Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Recon (PC)
Eight years is a long time to wait.
Coming off of the shoulders of Command & Conquer: Generals, Electronic Arts has found that it’s time to go back to the roots of the almighty Command & Conquer franchise, soon to release the next RTS in the "Tiberian" line, known as Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars.
Tiberium Wars takes place a decade or so after the events that transpired in Tiberian Sun. Kane is dead (or so we think), and the world is at a relative peace. The omnipotent alien resource – which you will invariably collect by the truckload – known as Tiberium has evolved into an inorganic, all-absorbing mineral that has ravaged the earth. The planet is now divided into three types of "zones". Blue zones are virtually untouched by the strange mineral, and are zealously guarded by the UN-founded Global Defense Initiative – the good guys. Yellow zones are hazardous to human health, yet are comprised of the greatest population concentrations worldwide. These yellow zones are war-torn grottos and ruins, controlled by the elusive, devious, and all around not-very-nice Brotherhood of Nod. The final areas of the planet – red zones – are completely uninhabitable by any type of life.
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Thus, the third Tiberium War begins. Kane makes a surprise resurrection by mysterious means and the Brotherhood of Nod goes into a frenzy, committing terrorist surprise attacks against Blue Zone strongholds of the GDI. GDI, lulled into a false sense of security, closing many of the main strongholds and reverting to "lesser" technologies than those found in the prequel – Tiberian Sun, is taken aback by these attacks and is now found in dire straits trying to fend off the savage ambushes and raids.
In our preview, we were given a taste of the single player campaign and a meatier chunk of the multiplayer. The single player was entertaining, to say the least. There’s over 70 minutes of classic full-motion video to watch and enjoy, with a star-studded cast such as Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers, Scanners, Total Recall), Jennifer Morrison (House, M.D.), Josh Halloway (Lost), and the ever venerable Billy Dee Williams (Star Wars). Of course, it wouldn’t be Command & Conquer without the permanent antagonist Kane, played by Joe Kucan.
The campaigns themselves played very well, but for GDI it was a bit tutorial-heavy. Nod’s missions were frantic and were commonly based on a timer of some sort, mandating that you’d beat a mission in ten minutes or so. This added a great deal of tension to a terrorist organization – blow up this building before GDI comes crashing down upon you, and the like. It really added to the environment of the game, and the separate play styles of each campaign added a replay value. Also interesting were the bonus objectives in each mission. These secondary – or even tertiary – objectives added an extra challenge, indicating that a commander would never actually beat a mission unless he or she completed all the extra objectives along the way.
The interface has gone through a major evolution as well. Tiberium Wars has gone back to the days of the sidebar, with radar, production queues and other tools nicely tucked away on the right side of the screen. However, everything is context-based, allowing for multiple production queues, enabling the player to build multiple structures, vehicles, or infantry squads simultaneously. For those who are more used to a StarCraft feel of production, those gamers can click on the structures directly, and the sidebar will give the commander a list of available units to construct or train. This is a big leap from the predecessors, increasing the speed of base and army construction dramatically.
Speed is the name of the game, here. The guys at EA pulled no punches in making sure that Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars was as fast as they could possibly make it. A base takes no more than five minutes to fully construct: defenses and tech trees fully developed and deployed. A full match, with battles included, takes about twenty minutes, with Ion Cannon and Nuclear ICBM super weapons flying. This made our multiplayer experience very tense and exciting.
In multiplayer mode, there are a multitude of maps available for play, ranging across all three zones – blue, yellow and red – with full 8-player Internet support. There are also three factions to choose from, the GDI and Brotherhood of Nod, of course, but also the Scrin, that we didn’t have the opportunity to play in single player. While GDI is the powerhouse and Nod is the sneak-tactic "gotcha" faction, the Scrin play as an odd combination of the two. This alien species, that we can only speculate are the origin of the mysterious Tiberium, plays very weak at first glance, but towards the end are incredibly powerful, with unique Ion Storm weapons and teleportation devices.
In terms of the strategy, we found that tank rushes just weren’t enough to cut the mustard here. Combinations of units were key. For example, the Juggernaut – GDI’s massive uber-artillery unit – could not use its artillery barrage ability without the use of sniper teams – a GDI infantry squad. Sniper teams can go across the map and "spot" for the Juggernaut, allowing it to use its devastating artillery safely from across the map. The Scrin also can combine entire units, using the defensive abilities of one unit to augment another. Nod also, with its Avatar warmech – a massive walking death-machine – can rip the turrets off of friendly tanks to augment itself with extra cannons or abilities.
Graphically, Tiberium Wars does an excellent job. Taking the SAGE engine from previous titles like Battle for Middle Earth and Command & Conquer: Generals, Tiberium Wars sports visual effects such as heat distortion and reflectivity, as well as a decent polygon count per unit. All this, and the system requirements are very easy on the computer, allowing for massive swarms of infantry and effects, with little slowdown. If your PC still isn’t beefy enough to handle it, look forward to the Xbox 360 version, coming out sometime after the PC release.
Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is set for release on the PC worldwide on March 26, with the game arriving on shelves March 28.