Command & Conquer: Generals
It’s about time. After almost ten years, four games, and innumerable add-on packs, the Command & Conquer franchise is finally moving into 3D, rejuvenated by developer EA Pacific (a branch of Westwood), who brought us the excellent Red Alert 2 addon pack Yuri’s Revenge. But as you’re about to find out, that’s not the only change from this, the most famous RTS series. In fact, things couldn’t be more different, so forget everything you know about the previous games, lock it in a wooden casket and fire it into space, never to be seen again. It’s all change on planet C&C, and if you’re hankering for more of the same then don’t bother.
Spot The Difference
Possibly the most striking difference (other than the aesthetic one, which I’ll come to later) is that C&C: Generals will not be based in the C&C world we're all familiar with, where NOD and GDI forces battled for world supremacy. Neither will it be based on a power struggle between Communist Russia and the Allies, as envisioned by the Red Alert games. No, in fact from what we’ve seen and heard so far, Generals couldn’t be further removed from the C&C universe if it tried. Really hard. Even if it cheated, in fact. Which means, no more bald-headed paedophile-looking terrorist leaders. No more smudged-looking 2D isometric graphics which patronise your $300 graphics card. No more Stalin or Einstein, no more mad scientists with names that sound like bowel movements, and no more buxom Tanya flashing her cleavage gratuitously at the camera in a vain attempt to cover up her lack of acting ability. No, forget all that and instead take my hand (nothing pervy you understand), and follow me into a new world - the world of C&C: Generals.
A General Gist
It’s 2020, or thereabouts, and a terrorist organisation called the Global Liberation Army is threatening world peace (whatever that is). By some unexplained means, the GLA have gained access to Chinese military hardware as well as devastating biochemical weapons, and is using these resources to power its numerous terrorist activities in and around the Chinese borders. In this futuristic world, the Chinese government is filled with young forward-thinking pinkos with capitalist intentions, who promptly realise that their ambitions to turn China into a major economic and military world power can only be realised once the terrorists have been dealt with. And as if you couldn't have guessed, it’s only a matter of time till the Americans stick their noses into the whole situation, by helping out the Chinese.
Three, Two, One...
Generals will be split up into three, ten-mission campaigns - one for each of the three sides - all of which will come with their own set of goals and unique selection of military hardware. However, you’ll also have to contend with the restrictions that each one throws up. The Americans, ever concerned with public opinion, will place more importance on troop preservation, generally making them more powerful, but conversely more expensive than those of the Chinese. The GLA on the other hand are fanatics that will stop at nothing to gain victory, even if it means the massacre of hundreds of their own troops.
To aid you in your struggle for freedom, you’ll be provided with a selection of hi-tech, somewhat futuristic and at times ludicrous weaponry with which to annihilate the enemy. Team USA will be stocked up with cutting-edge technology, including a hovering tank called the Crusader, with a laser-firing sidekick drone. Hovering tanks? Who cares?. Where are the bloody double-turreted, rocket-launcher mounted Mammoth Tanks, that could bulldoze their way through walls? Now that was a tank. Still, could work I suppose. However, the Crusader sounds nothing less than inspired when compared to US Detention Camp, which comes fitted with a 'demoraliser’ ray gun which gathers the mood of your captives and fires it at enemy troops in order to reduce their morale. I shit you not. Apparently, this concentration camp is based on Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay (perhaps EA Pacific know something about it that we don't). It’s as yet unconfirmed whether you’ll be able to give your institutions equally ndiculous names (such as Camp Colonoscopy or Camp Echocardiograph), or whether you’ll get the option of stnnging up the inmates and beating the soles of their feet with cables wrapped in razor wire. We'll have to wait and see.
However, fear not, as there are plenty of exotic and exciting weapons of destruction which will have all you sadists bulging at the crotch. The Aurora strike fighter - a supersonic bomber - sounds particularly impressive, as it carries a devastating airburst bomb which will inflict massive area damage, while the B-52 bomber will give carpet-layers the world over endless satisfaction. What’s more, each airborne unit will come fitted with its very own pilot, who can eject, take over an enemy vehicle and find their way back to safety. How nice.
Like A Lead Balloon
The Chinese arsenal is an equally mixed bag. High points include the Seismic tank (an enormous double-turreted machine which fires concussion rounds) and the Inferno Cannon, a cumbersome firespitting metal beast. Unfortunately there are a couple of duds in here too. namely the Propaganda Blimp. If reports are to be believed this will fly above your troops in battle, and inspire them to greater feats by broadcasting propaganda messages through its speakers - which let’s face it, is verging on the ridiculous. You can just picture it can’t you? There you are in the midst of battle, your best friend wheezing his last in your arms when some jumped-up commie in a Zeppelin starts bellowing words of encouragement at you through a megaphone, urging you to shoot your People’s gun at the People’s enemy’s head. I don’t know about you, but I’d shoot the bastard myself and be done with it. Then again it’s early days yet, and with some luck this option will see some work before the final version ships.
Finally we have the GLA, whose selection is looking by far the most entertaining of the three. The Angry Mob sounds particularly amusing. Comprising around 20 angry proles, armed to the cavities with Molotov cocktails and rocks, they’ll throw their makeshift weapons at any nearby enemies. What’s more, you'll be able to link up several of these groups to form a fully fledged riot. This is much more like it. Technicals - trucks with mounted machine guns - are also a welcome and novel addition to the GLA set-up. Best of all though is the ability of the GLA to create a complex labyrinth of underground tunnels, enabling rapid troop movement in the safety of an underground confine. Work continues on multiple other weapons for the three sides, and we'll be bringing you more on them as and when the info oozes out of EA’s tightly sealed offices.
One thing that EA Pacific seems particularly proud of is its all-new command system. Unlike in past C&C games where you had to make do with whatever units you had at your disposal, you'll now be able to specialise in certain areas by selecting one of three 'Commands' before the inception of each mission - which will in turn provide you with a set of advantages and disadvantages. While the GLA and Chinese 'Commands' are still undecided, the US ones are all but finalised.
The first of these is the Nato Tank Command, whereby your land-based units ship with bonuses (20 per cent cheaper production costs and immediate veteran status), but all other units are 20 per cent more expensive. You’ll also be given access to a new unit, the Leopard Tank - versatile and built with a mounted anti-personnel machine gun. The US Air Force Command (which gives you a stealth bomber as your bonus weapon) works in much the same way, in that your production of aircraft is 20 per cent cheaper and all air units are immediately allotted veteran status. You’ll also be given the ability to steal enemy planes and make them your own. Finally, there's the Special Forces Command, whereby commandos will be 20 per cent cheaper and base defenses. 20 per cent dearer. A deadly army ranger, who can not only shut down the power to enemy bases, but can also be parachuted behind enemy lines, will be your specialist unit if you choose this path.
New Shoes, Same Socks?
But this is all very well and good. New graphics. Great. New units. Excellent. What about the gameplay? Ahhh, you see, I was just coming to that part. And rest assured, we're being promised plenty of nuances in this very department. First off is the new command interface, which has been completely revamped. The age-old vertical interface of games-gone-by is to be replaced by an intuitive horizontal one which will allow information to be gathered and orders dispatched far more rapidly. Clicking on a building will now reveal all the options available from that structure, considerably simplifying base and unit construction. And in an attempt to make units less one-dimensional, EA Pacific has decided to incorporate unit upgrades. AK-47s for the Angry Mob being just one such example.
Resource management and building construction have also received overhauls. Each side will start out with a bulldozer, which acts as your construction vehicle (funny, but I've always been under the impression that bulldozers were meant for knocking things down). These can erect new buildings anywhere on the map, as opposed to just within your base.
EA Pacific is hoping that this will open up a whole new array of tactical possibilities in Generals. Let’s hope it does. Resource collecting will revolve around pick up trucks and supply depots. As I said before, there’s no Tiberium here, only warehouses full of building materials which will be transported back to your base by convoys of lorries. While it’s hardly a gargantuan step from the method adopted by previous C&C games, at least it’s a stab at adding some variety.
Black Hole Supernova
Like a fading actress, once adored by fans, now laughed at in the streets for her succession of movie flops and unattractive folds, the C&C series has taken a few knocks over the last few years. Hopefully C&C: Generals will be the tonic, the elixir of youth to a fading gaming star, signalling a triumphant return to form and a beautiful 3D makeover for the world’s best known RTS series. From what we’ve seen and heard so far, it’s in with a chance, although the competition is set to get ever greater with the likes of Medieval: Total War and Warcraft III almost upon us. But the question remains: will C&C fans accept this strange new world, one bereft of Tiberium, or any connection to the previous titles? Will they fall to the floor and pound the earth with scab-covered fists and shout:."It’s not C&C anymore." Or will they rejoice in its new birth and angle, crying out: "C&C in 3D.
A Sage Move
EA Pacific has borrowed heavily from the Command & Conquer: Renegade engine, utilising its W3D-rendering technology to complement its very own 3D engine. The combination of the two is being called the Sage engine. The development team is extremely excited at the prospect of finally having a platform on which to show off their artistic ability, since many members of the team were restricted by the isometric nature of previous C&C games. We’ve also been promised panoramic replays when something notable happens on the battlefield, such as a massive explosion to heighten the mood. It’s still undecided though as to whether the game will feature rendered cut-scenes or acted FMV sequences. However, with the dynamic lighting, some superb shadow, smoke and reflective effects, as well as the new graphical dimension - for the first time in C&C history, you should truly feel involved in the action once it kicks off. At least that’s what we’ve been told anyway.
Download Command & Conquer: Generals
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Now this is an odd one. Westwood hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with its last few strategy games, playing it safe and sticking to the same kind of gameplay that worked for them the first time around. Since then we’ve had Shogun showing the way forward and Medieval, its fantastic-looking sequel, taking up the challenge. So why do we think Generals was the best strategy game at E3, while Medieval is languishing in the Best of the Rest, along with Sim City 4 and the fabulous Age Of Mythology? (Clue: it’s not because we’re sucking on Westwood gristle.) We know we’re going out on a limb, but when we sat through the presentation of Generals we got the sneaking suspicion that Westwood is going to get this one right. The 3D engine is one big reason and seeing it running at E3 proved that Westwood has gained from biding their time and watching otl ler strategy games make the mistake of going there first.
Mark Skaggs, executive producer on the game, ran us through a typical mission, which kicks off with a botched political assassination in a small fishing village. A UN envoy, being escorted to Kazakhstan, is ambushed by two vehicles that explode and take out the escort vehicles, giving us the first taste of the cinematic quality of the visuals. After a hefty firefight Skaggs settles in control of a US and allied Chinese base and orders the construction of a nuke.
A bridge separates him from the enemy GLA base, and a huge dam is located upstream. As he sends in the heavy weaponry he notices that he’s missed a stray GLA buggy heading for the dam. A few rockets later and the dam’s gone, unleashing a torrent of water down onto the village. Instead of leaving this to your imagination, the new engine enables you to track major events like this and witness the fallout, in this case the sight of the villagers attempting, and ultimately failing, to outrun the water. Of course, being a Westwood presentation, Skaggs gets his ultimate revenge by calling a nuclear strike and obliterating the GLA troops.
It looks amazing, but what wasn’t apparent from this short mission was the scope of the gameplay. Westwood always manages to get fun into its games but the build-and-rush tactics of old are getting stale and it needs to move on. Despite the promise, only time will tell if Westwood is willing to budge from the formula that’s put it where it is today.
There’s Always been something innately comfy about C&C games. Despite their flaws, and there have been many throughout the seven-year history of the franchise, the games have always achieved immense playability through addictive gameplay, a somewhat cheesy sense of humour and an aura of toy-like wonder built into every single unit. After Westwood’s Dune series went 3D last year in Emperor: Battle for Dune, it was only a matter of time before the C&C games would follow suit.
After several years of virtual bangs, whistles and whoops behind a curtain of secrecy at Westwood’s satellite studio EA Pacific (the developers behind Red Alert 2 and the Yuri's Revenge expansion) the result was revealed earlier this year as Command & Conquer: Generals. For the first time we get our hands on the code and find out just what you can expect to see when C&C is reborn.
Return To The Old
Westwood's traditional three-way war, pioneered by the Dune games and picked up in the C&C games in RA2: Yuri's Revenge, is the central gameplay premise for Generals. This time it takes place in the near future between the USA, China and the terrorist organisation of the GLA (Global Liberation Army) within the structure of a continuous campaign, with eight to ten missions for each side, 20-25 maps and a skirmish mode. "People like quality rather than volume," claims producer of C&C: Generals, Harvard Bonin in defence of the three-sided war which still seems slightly antiquated when compared to the multiple sides found in RTS games such as Cossacks and Warcraft III. "The more sides you have, the harder it is to make them distinct and the harder it is to make them play together. You’ve got the high-tech USA, the low-tech GLA and the middle guys who are China. The Americans are really about saving people, the GLA are like 'we don’t care about people' and China think along the lines of 'we’ve got people so let’s use them in war', so they play off each other well. The idea is to keep quality high at the expense of quantity."
Generals also marks a return to the more serious style of gameplay and narrative seen in the original C&C. which is somewhat ironic since EA Pacific drifted so far left of field with the slightly goofyish RA2 and Yuri's Revenge that, although the gameplay was still highly enjoyable, it actually seemed to be parodying itself. "It was intentional to stay away from the goofy comic-book stuff," explains, Mark Skaggs, the executive producer of Generals. "We also stayed away from the science fiction which Tiberian Sun went into. Tiberian Sun was also very serious and hardcore and we wanted to do something that was in the middle. So we’ve got modern-day war stuff, but that doesn't have to be hardcore and we've had fun designing the units and their battlefield reactions. Our goal is to make a game that's like a Hollywood action war movie that has this feeling of fun, so when you walk out, you feel good. It’s not serious kind of stuff like Saving Private Ryan."
If you've been following our previous coverage of C&C: Generals or you’ve seen the movie trailer on this month’s discs, you’ll know that one of the most striking things about Generals is the graphics, which are simply stunning. The explosions look like they’ve been taken straight from a film, with realistic physics and miniature showers of debris and flying bodies. The developers have certainly played on this, as well they should, with paused explosions during the in-game cut-scenes that show off the might of the newly created Sage engine and 360-degree rotations, that could have come straight out of Swordfish.
Generals will also bring the player a greater sense of interaction with the environment, so they don’t just feel that they’re pushing tanks around on a carpet. Vehicles will leave tracks and push over walls and trees, rather than just rolling through them like they did previously; rangers will drop down onto the top of buildings to flush out enemy troops. "That kind of realism really appeals," says Skaggs. "It's like little computer people - that's what people love, which is why The Sims does so well."
Al To Al
The C&C games have been criticised in the past for repetitive scripting. In gameplay terms, this meant that if you worked out the pattern the enemy units would follow, you could frequently beat them with ease. This is something that EA Pacific is trying to address in Generals. along with creating a generally more realistic style Of play. "As a player, you’re going to see the 'behaviour’ of the Al," explains Skaggs. "You’re not going to care how many brain cycles a second it has. so we’re focusing on what the player sees. We’re putting in special script triggers so it will do certain visual things to counter-attack you. That's really more about taking our designers’ and our own players’ experiences and coding it into the game to make it feel like you’re playing a real person."
But as usual there will be the inimitable C&C detail, according to Generals' senior designer Dustin Browder: "We talked about adding emoticons to the game, so there’s some way of seeing the emotions of your units. So, if a unit uncloaks nearby, your soldier will have some kind of 'Wow a stealth unit has just appeared!’ reaction. We thought about having little bubbles above their heads so you can see what they’re talking about, like guns or food. So you’ll see a couple sentnes and it’ll be like 'Hell yeah, guns!’ or 'Let’s go and get some food.’ But that would purely be for a solo expenence." Could we possibly have 'The Sims Go To War’ on our hands here?
Brand New Toys
Despite the gameplay being more serious than the previous C&C titles from EA Pacific, there is a definite sense of fun imbued in every unit, of which there are 12 per side. But that’s not including the upgrades, which can affect multiple units and actually seem to be much more consistently important to your army. Each unit also has a various number of functions and even some of the most basic units, such as the USA’s ranger, can become very powerful when upgraded. For instance, rangers can land on buildings, clear them of enemy troops and capture them, or use their flashbang grenades to stun enemies and take them off to the American detention camp which powers that particular side’s demoralisation weapon.
The Chinese and GLA can also take enemy units prisoner. The GLA use tranquiliser darts to knock out enemy soldiers and special snipers that can fire through armour to kill tank drivers and capture their vehicles. The Chinese opt for rubber bullets and take their prisoners of war back to their propaganda centre where they are brainwashed until they turn into Chinese units.
Even the buildings have unique attributes. For example, the Americans fill theirs up with rangers that spill out of them when the building is destroyed, and the Chinese have mines all around their base building, so approaching them is potentially lethal. But perhaps the most interesting, is the sub-basements of the GLA, which allow a building to rebuild itself from the basement up if only the main part of it is destroyed. This is something that will undoubtedly come in handy during some of the more powerful strike attacks.
Big Men Of C&C
But on the chessboard of the C&C: Generals battlefield, the kings are the Generals themselves. Every side has a choice of three Generals at the start of each mission, each of which gives their side various benefits, upgrades and unique units, rather like the sub-races you could ally with in Emperor: Battle For Dune. Since in multiplayer you’ll never quite know which General your opponent has chosen, you won’t know what units to defend against until they’re actually blasting down your doors. And like a king, when their command centre is destroyed, they are very weak, with only a pistol to defend them.
America’s Generals specialise in tanks and air attacks, while wielding super-weapons such as the Daisy Cutter bomb. The top brass in the GLA train up their units to veteran level much quicker and turn them into superior guerilla fighters. They can also be a dab hand at biological warfare too. But it’s the Chinese Generals who seem to be the most interesting from what we’ve seen so far, with things like a Hacker General that gives units the ability to disrupt enemy communications or buildings. They also have a Warlord General who gives the Chinese tanks a horde bonus, making them an incredibly powerful siege force when kept together.
Gone are the days of FMVs played out after every C&C mission. No more electric shock-haired Einstein, no more Boris and the tenacious 'see how far I can bend toward’ Tanya. "We felt they were getting a bit long in the tooth. A little been there, done that," explains Browder. "A lot of people point to it in C&C as one of the things they don't like. We didn’t think that style would fit in with what we’re trying to do. We want to make great games, not great games mixed with bad TV shows!"
Another familiar part of the Westwood games, that of resource management, has also been revamped for Generals. Whether it was spice, tiberian crystals or gold, the Dune and C&C games have always been known for their simplistic resource gathering, which has come under some criticism from those who think strategy should be more about warfare than the perpetual harvesting of a common resource.
And it looks as though the developers have listened to them to a certain extent, as they’ve given each side different ways to gather resources. The USA use helicopters to pick up resources from supply piles and return them to their base, whereas the GLA use people to do the same thing. The Chinese concentrate on hacking the Net for resources. However, supply piles can also be constructed inside your base, so there’s less emphasis on protecting the resource areas and more chance for effective walling-in tactics and mass base sieges.
Back To The Future
Generals represents the best of past C&C games, with a conscious effort to return to a more serious style of gameplay, while keeping and improving on the individuality of each side, their unique units and warfare style. It's also the first C&C title to make a genuine bid to evolve the series and the future of strategy games since the original game came out, particularly in terms of graphics and Al. It’s not yet clear how well the sides will be balanced or how quickly the community will embrace this new face of C&C, but from what we’ve seen and played, the results should be no less than impressive. Your soul may belong to Jesus but your ass will belong to C&C: Generals.
If Iraq had said to Kuwait back in 1990 "what the hell, keep your oil" instead of invading the small country and giving the world a war it could really get its teeth into, it’s unlikely that there would have ever been a C&C: Generals. Had the images of streaking scud missiles, smart bombs delivering pinpoint accurate destruction and khaki-covered soldiers being sent to their deaths with a smile not been part of our everyday news coverage, then we’d probably still be stuck with 'cha-ching’ commando babe Tanya and slap-headed megalomaniacs.
While the original Command & Conquer and Red Alert games dabbled in pseudo-Cold War and sci-fi themes, Generals is very much a product of our time, revolving around a war between three global powers: the US, China and the Global Liberation Army (GLA) played out through a three-part campaign, spanning 27 missions.
The United States is rather rusty from not having had a good war for 20 years and it can’t wait to remind people just how big and tough it is. China is a technological superpower that uses propaganda and the Internet to fuel its war effort, and the primary reason every one is going to war at all is the nefarious GLA, a terrorist group who are developing weapons of mass destruction. Starting to sound familiar? Those of you that hoped this latest incarnation would mark a major move away from the traditional Command & Conquer style are likely to be somewhat disappointed with Generals. The FMVs may be gone (to be replaced by slick in-game cut-scenes, which borrow technology from C&C: Renegade’s 3D engine) but there’s no doubt this is a C&C game through and through.
However, this doesn't mean it's just a brushed up version of Red Alert 2 with a few new units chucked in, there's far more happening beneath the surface than that. In fact, there’s a lot more happening on the surface as well, because from a purely graphical perspective and thanks to the game's new SAGE engine, Generals is as beautiful as a Renoir and as action-packed as a Hollywood blockbuster. Every explosion, from the nuclear bombs that white out the screen and make you think you’ve gone blind, to a single unit biting the dust, looks like a miniature movie. When you carpet bomb or drop a nuke, the flying debris, the flames billowing in the wind around the charred remains of your enemy’s encampment, really are breathtaking.
Effects In The City
While it wasn’t much of a looker, the Red Alert series still managed to bring a level of detail to the C&C gaming carpet, such as cities full of civilian life and units hiding themselves in post boxes and litter bins, which made up for its visual shortcomings. Generals not only embraces detail in every shape and form, it slow dances to Lady In Red with its hand in detail’s knickers.
EA Pacific has always been quick to point out the game’s interactive environment, where units knock over trees and fences, kick up dust and leave trails behind them. However, this seems like gimmickry when compared to the tiny details you keep noticing out of the corner of your eye, which really add depth to the game.
Neon signs flicker on the sides of buildings, dogs bark in the distance, clouds cast shadows on the ground and there are some details you think you’ve imagined, like the brief car alarms that go off when your tanks hit them. It’s not just the city architecture that’s detailed, the developers have created a living, breathing world with a population who run screaming when they’re scared, whose bodies burst into flames and fall, writhing and gurgling to the ground after you’ve just unleashed a fiery hell upon them. In fact, in many ways Generals is a more accurate portrayal of war than many official news reports.
Gameplay-wise Generals seems to have taken a leaf out of the Age Of series’ book, as the interface has been reassigned to the bottom of the screen and buildings are now built directly onto the battlefield rather than created out of the ether on a side menu and plonked on the map. There’s also a little bit of information on each unit, detailing where their particular strengths and weaknesses lie. By now little things like this seem so fundamental to strategy games that you have to wonder why Westwood clung to their antiquated system for so long.
The traditional upgrading mode has been enhanced on several different levels. There are upgrades for some of the buildings and numerous upgrades for the units that endow them with extra weapons, speed and gain attack bonuses. As with previous games, units gain 'veterancy’ the longer they fight, however, with the US side, when their tanks and aircraft are shot down, the pilots (who carry the veterancy) emerge and can hop into another vehicle and transfer their skills. Alongside that, as a player you gain promotions based on your performance during the game, which in turn allows you to access new technology.
Resource gathering has been refined as well, so you're no longer worrying so much about little piles of tiberian or gold. Controlling stockpiles and the various civilian buildings like hospitals and oil derricks is still an important part of gameplay, but each side has been given imaginative means of creating resources from inside their own base. The Chinese use hacker units to steal money off the Internet while their supply trucks gather the meatier resources.
Chinooks are the favoured transport method of the US and they also have supply drops to bring in extra resources. The GLA are very versatile when it comes to bringing in the moola, and use workers to gather from the stockpiles and black markets to boost up their economy. They can also gain resources from the scrap left by burnt-out enemy vehicles.
But if you’re worried that the security blanket you found in the reassuringly samey C&C games has been cruelly ripped from your grasp then don't be. there are still lots of familiar signs in Generals that remind you that you’re still in the C&C universe.
There are still the chubby pictorials for each unit and upgrade, vehicles and troops are still over and undersized against other units and their environment. In the familiar C&C style, every unit announces itself with a quirky little phrase when built or when moving, although this time there are enough phrases for every unit, which ensures they don’t become too repetitive. The building of garrisons has been carried over, as have superweapons, while Tanya/Boris cameo units have been replaced by individual heroes for each side: a Vin Diesel-style commando for the US, an uber hacker for the Chinese and a deadly sniper for the GLA.
There are new little annoyances though, like the fact you can’t use more than one unit on a building job, which shows that the franchise still wants to retain the 'C&C way’ of doing things in defiance of the rest of the RTS world. But what EA Pacific has retained from previous games is carefully chosen and spruced up for Generals, such as the always strong skirmish mode in which you have a choice of 24 maps. It doesn’t feel so much like you’re seeing everything all over again, but more like you've just met up with an old friend that’s a hundred times more fanciable than you remember them.
Consistency Is The Hobgoblin
As with Age Of Mythology, the jump to 3D for a classic RTS series has been pulled off extremely well by C&C Generals. In particular it’s C&C and the Westwood games were once a pioneering force in strategy gaming and if anyone was in a position to give the gameplay envelope a major shove, then it could, nay should, be them.
Genuine innovation in gaming is a rare and precious thing, and the Dune Ils, the SimCities and the Dooms of this world are getting fewer and fewer, as regurgitation becomes an all too frequent development technique. But does the fact that it doesn’t stray too far from the familiar make Generals any less of a game? Perhaps a little, especially for the genre veterans who’ve seen it all before too many times and realise what a game this could have been. But, and this is a big BUT, while Generals may not be pushing the boundaries of RTS very far, it is pushing the boundaries of C&C, and for that it must be saluted. While Age Of Mythology retained strong gameplay and upped the ante storyline wise, Generals has earned its Essential award through sheer level of detail, dribblesome graphics and a game that, above everything else, is extremely good fun to play.
Give Us Choices Damn It!
Being purely at the mercy of a set of linear missions is getting rather stale now. I’m fed up with developers simply offering up multiple sides and difficulty levels, I'm an intelligent player and I want some sense that I personally have a part to play in the game. Previous Westwood games experimented with this mildly, by allowing players to choose which areas to attack so the gaming experience wasn't always the same, and I'd hoped that Generals would offer at least this, if not more. If RTS games like C&C are to evolve further, they need to leam to give the player a bigger role in the development of the game, akin to what Medieval strived to do. A commander doesn’t just have military choices to make, there are moral ones as well. Human concerns for both the troops and the possible victims of so-called 'collateral damage’, so let's see some of that in the gameplay next time.
There's Not a strategy fan in the land that could look at the screenshots or trailers for Command & Conquer: Generals and not be turned into a gibbering fool by its glorious cinematic renderings. This transition of the classic RTS series into the 3D arena was hardly unexpected after Emperor: Battle For Dune, but perhaps more surprising is that the gameplay and style marks a conscious return to the original games, despite the fact that developer EA Pacific only worked on Red Alert: 2 and the Yuri's Revenge expansion pack.
This time the game opts for a three-way military struggle between the forces of China, America and a terrorist organisation called the GLA (Global Liberation Army). As with the Dune games there's been a lot of honing done, so they're distinctly different both in terms of units and buildings, and also those intrinsic details that affect how a side physically plays - like resource management and secret weapons.
Rather than being just a visual overhaul, EA Pacific has tried to integrate the new 3D environment into the very fabric of the game. Instead of pushing units around on a seemingly unresponsive terrain, troops can actually land on top of buildings, jeeps can knock down trees, tanks can batter down walls and explosions devastate everything in their radius. And of course the animations and special effects are just as impressive as the rest of this graphical tour de force.
It's fair to say that through the years the C&C games have rested on their laurels somewhat, languishing in the same style of gameplay without too many efforts to push their own envelope. Generals could easily have been a cop-out and just taken the C&C in 3D' route and it still would have sold well. Luckily it isn't, and in this case patience has been rewarded with the game C&C fans have been waiting their whole lives for.
Command & Conquer Generals is as disturbing as it is realistic, but I suppose that's what you get when the father of all Real Time Strategies gets a mega-face lift by the people who first popularized the genre.
Generals is in many ways still deeply rooted in the basic gameplay and look of the C&C series, the difference being that this real-time strategy is based on the wars of today and uses the weapons, and more importantly, the tactics of global warfare.
In Generals you can play as the Chinese, U.S. or the G.L.A. (Global Liberation Army). Each army has its own strengths and weaknesses, offering wildly different ways to engage in combat but still managing to remain well balanced with their counterparts. What makes this game so disturbing is the G.L.A.'a sort of revolutionary army'and their style of combat. Instead of relying on masses of infantry and swarm tactics like the army of China or technology and wealth like the U.S., the G.L.A. relies on the tactics of terror. That's right' you can lob Anthrax laden missiles at enemies, sneak in suicide bombers, disguise yourself as enemy units and travel the map near instantaneously through a network of tunnels. The fact that this so closely mirrors the world we find ourselves in today and the dangers we face, both in the Middle East and North Korea, instills both a sense of horror to the game and grudging respect for EA. Generals is about modern warfare and like it or not, you can't create such a game without including the tactics of Al Qaeda, Iraq, and China.
The other new element Generals adds to the C&C franchise is the ability to promote a general, earning him certain powers such as the ability to call in air strikes or instantly create a band of armed peasants. This greatly enhances the feel of the game and makes for some interesting military Hail-Mary's near the end of a skirmish.
The graphics are just incredible, offering beautifully rendered units that literally blow apart when destroyed, sometimes even hurtling drivers in the air. Sounds too, create a sense of wonder with the echoing staccato of machine gun fire and deep wumph of grenade impacts. Multiplayer is slick and fast-paced with little to no lag, awarding 3 points for wins and nothing for losses so you can keep track of how your score compares to others.
Command and Conquer manages to once again make a spectacular franchise even better, adding a much needed sense of realism to a game of war and beefing it up with eye-grabbing graphics and sound'none of which slows the always fun pace of real time warfare.