Review: Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight
With Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight being declared the final installation of the classic Command & Conquer series many people will be expecting this game to take the series to a whole new level. Being a cornerstone Real Time Strategy game in the league of Dune II, Warcraft, and Starcraft, the C&C series has always been revered as a source of innovation and an example of excellence for the RTS genre. For the gaming world to expect less than a masterpiece culminating the success of the series as a whole and celebrating its most prized features would be to doubt what is seen as a founding father of RTS. I’m here to tell you the truth, as all good reviewers do.
Beyond my huge expectations as a fan of the series, I was utterly shocked at a few of the major design decisions that came to bring us a Command & Conquer game with zero buildings, no resource gathering, and mandatory online play for earning higher tier units. While this title will register as a great game in its own right with me and many other gamers, something is not right with this picture. Despite the new approach of an intense focus on co-operative online play being received as a major plus for the series by the community playing it; I get the impression that this is definitely not the C&C 4 any long-time fan was expecting or hoping for.
The co-operative component of this game is by far the most prominent portion of the title. Players become immersed with a partner in the final chapter of the Command & Conquer series, and it is actually very fun. Players can still ‘turtle’ together to reach higher tier upgrades. Now though, after unlocking better unit types, players must decommission existing units (or send them into a suicide mission) in order to regain command points for creating new units. Great teamwork comes about in most missions as the various strategies gamers come up with for each class varies. Combining the use of instructional beacons, text chat, and Voice-over-IP players are able to co-ordinate every move. Unfortunately the font for text chat is unreadable in most optimal resolutions without the use of the caps lock, so many players simply do not respond to the in-game chat, making co-operative strategy very hit or miss at times.
You must be online at all times to accrue experience points which are necessary to unlock a greater arsenal in the game. Disconnecting from the net, even in single player mode, would mean losing all your progress when the game initially launched! This bug has been fixed with a patch that will now provide an auto save for players suffering from the issue. The mandatory internet connection, even when playing solo in story mode, is known by many as DRM or Digital Rights Management. Apparently the right for gamers to enjoy a single player story mode without the internet plugged in has been sacrificed for the ability to prevent piracy. One thing I hate to see is the crowd who bought the game to be the ones punished for those who continually choose to steal games. All in all the DRM is a bit of an annoyance but seems like one of the smarter copy protection systems out there, if it hasn’t been hacked yet.
The community for this game is amazing. Hours of fun await anyone with a friend who may have purchased the game or some body who doesn’t mind meeting gamer buddies with matchmaking and general chat lobbies. The community is booming and full of people who are ready to play in five against five player versus player, player versus computer skirmishes, and co-op story mode together. Hardcore RTS fans, new players to the genre, veterans of the series, and fans from all over the spectrum of Strategy have converged together to experience this title. It’s a shame there was not more for them to experience. The game takes a lot of patience and strategy, and many gamers are up for that challenge. The real downer that everyone seems to keep coming back to in lobby discussions is that this game severely strips the majority of the freedom and creativity found in past C&C games. This game just would not be the same without so many great gamers playing it.
Humanity is on the brink of extinction as players witness first-hand the alliance of Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and Brotherhood of Nod forces. In what feels like a government conspiracy gone awry, Kane is readying the path to his ascension. Using the Tiberium Control Network, and the regained Tacitus, Kane has almost completed his plans to “save earth” and has revealed that the coming ascension for members of the Nod Brotherhood will indeed occur. The GDI and Nod maintain an uneasy alliance which plays out as two intertwining story-lines told through full motion video that feels very reminiscent of Red Alert cut-scenes. Kane’s plan is inevitably doubted by many within the ranks of the GDI as well as the Nod and he must race against time (with the help of players who assume the role of Commander Parker) to complete his plans before the opposing parties can bring them to a halt. If the story seems a bit incoherent to those unfamiliar with the C&C series, don’t worry it is a standalone pair of story-lines which begin to become very clear and interesting mid-way through the game.
New players and long-time veterans alike will find that, even though buildings have been removed from the equation, there is a great deal of strategic element to C&C 4. Another major change in step for the series is the introduction of class divisions through use of a single all-in-one base called a Crawler, re-spawn capabilities, and supply (lives) being added to the game ranging from six to four depending on the difficulty setting. Players will now choose from one of three classes. They basically operate as follows.
Offense – This class is mostly made up of tanks and units that do well against ground units. Playing as offense gives you the option to remain simplistic in your approach and simply outgun your opponents, if you play your cards right. GDI units include a lightweight hovering ship sporting rockets called the Talon, Shockwave (destroys structures easily), Sandstorm tanks which are strong against aircraft. Nod units include Stealth Tanks, Flame Tanks, Attack Bikes, and Cyborg Commando suited soldiers.
Defense – Heavy duty anti-air is the primary focus of the defense class. The class comprises of a mix of anti-air and anti-vehicle units which are mostly foot soldiers tailored for a specific use. This class is the only class that allows structures which are basically special purpose turrets other than a couple exceptions. GDI units include anti-air troops called Zone Defenders, anti-ground troops called Zone Troopers, and a sniper / grenadier unit known as the Zone Enforcer. Nod units include the anti-air and anti-ground vehicle equivalents of the Zone Defender and Trooper which are the Ascended and the Enlightened troop units. The Nod also has a full-cyborg suited, cannon-equipped Centurion commando unit. GDI structures include bunkers, anti-ground cannons, anti-air missile turrets, and Focus Beams which are basically laser turrets. Nod structures are much like their GDI counterparts but with slight twists. The Nod has an anti-personnel turret, some anti-air rockets, and Burrow Tunnels.
Support – The main purpose of the support is to provide air superiority for the player when it’s needed most as well as provide powerful support powers. Support powers are usually not crucial to the flow of battle but can include things like the Repair Zone for healing an area of units. GDI units in the support class include the enhanced shell dodging Sheppard, light weight Orca vulnerable to rockets, and Hurricane gunner capable of detecting stealth units. Nod units put forth a good face-off the Marauder (a ground unit equipped with Tiberium shells), a light weight hovering aircraft known as the Venom complete with rocket missiles, and a hovering jet equipped with lasers that only attack ground units.
Both GDI and Nod support classes also have mobile healing units (GDI: Spanner, Nod: Scalpel) which act like medics that cannot attack and are much better armored than the engineer. The engineer is a unit in all three classes (defense, offense, and support) for both GDI and Nod that is capable of performing technical mission objectives, healing others units, as well as capturing, attacking, and sometimes sabotaging other units / structures.
The game contains approximately 65 units in total divided into three tiers across the three classes. In addition 9 structures can be found, although they are not buildings such as classic C&C games contained. There are also 16 upgrades for each class which can be applied to all existing units with the click of an icon and 5 to 6 support powers for each faction’s support class.
The user interface and controls are very user friendly. Although arguably not as efficient as past C&C games, the menu and control system provide robust and streamlined ways to quickly view objectives, your crawler, as well as select all of your units at once and narrow down by type for assigning orders. The default control setting reverses the effect of the mouse buttons compared to previous C&C games, but this can be easily switched back in the options menu if you so desire. One disappointment with the controls is that keyboard and mouse are the only input method allowed; no official game-pad support exists.
The game-play is mostly smooth, strategic, and fun but C&C fans will not be able to help the feeling that something is missing as they play. The title practically removes itself entirely from the RTS world by featuring no buildings and only allowing small packs of units to be created at any given time. The single player mode has perhaps received the most criticism of all and it’s a bit understandable. The player often finds themselves decommissioning or dying in order to switch classes, doing this on a set number of supply Crawlers (a.k.a. lives) makes most players feel like a complete moron. Really this is a minor annoyance but the reason it’s so blown out of proportion is because it’s another completely new problem to the series. In past C&C games you could simply build a War Factory to create ground vehicles and a barracks to create foot units. The Crawler units themselves are great overall, and its especially great that they are even useful in battle, but using only one building to take care of all of your strategic needs just isn’t as good as it sounds.
Another adverse feature is the absence of resource gathering to be replaced by a simple command point system. You cannot create more troops when you are out of command points. In a way, I can understand why they got rid of resource gathering for this title but I can’t exactly agree with the solution posed being appropriate. The story keeps a steady fast pace and keeps players on the go, so resource gathering in this game might have seemed out of place. However, relying on a meaningless number of command points that have no decent back-story or explanation is just plain old aggravating. Unit diversity and specialization is very good and using every unit in your arsenal correctly is key to survival. It seems the way that C&C 4 rewrites the entire game-play formula almost made this game garbage bin material, so don’t go in expecting the best RTS game-play you ever experienced.
Enemies are mostly comprised of the GDI or Nod forces but also feature some separatist action. The most deadly units to go up against are the burrowing units and stealth units because they cannot be detected without specialized units. The boss fights and variety of enemy units pales in comparison to older C&C games, and certainly pale in creativity compared to 2008’s Red Alert 3. Focus is instead on the strategy of each battle, which is overall a good thing but may become boring quickly for those expecting a flashier RTS.
The graphics in this game are nothing short of beautiful and really do a great job of taking your mind away from reality and into the Tiberium universe. Realistic shadows, lighting, and particle animation serves to keep the immersion factor very high throughout the game. The rich detail of the textures, especially at full 1080p, is incredible. The sound effects are very well done and only really miss the mark in the lack of variety in them. Music is top-notch as well, it really sets the mood for an epic and far out game, which C&C 4 tries its best to be. The environments in the game are very theme-based and it seems like every theme attempted was nailed dead on. This is some of the best environment design for a real time strategy game and the ridiculously close zoom along with 3D oriented perspective make it very easy on the eyes and fun to watch.
Recently along with an update that fixed a few serious issues in the game EA has released the WorldBuilder. WorldBuilder is an application that will allow the creation of custom maps for Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight providing the potential for users to expand the game play scenarios and replay value offered in the online portions of the game. Maps will automatically be downloaded by players wishing to start a match hosted with custom maps. Distribution will be seamless as all members of the match head to the load screen together and load into the game regardless if they had the map or need to download it.
The extreme emphasis on strategy and online co-operation are great, but the lack of freedom and creativity along with restrictive elements of game play make this feel like a step backwards for the series. The graphics are beautiful; perhaps the best thing about the game, but game play should never take a backseat to graphics. Looking at the game on its own I enjoyed the game, its story, and its new approach at the RTS genre. If you pick this game up for the multiplayer, the community, and the storyline you will likely not be disappointed. If you are alright with just units and turrets and can get past the limited command points system you will surely crank away hours of fun in this title. The newly added WorldBuilder will expand the title and give control back to the players.
This game is definitely a high quality, easy to enjoy strategy title with high immersion value. All in all, I can see myself continuing to play this game with the great online community out there. Unfortunately most of what C&C 4 consists of has been done before and done better by earlier titles in the series. Tiberian Twilight should be considered a spin-off at best from the legendary Command & Conquer series and will be enjoyed more by newcomers to the series looking for an easy way to break in than actual long-time fans. I hope to see the full potential of this game unlocked through future content updates like WorldBuilder and believe this is a great game even though it falls short of the masterpiece status it should be.
Title: Command & Conquer 4: Tiberian Twilight
Developer: Electronic Arts L.A.
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platform Reviewed: PC
Release Date: Available Now
Review Copy Info: A copy of this title was provided by the publisher to DualShockers Inc. for reviewing purposes
DVD Drive: 8 Speed+ (if purchased on DVD) (Digital Download also available)
DirectX: 9.0c +
Hard Drive Disk Space: 10gb
Operating System: Windows XP SP3 / Vista SP1 / Windows 7
Processor: Intel Core™ 2 or better / AMD 64 X2 or better
RAM: 1 GB for XP / 1.5 GB for Vista and Windows 7
Video Card: 256MB RAM with support for shader model 3*
*Nvidia GeForce 6800 or better, ATI Radeon X1600 or better. Laptop versions of these chip-sets may work but are not supported. Updates to your video and sound card drivers may be required.
System Tested On
Operating System: Vista SP1 Home Basic (64-bit)
Processor: Intel® Core™ 2 Quad Q9400 @ 2.66GHz 1333FSB 6MB L2 Cache 64-bit
RAM: 2 GB Corsair Dominator® DDR2-1066
Video Card: 1 GB Nvidia GeForce 9600 GT