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Command & Conquer 4 (Preview) – PC

Command & Conquer 4 (Preview) – PC

At a recent press event EA sat with some journalists and we spent some time with a beta version of the upcoming Command and Conquer 4 – the hotly awaited new strategy game which continues the long running (and big selling) franchise.

Before each mission players are taken to the tech depot, a load out style screen where they are able to determine which units and abilities will be available to troops on the field. Unlike previous C&C games the classes that you select are tied into the basic units you can utilize – so for instance buildings for defensive requirements, aircraft for support and infanty/vehicles for offensive. After this you can fine tune your crawler unit (the new mobile version of the construction yard) which is able to produce specific units and you can set up bonus skills such as fire rates and movement speeds. To get access to these extra abilities you purchase them with battle credits, the ingame currency which also is connected to a new progression based mechanic the developers are incorporating.

Graphically the levels are massively impressive and we played within a crash environment and the objective was to move our troops around the level to take control of points under enemy control. Taking control of these areas meant the resource collection swung in our favour and there was combat with not only NOD forces but with The Forgotten, mutated humans who had been changed by long term exposure to Tiberium. The Forgotten attacked anyone in sight, they didn’t care who it was!

The Forgotten are an interesting looking bunch, they use guerilla tactics and their vehicles are makeshift buses and other units that they have modified to use as weaponry. Their infantry unit was particularly devastating – dubbed “The Gorilla” he is a mutated monster able to punch vehicles to cause significant damage. Equally, they have access to horrific suicide bombers – more tiberium mutated beings with no regard for self worth, and able to destroy multiple groups of expensive friendly units in an instant. Taking over the Forgotten outposts was great fun because you get access to their production and can then deploy their units onto the battlefield, using them as secondary backup forces.

The Nod forces proved difficult as they would often unleash three of their own crawler units to retake various locations already in my control. While the level we played was not a finished level the game is really shaping up to be one of the hits of 2010 as the unit design is so immensely detailed with great variety and diversity on offer.

Some additional information should be given about changes to the weaponry, because all the ammunition is now coloured when fired. The Nod colours are red, GDI are blue and they have optimal target materials. It isn’t very complex – machine guns are always best used against infantry, cannons are good against medium vehicles and lasers are good against both heavy ground or air troops while rockets work best against air enemies. Long term damage firepower such as blast troops are good against structures. When you are using optimal configurations against other troops or structures, the colours ‘tinge’ to reflect optimum damage – GDI turns pink and Nod turns Orange and there are other visual markets to reflect the current status of things taking place. This has been an idea the developers have been playing with to help players work out their strategies at a glance to ensure they are utilizing the best form of attack for any given situation. When some units are destroyed, boxes are dropped which can contain health bonuses, armor upgrades or weapon upgrades.

We were also shown a multiplayer level “Blood and Sand’ which is a map based in a desert environment. Located in various places around the map are landing pads which would be drop off points for two kinds of Tiberium Crystal (green and the more expensive blue versions). These stones are taken back to your base (or the enemies) to be used as new Tech levels to improve your chances of victory. Five points mean you can progress to Tech Level 2 and seven more after this allow Tech Level 3. Capturing these crystals is key to success as you can basically overpower your foes in regards to a high tech level and improved units and/or abilities.

Once again the objective was to capture different control sections and the more nodes you held under your control the more points you would earn for your side. Destroying enemies also earns you points and the more important the unit is in regards to technological scale, then the more points you could collect. The first side to reach a specific number of points was declared the winner. The final game environments will also have access to ‘neutral turrets’ which are connected to control nodes and once captured would aid in the defense of the position.

While some of the maps are large the developers have built a tunnel network system which runs right across the breadth of the map to aid deployment speed of units. These tunnels can be captured and they make it hard for enemy teams to use them … they would have shields or cloaking devices.

During battle, each side has a dedicated ‘spawn point’ which are generally on opposite sides of the map and initially players can select their home spawn point from any area within a set circumference. If your Crawler gets destroyed during the battle or if you change classes during a game then you are forced to return to this location after a period of time before you are allowed to reenter the battlefield. You are also tasked with rebuilding any units you had in the production queue before the destruction.

The developers have clearly spent considerable time working with the offensive and defensive classes because the correct use of them is paramount to success. Defensive class soldiers get access to a variety of power suits that help in the battle against vehicles or aircraft and they are great units to use in bunkers and buildings as they can take a pounding and still stand. Offensive classes are designed to grab control points with the highest amount of firepower possible. The fun element is when you take a control point and need to start moving defensive units to the specific location to hold it. Offensive units won’t make for good defenders so the balancing act is a continual part of the process. Defensive buildings such as rocket turrets and cannons can also be built if you need to hold a particularly important location. The more you construct the bigger defensive bonuses you earn which is a great gameplay mechanic.

As well as the primary offensive and defensive categories there are support units which are aerial vehicles. Aerial units cannot take control points so they are always used as a backup group of units to help hold or take a location. While they are limited for progressing your ground missions and controlling points, they have some powerful weaponry at their disposal which means they are ideal for taking out enemy control nodes for an easier takeover.

We were told that Command and Conquer 4 will support VOIP and allow the players to communicate and coordinate their forces over team channels. We are really excited for the release of this title in March 2010 because it really is shaping up to be an immensely fun strategy game.

About Author

Stuart Davidson

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