On the plus side, the team porting Kane's Wrath to the Xbox 360 has thought long and hard about the control scheme, and has come up with something genuinely fantastic. RTS games have a hard time on consoles in general because they're designed from the ground up for the PC's control system. That's not something that Kane's Wrath overcomes - anyone who plays PC games will still pine for a mouse and keyboard when playing this, in a way that an FPS gamer, for example, probably wouldn't. However, this is still probably the best effort we've seen yet at sensible RTS control using a joypad, largely because it tries to find its own way around the challenge rather than just emulating mouse controls on a thumbstick.
The chief innovation is a radial menu, called forth by a trigger, which allows you to rapidly select and navigate just about anything to do with your unit production, build queue, groupings and selections. It takes a little getting used to, but it's ultimately a very powerful way to control the game - not remotely as precise or elegant as a mouse, but a bloody good compromise and one which console RTS fans will definitely appreciate.
If that comparison with the PC version is Kane's Wrath's strongest suit on consoles, though, it's in another comparison with the PC version that the game delivers its most serious disappointment. When Kieron reviewed the PC expansion pack a few months ago, almost half of his review was given over to the Global Conquest mode, a Risk-style strategy game with surprising depth which served as a non-linear supplement to the campaign mode. It was, arguably, one of the biggest innovations that EA has made to C&C in many years.
It's also been completely removed from the console version of the game. In its place, we've got something called Kane's Challenge, which is a pretty competently put-together set of pre-rolled challenges that can be played through as any one of the nine sub-factions. To call this a weak substitute would be overstating its value somewhat. A major, innovative and entertaining game mode has been removed, and what we've got instead is a small collection of skirmish games to play through.
As you would expect from a C&C game, what you do get is very well polished and presented, and of course, there's plenty of live-action cut-scene footage there to entertain the fans. The online modes remain largely unchanged from C&C3, which is to say that they work nicely - and that the Xbox Live-powered functionality of the console version is actually superior to the weak match-making and poor interface of the PC's online modes.
None of that, though, can really compensate for the fact that console owners are being asked to pay more money for a lesser product. Taken on its own merits, we'd describe the 360 version of Kane's Wrath as a relatively solid but entirely uninspired expansion - one for the dedicated fans only, albeit one with a very clever new control system. It's by comparison with the PC expansion that this game starts to look seriously bad, and even while acknowledging that not every 360 owner has a gaming-capable PC, our score reflects the fact that this is one game where the console version is definitely inferior.
5 / 10