Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars Reader Review
Pros: New faction is cool; intuitive console controls with clever shortcuts, wonderfully hammy acting, unit animations are good; solid classic C&C gameplay. Cons: Maps are quite small; could do with further zoom-out; necessary DLC purchases; lack of multiplayer variety; little gameplay innovation.
Being a thirty-something gamer I can claim to have grown up with the C&C series. I've played most instalments since the original Westwood game: 'Dune 2 ' Battle for Arakas'.
Having burned my PC games a few years ago, this is the first instalment since Red Alert 2 that I have owned. It is both pleasing, and a little disappointing, to see how familiar the game is to previous instalments. In fact, many of the classic gameplay mechanics, pioneered in 'Dune 2', are still present, including harvesting a common resource* and the propensity for 'turtle' vs 'rush' strategies. (*although Tiberium replaced the 'Spice').
In many ways I think the RTS have evolved beyond C&C, with games like 'Total Annihilation' and 'Supreme Commander' offering more effective tactical gameplay. Having said that, C&C still offers a hugely enjoyable RTS romp that is perfectly suited to console play - provide it has adequate controls.
C&C on a console was never going to offer the same degree of flexibility offered by keyboard and mouse, but the developers of C&C 3 have done a brilliant job. C&C 3 successfully provides simple navigation whilst also offering more complex instructions and interactions through the use of 'double tap' button combinations that become second nature once learnt.
Clever use of menus and rally points mean that you seldom have to scroll around the battlefield unnecessarily, which results in a much more immersive and less frustrating user interface experience than previous attempts at console RTS.
Another time honoured feature of C&C games has been the use of FMV to progress the story. C&C 3 has a fantastic ensemble cast and some wonderfully hammy acting that make the FMV sequences a real joy: the return of Kane, with the original actor, is inspired; whilst Michael Ironside's 'over acting' is hilarious.
The graphics, sound effects, music, and overall presentation of C&C 3 are top notch. The unit animations, particularly from the new alien faction, are really cool; especially if you zoom right in on the action. Despite the excellent graphics, the overall experience is limited by an apparent lack of a 'high level' zoom, such that you can see enough of the battlefield to make tactical decisions. This restriction can make the game quite difficult when the action really hots-up. I suspect the decision to lock the zoom was to sustain the frame rate but I would happily sacrifice some texture and detail to get a higher view.
The Multiplayer experience a bit hit and miss. The maps are well designed but small, and the core 'collect > build > slaughter' gameplay is a blast. However, there is no real variety in the match mode, except for 'capture the flag' and 'territory' variants stolen from FPS games. It is a shame that the developers couldn't have come up with some slightly more original ideas, or even a co-op facility. Most 4 player games become 2 player games very quickly, so you might end up watching for a while. The limitations of the strategic elements within C&C are also more prevalent in multiplayer, and it is often the fastest 'builder' than wins rather than a clever strategist.
C&C 3 features some 30+ missions that are pretty varied and feature all three factions. Multiplayer and Skirmish modes offer endless games for real aficionados. The achievements are pretty challenging, but not impossible, and will keep achievement junkies (Stu!) busy for some time. There is also the prospect of imminent DLC, including larger MP maps, but the fact you will have to pay for maps that should have been included in the retail release sucks.
In summary, C&C 3 offers the classic C&C experience, in a highly polished and well executed package. C&C 3 features some clever and well thought out controls, cool unit animations, and timeless gameplay, which makes C&C 3 a solid buy for strategy game fan.
8 / 10