The Basics: The latest chapter in the decade-long running Command and Conquer franchise promises to be bigger than ever, filled to the brim with loud explosions, and long-overdue story revelations. The big questions fans have are centered not around the story or new rumored gameplay mechanics, but whether Electronic Arts Los Angeles studio can fill the shoes of now defunct Westwood Studios... a decade of epic battles between the GDI and NOD now seemed poised for a final desperate struggle and we're all wondering if the next installment will end up the game that captures that battle with finesse, or the game that sinks the franchise to the bottom of a Tiberium ocean.
What we think: Behind closed doors Electronic Arts revealed a collection of short special videos showcasing the recently announced Command & Conquer 3. They were quite adamant that these videos would never see the light of day, but given the high production values we'd have to disagree. The first video summed up the first decade of Command & Conquer storylines. After refreshing us on the history of Earth's battle with Tiberium, the creation of the GDI to control its spread, and the fanatical rise to power of the Brotherhood of Nod the video teased us with a final tag line following scenes of escalating warfare between the two factions: "Then they came..."
Story seems very important to Electronic Arts this time around. So important it would seem that they contracted university scientists to write a white paper discussing how Tiberium would work if it was actually real. This along with an internal "bible of C&C" has helped EA craft what they're calling the best story in an RTS ever. They're hoping to pull gamers in and make them care about the world they're fighting for; full motion videos with live actors are returning to help make this happen.
The graphics are being powered by the same technology that gave rise to the two recent Lord of the Rings RTS games. Built on an advanced version of this tech Command & Conquer 3 features all the latest buzzwords: destructible buildings, physics, dynamic cameras, and massive scale. Further setting a tone is the use of subtle color and lighting tricks learned from Hollywood, i.e.: scenes set in the desert featured a soft golden glow, and a dusty layer applied to everything on screen.
The world in the game features three different types of zones to battle in: Red: all life and matter has been absorbed by tiberium, and massive ion storms clutter the sky. Yellow: Moderate levels of tiberium; most of the world's citizens live in this thin area of land. Blue: High tech buildings, few if any out breaks of tiberium. Each of these areas will present different difficulties for players. The short gameplay demonstration we watched took place in a yellow zone, but even the Tiberium here was frightening in how it covered the land like a plague.
Finally, to help ensure that gamers of all playstyles enjoy the single-player campaigns (GDI, Nod, and one unannounced faction) Electronic Arts is fine tuning the computer AI to adapt to your play-style: be it turtle or rush. This will help prevent players who prefer to build a massive defensive base from being overrun in the first 30 seconds of the game, and give players who love to charge in a challenge when they get there. When we would get to try out this AI system and the game proper wasn't revealed, but we were told not to expect the game until 2007.
··· Ross Fisher
Last Updated: 5/2/06
The Basics: The Command & Conquer games are considered classics that helped define the Real-Time Strategy genre. In early 2007, EA is going back to basics with the next installment in the long-running series. Tiberium Wars continues the struggle between the Global Defense Initiative and the Brotherhood of NOD, only this time the action takes place in the year 2047. The alien substance Tiberium has infected the Earth, and the GDI is fighting to keep it from overtaking the entire planet. Working against them is the sinister Brotherhood and its leader Kane, who seeks to use the Tiberium to take over and shape the future in his own ghastly image. Now, the two factions will face off over control of the Tiberium and the planet itself.
This third Command & Conquer game seeks to return to what made the franchise so successful: pure RTS gameplay that tells an amazing story. Featuring both single-player and online gameplay, Tiberium Wars is set to take PC gamers by storm. Offline, build your mobile bases and combine units to create custom armies. Online, however, is where the game looks to truly shine, by offering integrated clan support and even a spectator mode, where you can view others battle it out while voice chatting with your friends.
EA hopes to have Tiberium Wars out sometime next year
What do we think? Does anyone think this will not be a monster hit? Say what you want about EA, but they're going to score big with Tiberium Wars if they can really bring back the classic spirit of the original games. RTS games have always been big sellers on PC, and the return of one of the first and biggest franchises can only mean good things to fans.
I'm particularly curious to see the spectator mode in action. Sitting back and watching two friends end life as we know it sounds like fun (as long as popcorn is available), and voice chat only makes the experience sweeter. I'll be watching this one with eager eyes.
··· Kenneth Horowitz