of destruction.
The system drops off the edge of a cliff if you are trying to select anything smaller than a tank basically. You have to memorise numerous button combinations (worse than a fighting game) in order to get the best out of the control system and I can't be doing with that, not when I'm trying to win a war against an AI who can do the same thing without the need for a game of Twister with its fingers.
If you want to select your whole army and tromp them around the map, then the control system functions all right for that.
The game is packed with gorgeous (funny and campy) FMV just like the PC version, you don't need to worry about video card issues and the FMV plays silky-smooth, it's just the actual gameplay frame-rate that takes a nose dive when the action really kicks into high gear. I seem to remember this from the BFME II game on the 360 as well; it was plagued with similar problems.
The story mode sees you play as the GDI (Global Defence Initiative) or the Brotherhood of Nod. There is a third faction but I won't spoil the story for you (even if you already know) by mentioning them. You play a bunch of missions for each side that have varying objectives but boil down to the good old amass resources, build an army worthy of Michael Ironside and kick the ever-living crap out of your opponent AI (which isn't as lethal as the Skirmish AI thankfully)
Play a few maps, get some FMV and advance the story, rinse and repeat. It's C&C as we know and love it. The performances of the various FMV actors vary, you'll see some famous faces from movie and TV here and their lines are pretty decent if you ask me (there can be a lot of cheese though).
The sound and music are also excellent, there's nothing that I can fault those on so I'm not going to even try.
If you want to know more about the game then follow the link to the PC review, since the game remains the same I'm going to concentrate here on the features of the 360 version compared to it and keep on bitching about the frame rate drops that shouldn't really happen (I chalk it down to lazy optimisation myself).
One of the fundamental changes in the game comes when you take it on Live. There's now even more reason to avoid the service as if you have access to an Xbox Live Vision Camera the tom-foolery and rudeness can be taken up a notch. Yes, every player gets a little Picture in Picture; expect lots of ass-shots and finger-waving in the gentle V shapes.
There are plenty of game modes and maps and lets face it, this is the only 360 RTS and it is Command and Conquer, proper Command and Conquer with the good old Mammoth tank being totally OTT in the power department. It's worse than cries of ZERG Rush!
Siege mode is pretty good; especially since you start the game behind a powerful force field that lets you build up a decent sized army. Once the timer expires the force field drops and the players are allowed to blow each other to tiny bits. I can see this being the mode of choice for the dedicated players since it offers a lot of potential for long grudge matches with powerful armies.
If you can get past the shortcomings (frame rate and tricky control system) the game is still a whole lot of fun. It's typical C&C goodness with a smattering of humour in the cut scene FMV and definitely the best performance from Kane for a long time. You might be aching for a mouse and keyboard combination in some of the battles where the control method makes it hard to single out that commando for the stealthy raid you're supposed to be doing.
It has a decent physics system and some fairly all right AI, as I said in the PC review; it doesn't break the mould or redefine it. It's very much in the camp of if it's not broken, don't fix it. It is the 360's only futuristic RTS (at the moment) and it is has a lot of potential (especially over Live).
If you're a C&C fan but lack the power on your PC to play it, own a 360, then you could do worse than picking up this slice of gaming pie. If you hanker for the good old days of the Wing Commander FMV, then pick up this game. If you're new the series and you really want to see what C&C is like, you guessed it, pick up this game.
If you're just looking to add to your Gamerscore, you might want to rent it.