C&C 3: Tiberium Wars Preview (360)
Second only to the legacy of Starcraft, the Command & Conquer franchise is well known for its sinister storyline, ravaging gameplay and stressful yet exciting campaigns. However, EA only recently decided to up the stakes for the sequel to previous best-sellers by making the title both for the PC, every real time strategy’s true home, and the 360.
Console RTS titles have not done well in the past. Anyone who can name more than three RTS console titles should be given an honorary medal just for that knowledge. So when EA announced that C&C3 was going to be released for the Xbox 360 along side the PC, there was much skepticism
To clear up any doubts about the console title, EA recently released a demo for the 360, including a full tutorial on the controls and gameplay, two full missions on the easy difficulty setting, and a quick play mode through Xbox Live. Though the PC version came out two weeks prior to the 360′s, EA made a wise choice in delaying the console title and giving players that period of time to try the demo.
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Without the mouse and keyboard, the development team had to rely solely on the dual analog sticks and a few buttons to keep things simple. And they did a good job on it, especially considering what had to be done to not overcomplicate gameplay and not cause tendonitis for players.
The A button is the general command key, or "Universal Action" as is phrased in the game. Sending troops to attack or move, selecting buildings to sprout from the ground, or choosing subjects for immediate destruction all happens with this one button.
The two analog sticks work to pan the camera, to rotate it and to zoom in and out. Sadly, the zoom feature is fairly limited, which makes it pretty useless. Unlike current RTS titles that feature zooming in and out on the entire map, zooming out shows only a small area, though zooming in brings the action close enough. For serious players zooming in doesn’t make a difference, but zooming out will be a pain.
The right and left triggers are sub-menus, which is great since it’s too difficult to maneuver using more than one button and both analog sticks simultaneously. This makes it very easy to control the action on screen without going through different menu screens, something that typically wastes time on the PC.
As for the rest of the commands, they aren’t too important. Gameplay can run smoothly without them at all, which are good for novice players. However, for anyone interested in issuing fast commands, switching selected targets, deselecting units and quick-moving the camera, they can at the press of a button.
C&C3 features three modes of gameplay in the demo, though the full version will support four, including the Nod campaign. Unfortunately, no co-op mode is available for either the PC or 360 version, nor does the game offer cross platform play. Shadowrun is still the first game set to do that.
Boot camp, the tutorial, was a great start, remembering how different the control scheme is compared to the PC version. Spending a good ten minutes learning how the controls work infinitely helps over just looking at the manual offered in-game. It’s also great for anyone not familiar with the Command & Conquer series. Thankfully, the learning curve for C&C3 is not too steep.
There’s also a great deal of stupidity seen when ordering soldiers to attack and watching them walk through tiberium, the money making resource that pays the bills. This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t harmful to anything going through it, save for the tiberium collectors. Which raises the question, why don’t all forces use that armor?
As was true for the previous C&C titles, C&C3 has real actors portraying characters in-game, either for cinematics or during gameplay to give updates. Familiar actors like Michael Ironside (the voice of Sam Fisher) and Jennifer Morrison (Dr. Cameron in House M.D.), as well as returning faces like that of the infamous Kane are the star power. It’s a comforting change to see real actors in a game after watching so many titles with either CGI or animated cinematics.
One of the biggest differences between the PC and 360 versions of C&C3 is the use of the vision camera. During an online match, players with cameras can use them to see each other while communicating, which brings another realm of excitement to the game. Or so says the videos, open for download. The online play in the demo used this feature, though it is one of those things that works best when playing with three friends. Random strangers don’t bring the same kind of enjoyment.
Set for release on May 10th, Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars promises to be the first, and at the very least, adequate C&C title for a next-generation console. Any fan of the genre and franchise with a 360 should a look at the game, one of the few current releases.