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» Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars (Kane Edition) - PC

 
  

Some of our younger readers might have missed the original C&C and its spin off series Red Alert. But those of us who have played either of the two back in the nineties hold the franchise in high regards. When Westwood bit the dust things looked grim for the future of commanders and conquerors and even though Generals was not a bad game, it failed to deliver that true C&C feeling we were all craving for. When Tiberium Wars was announced fans got somewhat excited, but they remained skeptic. Then EA announced something that changed everything…

Kane is back!

3 words that changed everything. If Tiberium Wars was regarded as a potentially good game prior to the announcement, it became one of the most anticipated RTS games of 2007 after it. Online forums were filled with posts about C&C once again; tiberium was a commonly used word, just like it was almost a decade ago. Fears about the quality of the game were next to forgotten – I mean, if you have Kane in the game it simply can’t be anything less than superb, right?

The story picks up in 2047 when planet Earth is a toxic place where only 20% of the surface is still safe from the tiberium plague. This crystal of unknown origin is still spreading all around the globe and just like in previous C&C titles there are two sides fighting over it. The GDI (Global Defense Initiative) are a high-tech, no nonsense army that are protecting the last 20% of the earth’s surface, trying to find ways to stop the tiberium from spreading. On the other side of the battlefield is the Brotherhood of NOD. They favor a stealthier approach to combat and they are, under the guidance of their enigmatic yet very charismatic leader Kane, trying to spread tiberium as they believe it is the key to humanity’s next evolutionary step. In short, the universe is just like it was back in the Westwood days. A new alien race called the Scrin (they have a short unlockable campaign) appears later on in both the GDI and NOD campaigns, but they are not as fleshed out as the two human sides.

The bulk of the single player experience are the two campaigns, one for the brotherhood and one for the GDI. Both are fairly lengthy and feature a wide variety of missions – you’ll be trying to protect a stranded base by switching of different structures so you have enough power on the sides currently under siege in one mission and playing as a solo commando unit in another (yes, the commando units are back and they are just as powerful as they once were). The main attraction of the campaigns are the FMV cinematics that feature some very well known actors. If Billy Dee Williams doesn’t ring a bell I’m sure Lando Calrissian does. There are other high profile actors from popular tv shows such as Lost and Battlestar Galactica, but they all pale in comparison to Joseph Kucan who plays the one and only Kane. Their acting won’t win any of them Oscars or Golden Globes, but they all did an excellent job nonetheless. Most of the videos are very over the top, yet they still retain some seriousness – just the way C&C fans want them.

On the battlefield

C&C games were always very straightforward so literally anyone was able to pick them up. At the same time each installment brought some tricks along that made the pros stand out from the rest. Tiberium Wars continues with the trend – the three sides are all very easy to play and most if not all of the units just scream out what their function is. The Scrin units may be a bit enigmatic, but with the help of tooltips even they require only minutes to get acquainted to.

Both the GDI and the NOD as well as the Scrin have a lot of tricks up their sleeves. The Global Defense Initiative for example has APCs that do little damage on their own. They can however carry a single trooper unit which can still fire their weapon even when inside the APC. This makes this particular vehicle very versatile – putting a sniper inside makes it a death on sight experience for infantry while a rocket launcher equipped soldier in the APC spells trouble for buildings and air units. The NODs most powerful units named Walkers can rip apart allied vehicles and gain the main ability the vehicle had. This allows a single Walker to become nearly indestructible if enough units are sacrificed to fully equip it. When talking about tricks the Scrin have no competition – almost every single unit they can build has a special ability of some kind. This is true for the other sides as well, but the very bizarre nature of the aliens makes it more apparent.

Base building hasn’t changed in the slightest from the original C&C, which I personally find to be an excellent design choice. You are still limited to a radius around your already placed buildings and each new structure gets constructed before you actually place it. The construction yard is still the heart of every base and just like before it can be packed into the MCV (mobile construction vehicle) if you need to reposition your base. The range of buildings is standard for all three sides – you have an infantry manufacturing structure as well as a vehicle assembly building regardless of your allegiance. Each of the sides also has an air staging factory and some basic defenses. Tech buildings that enable the use of super weapons (Ion cannon for the GDI, nukes for NOD, energy rift for the Scrin) and special abilities are also found on all three building roosters. Constructing a fully featured base usually takes less than 10 minutes and you will have your first armies marching around within 2 minutes of deployment.

True to the franchise the player only has to worry about two resources – tiberium and electricity. The amount of the later depends on the number and upgrades of power plants and is a fixed number, so you just have to make sure you have enough plants to power your economy. Tiberium on the other hand needs to be harvested and refined before you can use it to build anything. Harvesters make a comeback and they are just as vulnerable as they ever were. They have decent enough armor, but seeing how they are only capable of fending off the weakest of units they have to be protected. Speaking of tiberium, each of the three sides deals with it in a different way. Most of the GDI infantry units take damage when situated in tiberium fields. Some of the NOD units suffer from similar effects, but they are generally better equipped and can function just normally in the fields. The Scrin units on the other hand actually regenerate when standing over tiberium. Some of the Scrin tactics rely heavily on this and one of their units can heal its allies by attacking them with its tiberium based cannon.

I hope I have given enough examples so far to make all of you realize that C&C is not just about mass producing units and rushing the enemy. Almost every tactic has an effective counter-tactic and only the best will be able to crush everybody with one swift blow. To make one final example – tank rushes were a very common tactic in the old Tiberium saga games and they are still a viable option here. But only as long as the enemy doesn’t anticipate the sudden arrival of a tank force – making a similar force in combination with base defenses is all it takes to completely annihilate the attacker.

C&C for the 21st century

Tiberium Wars is one pretty game. Running on an upgraded version of the Sage engine which powered Generals and both Battle for Middle Earth games the series never looked this good. If you check out the screenshots you can see the amount of detail found on the maps – the ground textures are razor sharp and the geographical features are quite diverse. Depending on the condition of the zone the weather effects differ greatly – you can have a clear view of a blue zone (the remaining 20% of tiberium free surface) map where only shadows of clouds can be seen. Yellow zone (50% of the earth’s surface, barely habitable) maps are more desert based, but they don’t bring any drastic effects to the table. Maps situated in the red zones (uninhabitable areas of the planet) offer a visually completely different experience – there is a green fog blown around the map, giving it a very apocalyptic look.

Unit and building detail is top notch as well. Just like back in the days of 2D the buildings assemble themselves out of this air with a magnificent animation. The units are also extremely well animated and sport a high polygon count which makes them very pretty to look at. Explosions rely heavily on pixel shaded effects so they are naturally pretty – you’ll want to be looking when something blows up, regardless if it is your own power plant or the enemy’s Mammoth tank. The system requirements are surprisingly low, especially considering the amount of detail seen on the screen. Don’t expect to run with all details maxed out on an older machine, but any gaming computer built in 2006 or later will have no problems at all running Tiberium Wars with all the eye candy enabled.

Only one word can be associated with sound effects and voice acting and that word is superb. Just like in the cinematics the actors did a tremendous job of sounding real. The sound effects show the high production values the game had, so it isn’t a big surprise that there are plenty of them and they all sound great! The soundtrack is not Warcraft quality material, but it is still better than something you would hear in other strategy games.

Skirmish battles where the AI gets replaced by real players are an important part of such a title and EA did a good job here as well. LAN play is normally supported and playing online is easily accessible. The automatch feature allows you to play against equally skilled opponents with just a click, which is perfect for those who just want to sit down and enjoy the game. Those looking for a bigger challenge can always compete in the various tournaments which are being held on a regular basis. Vista only players might have to deal with some stability issues in the multiplayer component of the game though.

Kane lives

There are two editions of the game available – the regular and the Kane edition. They look almost identical at first, as they both come in a regular DVD box and have very similar box art. The Kane edition does have a shiny metallic color in the title though. The contents of both versions are almost identical. The only difference is that Kane’s edition comes with and extra DVD which contains behind the scenes footage, video tips, bloopers and some exclusive wallpapers. Inside the game owners of Kane’s edition also have some unique unit skins. If the price of Kane’s edition was a lot higher than that of the regular edition I’d have suggested you skipped it, but seeing how it is only costs a few bucks more, I say go for it – the bloopers are worth it. There is also the fact that the Kane edition comes with 5 exclusive multiplayer skirmish maps making the deal even better.

Conclusion

I never thought I’d live to see the day when I would see Kane appear in a game again. When Westwood went under I have pretty much given up hope for a true C&C: Tiberium Sun sequel. After spending nearly 20 hours in the game in the past few days I can honestly say that C&C3: Tiberium Wars is one of the best strategy games I have ever played. And while I may have made a mistake when I gave Supreme Commander a sub-90 score because of its hard to access nature, I sure as hell won’t repeat that mistake again. If you like RTS games, buy this game. Kane orders it!


Gameplay
19/20
Tiberium Wars can be played by anybody, but it takes a true master to use each side to its full potential.
Graphics
19/20
Very pretty looking game that works well on older hardware as well. The FMVs just scream high production values.
Sound
18/20
If you don’t expect a symphonic masterpiece you won’t be disappointed. If you expect Star Wars quality sound effects you won’t be disappointed either.
Value
18/20
The campaigns offer hours of gameplay time, as does the online play. If you are dedicated you could spend the next few months playing this game exclusively.
Preference
17/20
Everybody loves C&C. Not sure if it is the quality RTS gameplay or Kane, but the game has that certain something that makes it a worthwhile purchase for everybody.
Overall
91/100
The C&C games were one of the best RTS games ever. Tiberium Wars doesn’t taint the legacy – kudos to EA from bringing Kane back as well.

 


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